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October 10, 2006

A Father's Heart

A father I know and respect shares some personal thoughts. . . and they are just too moving to stay hidden away on a small message board.

"Man-oh-man, is this painful reading this stuff over at that link. [referring to http://www.askdrsears.com/] Lots and lots of great advice, some of the stories and warnings are bringing back so many terrible memories of my childhood, and of my own parenting for far too long.

"My father loved me, and he provided a strict upbringing, with very strict rules and lots of encouragement to excel. But he also could not control his temper, and of the four children, I was the most trouble, behavior-wise. I was precocious, hyperactive, and VERY loud. My father's response was to beat me. Not constantly... not even regularly... but often enough. And he left bruises.

"His regular spankings were horrendously painful, and occasionally he lost control and beat me with his fists. I was the only one he treated like this. Thank God, he never lifted his hand against my mother. Amazingly, my father and I got along very well when I became an adult. I never talked to him about what he had done, and he never brought it up, either.

"I remember vividly the last beating I endured. I was fifteen years old and already much larger than my father. But I respected him too much to do anything to defend myself. I do not harbor a grudge about it, either -- but I do remember the pain and the fear.

"All that is water under the bridge -- but -- and here I must pause, because the tears are running now -- I continued the abuse with my first son. He was born in 1984, and he was a lot like I was as a child -- precocious, hyperactive, and loud -- and he was also extremely stubborn and defiant. As hard as I was to discipline, I had never been defiant.

"My behavior toward my son exacerbated all these traits. I tried to provide sound discipline, but I would often lose my temper and shout at him abusively. And occasionally, I slapped him upside the head. I did not beat him as my father had beaten me, and I never slapped his face, but I did spank him WAY too hard, WAY too often, and I did smack him in fierce anger occasionally.

"I tried and tried to control it, but it continued for fourteen years. Then I started reading Dr. Sears. And the more I read, the more I saw what I had been doing wrong, and what I could do to make it right. I wept for weeks over what I saw. Then I tried to talk to my fourteen-year-old son, and to ask his forgiveness. He was by then extremely angry and resentful. I really thought our relationship was entirely broken. My wife told me he once asked her, "How can you tell me to respect someone I hate?" I also remember how he would glare at me in defiance, no matter how hard or how much I "spanked" him.

"When I tried to talk to him to ask his forgiveness, all I could do was weep. He forgave me readily, but he probably didn't quite believe me. But I believe he has seen a big change. He is now 22, a senior in college -- ambitious and with a strong moral code. He and I are now quite close, although I believe it will never be as it could have been.

"As I said, this is causing more bitter tears as I relate it. But I hope there is one person reading this who may be helped. I did change -- with God's help and with Dr. Sears's advice. Thank God, I only spanked my sweet daughter twice in her life, and she seems to harbor no resentment at me for being too strict.

"I have a late last child -- eleven years younger than my daughter. He is now eight years old. I am "Mr. Mom" now, because of my disability, and that means I am his "homeschool" teacher. And we are having the time of our lives. My wife was the main teacher for our first two, while they were young; I took over when they were teens. But now I get to teach my little guy from the beginning!

"I confess I have spanked him maybe three times in eight years -- and every time I have regretted it. I am strict with him, but I am no longer abusive. I guess it helps that, while he is also precocious and hyperactive, he is much more compliant than his older brother. He and I are so close it's amazing -- and it shows me what it could have been like with my first son, if I had been different.

"Well -- sorry to unload on y'all like this, but when I started reading all that stuff from Dr. Sears this evening, it all came rushing back, and it really surprised me how strong the emotional reaction was. I love Dr. Sears and I will forever be grateful for his help in overcoming my abusive tendencies.

"I highly recommend his suggestions to you all. They will help you be a better parent.

I'm in tears.

(Originally posted at AwareParent.Net)


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Thank you for sharing this valuable rememberance. While we cannot erase the past or its consequences, if aware, we can change the present, thus the future...."It shouldn't hurt to be a child.....or for that matter, an adult, either.

Posted by: maureen kuehne at October 13, 2006 11:33 PM

I agree, and thanks for paying my blog a visit, TG. I got the idea from reading this here, to post the same post over there. It's powerful, because shows where a father stopped the cycle of angry abuse, and asked forgiveness, and made changes. It takes a lot of courage to tell people where you have failed and what you have learned. I will never, ever, forget that entry on Awareparent.

Posted by: Lynn at October 14, 2006 06:59 PM

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