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June 20, 2010

Happy Fathers Day

... to all the Dads out there. I don't have time to write today, so I thought I'd resurrect one of my favorite posts, written three years ago for Father's Day.

It's still early morning. The woods are quiet and my daughter in law hasn't woken up yet so I have the house all to myself. I slip silently down the stairs to the basement to let Sausage out of his house. He explodes from the door as though giant springs were attached to his butt and thunders up the stairs and down the hall to my office, ears flying madly, sounding like a herd of buffalo.

I am never sure how one tiny miniature dachshund can make so much noise. Does he have lead in his paws?

He is eleven years old. This makes him 77 in dog years - the same age as my Dad. I wonder if my father gets out of bed the same way every morning? Dear God, I hope not.

I open the kitchen door and struggle to contain his brown wriggling body while I attach his line so he can take care of the urgent business of elimination and regulating squirrels and passersby who are insufficiently impressed by his ferocity. He is the first male dog we have ever had and let me tell you, they are different.

With a husband, two sons, and a male dog, I have been under siege in my own house for decades. But I accept my fate with equanimity. You see, I have always loved men, ever since I was a little girl:

Speaking of Cassandra, she really does like guys. Responsible guys, mind you.

Dad.jpg You can blame that on my father. In my eyes, my Dad was everything a man should be. A dashing Navy man, he stood six foot four with curly black hair, and brown eyes a girl could lose her soul in. He loved to do man things like camping and fishing and building things and messing with power tools and carburetors. Because of him, I knew what a butterfly valve was in junior high, and what to do if one got stuck and how to do a perfect figure 8 paddle manouever in a canoe, and I could beat anyone in my 6th grade class, including the boys, in the flexed arm hang. Of course that was before the testosterone kicked in but it compensated somewhat for the teasing about having to wear a bra so early to hide my budding breasts, which unfortunately failed to live up to their early promise and mushroom into Pamela Andersonesque monuments to our national motto, "More is more".

Dad used to take me to the hardware store - it was one of my favorite places in the universe. I could wander around Hechinger's for hours just looking at hinges and lumber and wondering what various oddly shaped metal doohickies in the plumbing section were for. Because of him, I wasn't afraid to try and fix things myself, years later when my husband was deployed and everything I owned seemed to break at once. It didn't always work, but then it didn't always work for my male neighbors either, I soon found out.

The thing was to try, and not to get too discouraged.

Somewhere in the bunch of slides my Mom has in her house, there is one of my Dad lying on the floor watching TV. And sitting on his chest is a chubby eighteen month old baby girl with curly blonde hair and brown eyes like dinner plates. His eyes. That's me, his firstborn. My Dad was pleased as punch to have a daughter. He was my biggest fan. When I was about 14 or 15 I used to argue with him so much he had one of those office signs made up and posted it over my door. It had my full name, and underneath the words "Attorney at Law". I think I disappointed him very much when I decided to leave college. He had high hopes for me but even though I didn't finish school or get a law degree, he never gave up on me. He accepted my stubbornness, even if he didn't like it.

And it was because of my Dad that the first time I talked to a young man who lived two doors down from me in Navy housing I realized he was something special, someone I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, and on the day my Father gave my hand to his in marriage, a lifelong journey of discovery continued seamlessly. For to me the most wonderful thing about marriage has been the opportunity to walk side by side, neither expecting we could change the other but quietly posing a challenge to become more than we were alone. The chance to gaze into the utterly foreign landscape of the male mind has been endlessly fascinating to me, if at times mind boggling and confusicating: a breathtaking thrill ride I still can't believe I've been allowed to take for free. I can't imagine why anyone would want to change men when they are so completely, infuriatingly delightful the way they are.

Fausta, who has a great interview with the author, pointed me a few days ago to this great essay in the Wall Street Journal. In it, Tony Woodlief (also a blogger) echoes thoughts I've had often, oddly enough, as a mother of two sons and as a wife to a strong willed Marine:

The trick is not to squash the essence of boys, but to channel their natural wildness into manliness. And this is what keeps me awake at night, because it's going to take a miracle for someone like me, who grew up without meaningful male influence, who would be an embarrassment to Teddy Roosevelt, to raise three men. Along with learning what makes a good father, I face an added dilemma: How do I raise my sons to be better than their father?

What I'm discovering is that as I try to guide these ornery, wild-hearted little boys toward manhood, they are helping me become a better man, too. I love my sons without measure, and I want them to have the father I did not. As I stumble and sometimes fail, as I feign an interest in camping and construction and bugs, I become something better than I was.

Men are, for me, the undiscovered country. For all my life I have thoroughly enjoyed loving them, talking with them, being friends with them, arguing with them, just being confused by them.

But I don't really want to change them, even when I don't understand them and even when, sometimes, I am confronted with things in their nature that, as a woman, terrify and sadden me. For me, everything I don't understand and sometimes fear is bound up in what I most admire and have learned from over the course of my life. To change a thing is to destroy it, and when you love something with your whole heart how can one even entertain such a path? I did, however, love this, from Woodlief:

I can't shake the sense that boys are supposed to become manly. Rather than neutering their aggression, confidence and desire for danger, we should channel these instincts into honor, gentlemanliness and courage. Instead of inculcating timidity in our sons, it seems wiser to train them to face down bullies, which by necessity means teaching them how to throw a good uppercut. In his book "Manliness," Harvey Mansfield writes that a person manifesting this quality "not only knows what justice requires, but he acts on his knowledge, making and executing the decision that the rest of us trembled even to define." You can't build a civilization and defend it against barbarians, fascists and playground bullies, in other words, with a nation of Phil Donahues.

