I remember my dad and my brother “wrestling” in the living room after a shouting match they had about whatever teenage rebellion wasn’t jiving with my father’s military mind. A rare occasion to see my dad involved at all – but to see my brother so hell bent on destroying him (not in a competitive way, a very real scary way) with my father cackling and holding him down… the gift of a spotty memory prevents me from recollecting what was next.
Reminded of being kicked in the middle of my back by my mother, can’t remember what ensued previous to provoke her, but I recall she was very frustrated about something. My uncle ran to her and grabbed her, yelling at her for hurting me, said there was no reason to do that. That was when my dad was fighting in Kuwait, she must have felt so overwhelmed. I was more bewildered than hurt, and remember feeling sorry for her.
Thinking back on my childhood, I wouldn’t categorize us as abused children, although I would certainly say that using a leather belt to whip your child’s bare bottom was abuse – which we did get plenty of.
Is it terror that makes it abuse? Regularity? Exactly what? Do I not classify it as abuse because I know that others, including my parents had it 100x worse? Is it because I expected to be punished if I did something wrong that makes it ok in my mind?
Eventually, my parents gave up on hitting us and opted for grounding us from whatever it was that we loved to do most. I’d like to say it was because they became a little more enlightened, but suspect that it’s because we became too big and too human to push around.
These questions come to mind as I deal with my own teenager’s rebellion. It suddenly strikes me that I have no experience to fall back on – no clear picture of how to proceed. Not the cliche of not knowing, but a real not knowing of what to do as a conscious parent. If taking away privileges doesn’t work and adding punishments leads to flat refusal, I don’t know where to go. I can set the example and intention, but then what? Do I let my teenager color the mood of the entire family, set the example for my three year old?