Sunday, April 21, 2013

Bully for you, Dad!


Before I say anything else, I want to say that I love my father.  I love you, Dad.  For many reasons.  Not the least of which is that he has the balls (yes, I said that) to ask me, his daughter, on a very public forum this question based on my last blog:
“Hey daughter, during the time I was parenting, would you have classified me as either a terrorist or a bully?”
          A loaded question, given the nature of our relationship for the first 20 years or so of my life.  And he asked this as a comment on my blog.  Out in the open.  I would guess a lot of people would think he was insane to ask such a thing in public, possibly opening himself up to ‘unkind words from an ungrateful daughter’.  Not me.  I know my father, and I know how we interact.
          This is a trick question.
          First, there was no way I could respond to that in the “reply” format because I would have to keep my answer short, forcing me to basically answer with a black-and-white “yes” or “no” (and he and anyone who knows me knows that I am incapable of that).  Neither answer would be fully correct.  If I said no, he would probably not believe me based on some arguments we’d had over the years, and attempt to think to invalidate statements I’d made in the past.  If I said yes, his answer would probably involve some of the hair-splitting I will be getting into in a moment (and probably with an answer he already had prepared ahead of time in expectation of such).
          Semantics. Gotta love that word. I honed my skills at argument, debate, and semantics directly under his tutelage.  He told me when I was very young, “If you don’t understand something, ASK.”  And I did. I questioned everything he did.  And then I questioned his answers, again and again.  He told me never come to an argument unprepared and “if you make a statement, you better be able to back it up.”  Wordplay became our “thang”.
He also told me never, ever, ask an opinion question if you don’t really want the answer.
Which brings me to my second point. And semantics.  This question could read two ways.  “During the time I was parenting, would you have classified me as either a terrorist or a bully?”  Is the question “Did I think he was a bully then, while I was being parented?” Or, “Now, looking back at his parenting, would I consider him as having been a bully?
(I am sure at some point some of you may be thinking of the scene in the movie “The Princess Bride” when the very long-winded Vizzini is trying to determine before he drinks it which cup has the iocane poison in it, and argues incessantly about which cup it would be in and why. I will tell you right now this discourse could last longer than that. Either grab a cup of coffee and settle in or scroll your mouse to the upper right corner and click the “x”.)
He was a parent at a younger age than I was when I became a parent. I remember how young and inexperienced I felt then (and still do), and can only imagine how…frustrating it would be to have “little Susie” up my ass all the time questioning every move I made as I was still trying to learn my way around life.  I know what I am like when I have a question. Even now.
Now for the question itself.  When I was a child, my answer may have been yes, I think he was a bully.  I say “may have been” for a reason.  Dad instilled fear in us (and the rest of the neighborhood kids as well).  I did not agree with that.  That whole fear/respect argument was debated a lot (ß HUGE understatement).  I still do not believe in using fear as a parenting tool.  The use of fear could lend to the argument of bullying.  HOWEVER, as much as I disagreed with his methods, I knew he was doing the best he could with what he knew, AND I always knew he loved me and was trying to teach me what all parents try to teach their children.  Even then, I knew that.  So, like every other child, I thought my father was just an idiot first, for not knowing what he was doing.  And so, when being a parent became really…fun for me, I called him and told him that even though I still don’t agree with the fear method of parenting, “I now understand why you did!” And when I found out how stupid my own daughter thinks I am,  I texted both of my parents apologizing to them if I thought then that they were half as stupid as my oldest daughter thinks I am now.
--I will interrupt myself to acknowledge that part of what I just said could be used in an argument pertinent to my previous blog.  Terrorists/bullies use force as a means of coercion, however in my opinion that argument falls apart with the absence of love and the fact that the desired result has nothing to do with any kind of ‘betterment’ for the victim of such treatment.  Once again, my opinion. Nothing more.
I will say this, Dad.  During certain “discussions” outside the parameter of direct parenting, I do believe there was bullying involved.  I believed it both then and now.  Whenever we reached an impasse, you used my fear of you, your “rank as an adult”, and even the fact that I was female (“You’re getting emotional!”) to end the argument, whether anything was resolved or not.  But then, you know this.  We’ve discussed this many times before.  And I’ve also told you that because of that I was able to come up with my own strategy for debate of any kind.   Does the end justify the means?  I’m usually a proponent of that, but I don’t know, really.  I certainly didn’t enjoy it.  But, again, I did know where you were coming from.  We do what we know.
--and, yes, I realize again where that could lead regarding my last blog. I will not touch that particular can of worms for a while, if ever.  The rose-colored glasses I wear (remember those, Dad?) see something good in everything, even the tiniest sliver of the positive. Whether some see it as a type of defense mechanism or crutch, I know that it is essential for my survival to be able to do so.  And that, too, is another blog for another time.
So, to “Bob the Father”, I suppose as a parent you weren’t so much a bully (again, the desired result of the use of fear and the base motivator make the difference—to me). Yet “Bob the Man” could be sometimes.
I love semantics.
And I love the relationship that I have with my father now.  I know he loves me even when it’s my turn to be the idiot.  And he makes me think.