Maybe the problem isn't that boys are aggressive, but that we've neglected their moral education. As Teddy Roosevelt wrote to one of his sons: "I would rather have a boy of mine stand high in his studies than high in athletics, but I would a great deal rather have him show true manliness of character than show either intellectual or physical prowess." Manliness, then, is not the ability to survive in the wilderness, or wield a rifle. But having such skills increases the odds that one's manly actions--which Roosevelt and others believed flow from a moral quality--will be successful.

The good father, then, needs to nurture his son's moral and spiritual core, and equip him with the skills he'll need to act on the moral impulse that we call courage. A real man, in other words, is someone who doesn't run from an Osama bin Laden. But he may also need the ability to hit a target from three miles out with a .50 caliber M88 if he wants to finish the job.

Yes, yes, and yes. This is what I tried so hard to accomplish with my small sons, now grown - not to crush their maleness but to add to it a strong moral fiber that would allow them to channel that uniquely masculine force properly.

I also, though I keep reading that men hate to talk, tried to teach them to talk to women, to be friends with the other half of humanity. Not to be women, but to be comfortable with women.

This is why we marry, why we refer to our spouses as our better halves. There is something that happens to us when we find the right person. We are exposed to another way of thinking, of seeing the universe, and if we open ourselves to it, we do become better people.

More than ourselves. I think, whether we are male or female, each of us has much to learn from the other half of the human race and on this day we salute fathers, who give us life and teach us to face it squarely, with our heads held high and a can-do spirit.

It is a good lesson.

Thanks, Dads, for everything you do.

Posted by Cassandra at June 20, 2010 11:03 AM

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Comments

Wonderful post! You described so well why I love men, and am so glad to say vive la difference! Your daddy sure was cute! I also doted on a Navy dad: remember my dad coming home in his uniform, to me the handsomest man in the world. Years later, when he was a civilian in finance, I used to wail that I hated his suit and liked his Navy whites better...

Posted by: retriever at June 20, 2010 01:44 PM

Thank you so much: channeling their wildness into manliness, into courage, honor, and gentlemanliness. Yes. You put your finger right on what was so creepy and depressing about that PUA site I foolishly stumbled onto the other day. They're genuinely in mourning about having had the wildness killed in men, and they're right about that, but horribly wrong about the alternative.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 20, 2010 03:46 PM

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. One of your best, IMHO. I swear I could've written that--except for all the fantastic skill exhibited, haha! ;)

Of course I can't help but think of my father... and once again i wish I could've seen him through more than my child's eyes, seen him as a teenager discovering boys and as a woman who could've used his influence and guidance.

There's certainly a hole in my life that has his shape, a sense that I saw a much smaller sliver of him then than I would have now. but I also think of some of the men who have stepped in to show me how real men should be expected to treat me, and who have softened the edges of that hole.

I've had a couple of dates with a great guy I'm getting to know, and I'm definitely looking forward to another trip in the "undiscovered country." :)

Posted by: FbL at June 20, 2010 06:11 PM

There should have been more at the end of the 2nd-to-last paragraph...

Fathers are just so important for girls. I still think of him every Father's Day (and more).

Posted by: FbL at June 20, 2010 06:13 PM

It is also right that you are sometimes distressed and saddened by some things you find in the men you know and otherwise admire. I am often distressed and saddened by what I find in myself. This is normal, and Father's Day is a good time for fathers to reflect on these things.

For the rest of you -- those who have fathers, but are not fathers -- pray forgive us for what we have done that is wrong; and bless us, if we have done anything that is right. I think most of us meant to, but we have been given a task for which we are never entirely suited. It is a position that is more difficult than any other I have occupied, and more and more I look to my father and late grandfather, and my late father-in-law, with awe and respect.

I still hear other family members complain about them: tyrants, penny-pinchers, with explosive tempers. All that fades when I see what they managed to do in leading and shepherding their family through difficult ages and to joy and success. I look at that same task in front of me, and I wonder at all they managed to achieve. It is a very great weight.

Posted by: Grim at June 20, 2010 09:16 PM

I got a nice new pair of deck shoes, a handmade card that said they wouldn't trade me for Carson Palmer or Albert Pujols.
My oldest got his first car today, a gift from his flaky old maternal Grandma (a 1990 Plymouth Acclaim, it's red), and we drove home from Loudonville in it.
We washed cars this afternoon, Mom's Ford and the old beater that my son got. The oldest went out to practice driving with his Mom (he turns 16 on Tuesday, and is taking his driving test that day), then we went out looking at weights and bench for them to lift. And we had sirloin steaks for dinner.

After supper the boys and I played catch in the yard until almost sundown.

It was a pretty good day. The best I've had in a very long time.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at June 20, 2010 10:07 PM

Excellent post. Color me unsurprised, even if it was "recycled".

I called my Pappy from the Lincoln Diner in Gettysburg, on my way back from hiking on the Appalachian Trail this weekend...

Posted by: camojack at June 21, 2010 01:39 AM

I was hiking that same trail eleven years ago today.

Posted by: Grim at June 21, 2010 07:18 AM

Grim:

I'm not so sure it's a question of men being "unsuited" to fatherhood (as opposed to women being "suited" for motherhood). It's very common for female animals to reject their offspring entirely, or to be negligent to the point where they die of neglect.

I won't deny that women in the aggregate have many traits that are useful in mothering but then a father's job is so different from a mother's that I'm not sure how much this matters. Men need a different skill set to be fathers because the job requirements are different.

The hardest thing in parenting is that it requires us to grow up and place the welfare of an utterly dependent person before our own. Naturally that means we have to be less self centered. It also requires us to sublimate a lot of perfectly natural instincts that aren't helpful in the context of parenting.

For instance, women have a perfectly natural instinct to seduce or charm. Properly channeled, it helps us find a mate. Improperly channeled, it can make us home wreckers (if we attempt to seduce someone who is committed) or to cheat on our spouse (if we are committed). There's nothing wrong with the basic instinct but civilized and responsible people don't give their instincts full reign. They consider things like the effect of their actions on others, social bonds, duty, etc. and then hopefully they learn to channel destabilizing (but fundamentally normal) instincts into productive rather than destructive paths. They try to find an acceptable outlet for certain aspects of their nature.

Just as there are lots of men who don't do this, there are plenty of mothers who never quite make the switch between thinking of themselves first and putting their children's welfare first. Men have a weird tendency to think this process is "natural" or easy for women, but it is not. It does get easier after the first baby but it is never automatic, even for women.

So I don't think it's a question of forgiveness so much as understanding.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 21, 2010 08:50 AM

You put your finger right on what was so creepy and depressing about that PUA site I foolishly stumbled onto the other day. They're genuinely in mourning about having had the wildness killed in men, and they're right about that, but horribly wrong about the alternative.

What I see on those PUA sites is a lot of men who are nowhere near in control of their emotions. It's funny - I've read similar sites that teach women to respond to men in ways that don't undermine women's desires (for instance, driving men away when what the woman really wants is intimacy).

The underlying techniques are eerily similar. The men "neg" and put on an elaborate show of not caring or not being attracted to the women they're really trying to attract. The women are advised to stop waiting by the phone and get lives of their own. They are advised to control their emotions and not overreact to the upsetting things guys do.

It's the same thing really: a combination of playing hard to get, being more self contained and self sufficient, and learning not to appear needy or desperate. Only the methods vary.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 21, 2010 09:00 AM

Your experience and mine may be different, but I didn't find this to be the case:

"The hardest thing in parenting is that it requires us to grow up and place the welfare of an utterly dependent person before our own."

That wasn't the hard part for me at all. That part was very easy. I loved having a baby, and had no problem at all making that child the center of my life when he was a newborn. It was a delight.

The hard part for me has been when the child stops being helpless and entirely dependent, and needs to be trained and civilized -- while, at the same time, they are asserting their independence through pushing their boundaries and pushing against you. This is the place where every natural instinct I have seems not to work quite right. I know how to lead by example, but the child defies the example because they want to be themselves, not you. I know what they need to learn to do, but every attempt to teach it is met with resistance or avoidance.

I know how to deal with men who resist or avoid their duty, or engage in cruelty or maliciousness or lies -- harshly, that is -- but it's inappropriate to deal harshly with children. The natural anger that is justly and rightly felt when one meets a man who lies or is cruel is not justly felt here; but it's natural, all the same.

All that testosterone that primes one for conflict, all that adrenaline that makes it so easy to control a frightened horse or deal with incoming mortars, these things work directly against you here. Everything you know from the rest of your life leads you to confrontation with the miscreant, and to anger; and that is not at all what you need. Such responses are neither just nor effective. Further, if you find yourself expressing them then your size and physical power terrifies the child, which justly causes you to feel hate for yourself.

That is the part that is hardest for me. It is very hard; and that part, combined with reflection on fathers that have gone before me, leads me to believe that fathers normally need a great deal of forgiveness from their children. Even my father, who is the gentlest of men, was terrifying on occasion when I was of that age; and now I see why he was, though at the time I could not understand.

I can forgive, though, and do so gladly and completely. The other thing I can do is recognize the great good he did for me, and respect him for it. I only hope to do as much good, and as little harm.

Posted by: Grim at June 21, 2010 09:18 AM

I had a very strong willed child, and they can be maddening.

I suppose every parent is different but the bottom line is that strong willed children need MORE (not less) discipline than the average child. They have to learn to accept legitimate authority.

If I've seen one thing in modern parenting that I think is utterly dangerous and wrong, it's the notion that small children (who have little/no experience of the world and have developed no capacity for judgment, much less a mature degree of self discipline) shouldn't have to listen to grownups.

The reason strong willed kids need a firm hand is precisely because left unchecked, they will provoke adults and other children who - unlike their parents - do not love them and will not respond in an understanding manner.

I don't understand the 'forgiveness' thing, Grim. It sounds as though you feel guilty for doing what a parent *must* do. You will become angry when a child defies you. This is normal and natural. Of course you can't give free rein to your anger but there's nothing wrong with letting a child see it, and quite frankly the worse the childish misdeed, the more anger you ought to let the child see. It's valuable feedback.

While a gentle child may never require that much feedback, a hard headed child (I was one) may not even pay attention unless you are downright unpleasant at times. I know you and trust you enough to believe you know where to draw the line but you should not feel bad about reacting to your child as any human would to the same behavior.

He needs to be able to get along with others. His survival depends upon it and this is probably the single most important skill you'll ever teach him.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 21, 2010 09:33 AM

Since I'm on my soapbox this morning, here's another modern parenting notion I think is noxious beyond belief: the idea that kids only have to obey rules they think are "fair" or "reasonable" or only have to obey adults they like or respect.

In life, adults have to learn to deal with all sorts of dumb rules and deal with bosses who are unfair, unreasonable, or whom they don't respect. Sometimes these adults may actually be in the wrong (i.e., there happens to be a good reason for the rule or the boss isn't as dumb as they think). Sometimes, if they're in a situation is driving them nuts, they need to find another job.

But especially when they're starting out, they're not going to start at the top. You can't turn every annoying situation into a pitched battle - some things and people are worth fighting and other times kids need to learn to live with imperfection and work within the system rather than thinking they can single handedly smash it. They need to be able to bend so that they don't break.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 21, 2010 09:46 AM

You say, "Men are, for me, the undiscovered country"

Thinking out loud here...

I wonder if the efforts made in recent decades to deny male/female differences have had the paradoxical effect of making these differences unbridgeable.

In computer animation & robotics, there is a concept of the "uncanny valley." If something is sort of human-like but very obviously unhuman (stuffed animal, traditional Disney animation), it can be very likeable. OTOH, if it's very close to human but hasn't reached a certain threshold, it gives people the creeps. Perhaps something like this occurs in the relationship between the sexes.

To use another analogy, if you expected your dog to be totally human-like, you would constantly be being appalled at various aspects of his behavior. But understanding that a dog will engage in doggy behavior helps you get along with him much better.

Posted by: david foster at June 21, 2010 09:54 AM

Seeing as how my father has traveled to the wild Northlands in order to do battle with the silver scaled beasts of the River (he went fishing in Canada), I was unable to call him yesterday. But your piece was beautifully written, Cass; and it made me think of my Dad.

It was a sobering thought to me recently that when my father was my age, he had four children, the youngest of which was 5 (me), worked very hard, and yet was no absentee father. Most guys I knew always had to think about who their hero was, and would choose a football or baseball player. I always knew who my hero was. I mean no slight to any fathers here, or anyone else's father, but I truly believe (biased though I am) that I have the greatest father in the world. My Dad has always been my hero, and the standard up to which I attempt to measure.

Posted by: MikeD at June 21, 2010 09:59 AM

Thanks for posting this, Cass. My father was a huge influence on me, in ways that I'm not sure he realizes. Yes, I followed in the footsteps of his career -- that part's obvious. But let me tell a little story:

When I was 9, we lived in a nice neighborhood, but there was a neighborhood bully. As a child, I was pretty sickly and not very athletic, so naturally I was one of his favorite victims. My parents were always telling me I needed to stand up for myself, but I was too fearful; the bully was way bigger than me, more athletic, more coordinated, and he had (or seemed to have) lots of friends. In short, he was everything that I wasn't. I completely believed that any attempt I made to fight back would simply result in a beat-down and total humiliation. I preferred to leave doubt about whether I was a complete failure, rather than having the point proven.

But one day he and his friends decided they'd tease me by threatening to shove my face into a pile of dog shit. They got me and had my nose inches from it. I don't know how long this went on, but it seemed like forever, and the longer it went, the angrier I got. By the time they let me up, I was so angry that I didn't care. I just went after the guy. And he was so surprised that I got a couple of pretty good licks in before he started to fight back.

At this point, several things happened that surprised me. His friends, instead of all jumping on me, backed off and let the two of us go at it. Then, I heard a couple of guys start cheering for me! Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion. He hit me pretty hard a couple of times, but I started to notice that he telegraphed all of his swings and that I could dodge them if I paid attention. It actually started to turn into something approximating a boxing match. This went on for a few minutes more, and we both gave as good as we got, until parents arrived and broke it up. By the end of the fight, I wasn't angry any more. The anger had morphed into something else: a state of focus and concentration, something you can't really label as an emotion. It was probably the most intensely I had ever been focused on any one thing up to that point in my life.

My mom fetched me back to the house. I figured I was in major, serious trouble: grounded for life if not longer, and probably a major whipping. Imagine my surprise when all I got from my dad was a mild lecture about fighting, followed by him saying how proud he was of me for standing up for myself. Then, he actually gave me a couple of fighting tips! Dad had tried to get me involved in athletic endeavors before, but this was the first time I ever really understood. I was pretty beat up, though, so after that, he put me into bed. Then my mom came in with soup and ice cream and made a big fuss over me.

Now, I didn't turn into a big-time fighter. I was involved in my share of childhood scrapes after that, but nothing serious. I don't know that I ever really got any good at it, but I held my own. I probably haven't been in any kind of a physical altercation since I was about 14. But having the ability to respond in kind to threats of violence has come in handy a few times. The bigger point was that it did help me get my life into better balance eventually, once I got my health issues cleared up. I know now that it's a mistake to separate the intellectual and athletic sides -- they complement each other, and a true man needs and uses both. That was what my dad was trying to teach me.

My dad's in his 80s now, and he's having some significant health issues. It breaks my heart sometimes to watch him; his mind is as sharp as ever, but his body's not holding up its end of the deal. He's told me about some things he did when he was younger that account for some of this, and I've been careful to avoid those things. My wife and I took him out to dinner last weekend, and I think he really enjoyed it. So here's to you, Dad.

Posted by: Cousin Dave at June 21, 2010 10:21 AM

Marvelous post M'lady.

Great comments, and yes Grim, I understand what you mean all too well.


Posted by: bthun at June 21, 2010 10:24 AM

I think what children need most is consistency, and this is the hardest thing for a parent to provide.

When my boys were born I was a totally 70s parent. I wasn't big on rules or punishment - I think I had this notion that I could explain life to my kids. That was, in retrospect, pretty naive but I'd be surprised if most parents don't start out that way to some extent.

That notion didn't survive my oldest beginning to crawl. No matter how many times I said, "NO!" when he reached for some forbidden object, he would do it again and again and again.

Some objects were dangerous and some I just didn't want him to touch. But in the end, that really didn't matter at all. What he needed to learn was that he had to mind me whether he felt like it or not.

Most days, I either moved the object or physically picked him up and moved him away from it. And most days, that worked... eventually :p

But I always left a few things out that it wouldn't be catastrophic for him to touch, like my plants. He loved to play in the dirt. I used my plants to teach him, "NO" and some days if he wouldn't mind, I would take one finger (that's all it took) and lightly swat him on the back of his outstretched hand. If he persisted after that, he got put in his crib and I set the kitchen timer.

He HATED that worse than anything - that was the ultimate punishment.

When he was about 5 or 6, he loved to play outside. He started pitching a fit when I made him come inside at the end of the day. Nothing I did stopped this. Finally, in desperation, I told him calmly that each time he pitched a fit he would have to come in for the day 15 min earlier.

Just to show you how stubborn he is, we got to a 2 o'clock curfew before he finally "got" it. It was pretty unpleasant.

He's his mother's son all right :p

Posted by: Cassandra at June 21, 2010 10:50 AM

It may be one of those gulfs between men and women, this experience of anger. I remember my wife, when she was in art school, was asked to draw a picture of "anger." She drew a picture of a girl sitting on a stool, bent over, with imaginary lines of force with the spikes pointing inwards. That struck me as totally unlike what anger was like for me; I would have drawn the force outwards, and far from a posture of suppression, I would have drawn a posture of aggressive action.

It's also different in that I am physically capable of killing even a fully grown man with my hands. I am afraid of my wrath in a way that, perhaps, you don't have to be -- and I feel guilty for feeling it towards someone who is helpless, in the same way I would feel if I suddenly found myself terrifying some helpless person at the point of a knife or a gun.

Certainly it does make me feel like I have done something wrong, even though it is -- as we agree -- natural that I should become angry at genuinely bad behavior. It is also, I agree, my duty to train the child to accept authority and do what is right, while avoiding what is wrong. Certainly I understand your point about the need to be unpleasant at times, and the utility of showing a child that their behavior is so bad that it makes you angry.

Nevertheless, I can remember my father's face when he was terrifying in his wrath. I don't want my face to look that way to my son. My father never hurt me, of course -- I never received any physical punishment from him harsher than a spanking, and (as my sister also recalls) he was so afraid of hurting us that he delivered those very lightly. He loved us very much, even when he was angry. And one thing I knew from experience was that, when he was finished in his expression of terrible wrath, after a while he would come and apologize.

He always did that, and I find that I always do too. Maybe it confuses the lesson, to have the authority apologize to the child after the child did something wrong; but then again, maybe it is the lesson. After all, the child will not always be a child, and will someday be the authority in his own house. He will also have a man's power, and his wrath. He will need to use that power justly, as much as we are able to be just. He also needs to know that authority isn't always right, and that -- when that authority is him -- he has to hold himself to account, even more than he holds others to account.

This may not make sense to you, since your experience is so different; but it is what I am talking about.

Posted by: Grim at June 21, 2010 10:53 AM

Grim, I don't think you're understanding me.

Any mother has had to deal with anger. The possibility of child abuse is hardly the province of males - in fact, because women do the lion's share of child care it's more frequent that women lose their cool and abuse a child than men.

I've been so angry with my children that I've wanted to hurt them. And there is no question that I could, in fact, have hurt or even killed them had I not controlled my temper.

And when I completely lost my temper (as I did on more than one occasion when my kids pushed my buttons once too often) I did apologize to them.

Not for being angry (which is acceptable) but for losing control of my emotions in public (which is not). That said, I think there is value for a child in seeing that if they behave unacceptably, they may provoke other people into dangerous anger.

Other people (and especially other adults) are a real threat to a child's safety and if a child doesn't learn not to provoke other people to the point where they lose their temper, the child may experience far worse consequences than being scared b/c Dad or Mom got really angry.

They *need* to learn that. Dogs will nip their puppies when they get too full of themselves, but better a nip that doesn't permanently injure but teaches the puppy caution than a full on bite from another dog.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 21, 2010 11:10 AM

...if you expected your dog to be totally human-like, you would constantly be being appalled at various aspects of his behavior. But understanding that a dog will engage in doggy behavior helps you get along with him much better.

That's an interesting analogy, David.

I think where women go wrong with men sometimes is in the area of "being appalled at various aspects of their behavior".

I'm not saying, incidentally, that the behavior isn't necessarily unacceptable because guys tend to push boundaries wherever they are drawn. That's just the way guys are - the secret is to accept that and work with it rather than reading too much into it (i.e., deciding "he wouldn't do that if he cared about me" which only makes you overreact).

One of the hardest things for me to learn at the beginning of my marriage is that if you lie down and act like a doormat, people tend to wipe their feet on you. I really dislike too much of what my Dad calls "right and left rudder". That made me (especially during the first few years of our marriage when I was keenly aware my young husband must be chafing as much as I was at our new responsibilities) extremely reluctant to make a big deal over small problems.

So I would let small stuff go. But what I eventually learned is that you can't avoid some confrontations b/c your forbearance will be mistaken for not caring or for being a pushover.

It took a long time for me to learn to bring things up unemotionally right when they happened rather than waiting too long and then blowing my stack. This is complicated for women b/c even the mildest attempt to bring up a problem is often met by stonewalling or avoidance. Thus, men sometimes unconsciously "train" women to overreact by ducking conflicts until the other person is no longer willing/able to react with reason and understanding.

This tops my list of things I've never understood about guys. I can think of a lot of examples where women "train" men to do something they really don't want them to do as well (for instance, sometimes men stonewall b/c women react in a way that makes them acutely uncomfortable).

Kind of a feedback loop where each party escalates the conflict by their reaction.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 21, 2010 11:23 AM

All these comments can't help me raise the kids I'm not raising, but they do help me understand my parents.

There were times when my father seemed irrationally or incoherently angry, and at those times I didn't learn anything. I did take a very deep lesson a few times -- once when I was being mean to a friend, for instance, and once when I was stealing. I knew I was wrong, but what drove the lesson home was his unaffected, genuine, righteous anger. That's the way memory works, being cemented by strong feeling. Sometimes anger is the right feeling for that purpose. Just be sure you're really angry about what you seem to be angry about, or it doesn't work. If you're really mad at your boss, or your wife, or your hangover, it's wasted on your kid.

Cassandra, I really liked what you said about the parallels between the male and female strategies for avoiding the pain they cause each other.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 21, 2010 11:31 AM

There were times when my father seemed irrationally or incoherently angry, and at those times I didn't learn anything.

That was the hardest thing for me as a parent - to separate out the days when I lost my cool b/c for external reasons from those when the boys genuinely were being buttheads.

Dads, being under more pressure, tend to blow their stacks more for external reasons, I think. But even this (to me) is valuable because it's not always just the way we behave that leads to a negative reaction. Kids (and wives) need to learn to spot the signs that someone's patience is thin.

Sure, we all need to work on not blowing our stacks too. But it helps not to have others pushing your buttons when you're already primed to go off like the 4th of July.

I used to explain to my sons that Dads have a lot of big worries that I (as a housewife and mom) didn't have to contend with. I guess I just see this as part of life.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 21, 2010 11:40 AM

I also thought David Foster's idea was awfully interesting. A man can do something that, if I did it, would be a real declaration of war, but he doesn't see it that way. It helps me to remember that he's a dog, not a person, so to speak -- or maybe he's a cartoon dinosaur. :-)

Posted by: Texan99 at June 21, 2010 12:31 PM

A man can do something that, if I did it, would be a real declaration of war, but he doesn't see it that way.

I'm going to use "he" and "man" below even though women do this stuff too. The important question is, "Why doesn't he see it that way?" I think it matters. Is it because:

1. It wouldn't bother him one bit if you did exactly the same thing to him?

OK, I'll buy this one b/c it makes total sense: if something doesn't bother you in the least it can be hard to understand why it would bother your spouse? In this case, I suspect the right answer is a good explanation for why it bothers you on your part and a bit of consideration on the other person's part. IOW, negotiation.

2. He sees this as a 'man thing'. IOW, he would probably object if you did it to him but in his view it's OK for him to do it b/c he's a man and that's just the way men are or that's part of being a man :p

I'm more likely to buy off on this if "it" somehow relates to traditional gender roles and the couple's relationship runs along those lines. But a lot of times it's kind of a bogus argument.

3. He sees this as what I'd call a dominance thing. IOW, he can see why it might be annoying (and something he would object to if it were done to him) but as long as the price tag isn't too high, he'll keep doing it.

Sometimes people just dig their heels in. They may not want to lose what they view as a contest of wills or they may just want to get their way.

Again, I think both men and women do this stuff so my use of 'he' and 'man/men' is generic and not meant to imply that only men think this way.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 21, 2010 01:46 PM

Let me add a 4th:

4. He recognizes that the behavior is annoying/problematic, but he thinks a certain amount of annoying/problematic behavior is to be expected in any relationship.

And if he tolerates a lot of annoying/problematic behavior from you, he's probably right :p If he doesn't, though, that's a horse of a different color.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 21, 2010 01:49 PM

Speaking of my father, behavior motivated by type #1 was what got me into the worst trouble with him. All the occasions I can think of where I really got to see him furious, it was because I had failed to do something that I didn't care about -- but that someone else I ought respect cared a lot about.

His opinion was that this kind of behavior demonstrated a failure of personal honor. He believed that thoughtlessness and a failure to consider the feelings of others was an affront and an insult. This was especially true if it was someone to whom, in his eyes, I owed a debt of respect -- my mother, for example.

And in this he was passing on his own lessons from his own father. He often related the story of how once, as a teenager, he had insulted his mother's cooking by refusing to eat what she had prepared and calling it "crap." He went and threw himself down on the couch, followed by his father with a belt. He normally relates this story by finishing, "...and if you beat someone like that today, you'd go to jail."

Posted by: Grim at June 21, 2010 02:03 PM

Whoa! I'll bet his dad did tan his hide! It's an interesting study in gender-specific responses that, if someone did me that way about my cooking, it probably wouldn't even occur to me to thrash him, but he'd be cooking his own dinner from then on, and I would be STEAMED for a good long time, so he'd better not be looking for any favors.

Cassandra, yes, I assumed, when I mentioned things that a man can do that I'd consider a mortal insult, that he might be really surprised to learn that I saw it that way, and that for him it might be a really minor thing. A good example would be fakery. For various reasons, I have such a problem with fakery that if I'm fake to someone, it's a sign that I've pretty much progressed to the nuclear option and they're dead to me. The recipient, of course, generally has no idea whatsoever that this is the case, because for most people it certainly wouldn't mean that. I have to remember that, when someone uses garden-variety insincerity on me, I shouldn't completely flip out, because the odds are very good that it doesn't at all mean what it would mean if I did it. Ditto stonewalling, which is something I'll scarcely use on a mortal enemy, but which is a commonplace tactic in people who really and truly don't mean me much harm.

I've always had a lot to learn about things I shouldn't do to others out of obliviousness, just because they wouldn't be such a big deal to me. It's a step past the Golden Rule, and it requires more empathy than comes naturally to me.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 21, 2010 02:41 PM

Heh... Sounds like my dad. Slow to anger, but a frightening and terrible sight when pushed past all reason.

Funny thing, I can barely remember the instances when he would reach his limit with my behavior. In spite of my adopting the do as I wish, early and often, even if it provokes the old man or mom creed when I was sneaking up on my teens, he cut me far more slack than I deserved. He rarely did little more than give me a glimpse, a taste, of what could happen if I were to push too hard.

Lessons learned I suppose.

My oldest daughter surprised me with an unexpected visit this weekend. She said that she wanted to give me hugs and tell me, to my face, her feelings for me. Based on the weekend, I might even go so far as to say that my youngest, seems to have arrived at the place in her life where she admits that I might not be the strictest and goofiest, free-ranging, old man on the loose.

Hmmm, I wonder if I should call my doctor or something?...

Yup. Grown children are a blessing! =;^}

Posted by: bthun at June 21, 2010 02:41 PM

Grown children are a blessing! =;^}

Amen, bthun. Amen. They're sort of like receiving a huge bonus when you least expected it.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 21, 2010 02:54 PM

...if someone did me that way about my cooking, it probably wouldn't even occur to me to thrash him, but he'd be cooking his own dinner from then on, and I would be STEAMED for a good long time, so he'd better not be looking for any favors.

Honestly, I can't imagine either one of my sons speaking to me in that fashion. But then I can't imagine either one of my sons speaking to ANYONE in that fashion.

If they had, I would not have thrashed them physically for it. If it happened more than once, the child would be spending a lot of time in his room by his lonesome when he wasn't shopping for, planning, and cooking meals for the entire family. It's amazing how a little hands on experience teaches a kid to appreciate that food doesn't magically appear on tables without one or more people working to put it there.

Treating others with respect and decency is a very basic lesson. Which kind of makes me wonder: what child (teen?) would genuinely "not mind" being told that a service or gift they gave another person was "crap"? Some things (like leaving your shoes in the living room) obviously don't bother some people but bother others immensely.

Others are pretty much offensive across the board no matter who you are.


Posted by: Cassandra at June 21, 2010 03:28 PM

I think my grandfather wasn't much of a cook (he was a welder); if he'd made a meal, and my father had said it was crap, he might well have agreed. At the most, he might have slapped the boy upside the head.

(My grandmother, on the other hand, was a fantastic cook in the true Southern fashion. She used no spices but salt and pepper, reserved all her bacon grease and used it for cooking, but her simplest biscuit or pork chop was better than many a "gourmet meal" I've been served. But this is an aside.)

The point, though, wasn't that the food wasn't to my father's liking; it was the insult to the lady, and indeed his own mother. That was why it was a beating offense.

Posted by: Grim at June 21, 2010 03:41 PM

And I have to say, my father loves this story. It's a point of pride with him that he was raised this way (and a way of pointing out to us kids how much easier we had it than he did!). Which is true: he was very gentle by comparison with his father. And as for me, I've expressed my sense that I don't even like to yell at the boy. Physical punishment I prefer to leave to his mother, who is less likely to hurt him with a hairbrush than I would be with the palm of my hand. I usually make him do pushups instead. :)

Posted by: Grim at June 21, 2010 03:46 PM

"it was the insult to the lady, and indeed his own mother."
Aye, twas the line in the sand in my parents home and in mine.

I would suffer a load of lip or any number of other indignities as so much steam being vent, but I could not tolerate the same being said or done to Walkin' Boss.

As I admitted above, lessons learned.

Posted by: bthun at June 21, 2010 03:48 PM

I polled the NPH, and the first solution that came to his mind on the issue was just the one your grandfather used.

I didn't mean to imply that I didn't take the offense as seriously as your grandfather did, or even that my response would have been better. I just thought it was interesting that I wouldn't have thought of it, and we can see it wouldn't have been Cassandra's choice of approach, but it seemed obvious to your grandfather and my husband.

So that's a sample that's composed half of people who'd raised kids and half who hadn't, and half male and half female. Gives you an idea of why it's maybe a good idea to have both a mother and a father on the job. The men bring a dimension to the child's discipline that doesn't necessarily come naturally to the women -- not that they can't learn from each other. The men proposed an immediate lesson that probably was very well understood. The women automatically went to a kind of indirect-force turning-the-tables approach that also is instructive, and a handy tool when you don't happen to be bigger than the culprits you deal with.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 21, 2010 03:57 PM

I think my grandfather wasn't much of a cook (he was a welder); if he'd made a meal, and my father had said it was crap, he might well have agreed. At the most, he might have slapped the boy upside the head.

That wasn't my point, Grim. I never assumed the food was the problem.

My point was that if your Dad had made a gift or performed some service for his mother and she responded by saying it was "crap" (when in fact it was NOT crap) your Dad would almost certainly have minded.

IOW, I doubt your Dad said his mother's food was crap b/c he wouldn't have minded if someone treated him that way. I think he was just thumbing his nose at the rules.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 21, 2010 04:15 PM

I didn't mean to imply that I didn't take the offense as seriously as your grandfather did, or even that my response would have been better. I just thought it was interesting that I wouldn't have thought of it, and we can see it wouldn't have been Cassandra's choice of approach, but it seemed obvious to your grandfather and my husband.

For what it's worth, the VERY few times my boys back talked me, they did get smacked and/or yelled at. They knew from the time they were little that they didn't want to go there with me. When you have a father who's gone most of the time, you can't afford to rely on him to fight your battles for you.

I know I've told the story before of my 3 year old son biting me, and my eventually biting him back :p Again, I tried reason first but when that failed, I had no problem with demonstrating why we don't bite other people and that worked. Instantly, and far more effectively than all my words had done.

It's not so much that smacking them wouldn't occur to me. It's just that I would try something else first - not because I think corporal punishment is utterly wrong or even b/c I'm necessarily uncomfortable with it.

It's more that I saved it for the most serious offenses, and also that I assumed that I would have nipped that particular behavior in the bud.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 21, 2010 04:22 PM

Oh, I see. No, it was me that used to get in trouble for 'sins of omission' of the sort: not doing something because it wasn't important to me. This example from my father was a 'sin of commission' which touched on the same point (treating people with honor) but in a different way.

It was me that used to just be thoughtless about what other people wanted. One of the worst times I ever got in trouble with my father was for failing to show up at a Boy Scout event I was supposed to go to. I decided it wasn't important, so I blew it off -- I must have been around sixteen because I was supposed to drive myself. When he got home and found out that I hadn't held what he saw as my duty to the troop, he absolutely blew his stacks.

I honestly didn't understand exactly why he was so furious at the time. I wouldn't have minded if some other scout had chosen not to come that day; and to my mind at the time, I had no duty to the troop. It was something I did for fun, so if I had something else that seemed like more fun, I ought to do that instead. To his way of thinking, however, I had essentially promised to be there to help, and had broken my word -- and not for a good reason, but to pursue my own ease and pleasure.

That was also the one time I can clearly recall that he didn't apologize for what he did.

Posted by: Grim at June 21, 2010 04:24 PM

...it was me that used to get in trouble for 'sins of omission' of the sort: not doing something because it wasn't important to me. This example from my father was a 'sin of commission' which touched on the same point (treating people with honor) but in a different way....I wouldn't have minded if some other scout had chosen not to come that day; and to my mind at the time, I had no duty to the troop.

That makes sense to me.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 21, 2010 04:32 PM

Before CPS comes after me 27 years too late, let me clarify that I didn't bite my son hard enough to really hurt him - just hard enough for him to understand, "When you bite Mommy, you are hurting her" :)

Posted by: Cassandra at June 21, 2010 04:34 PM

I'm sure you did fine by your children. :)

And indeed, my father did very well by me. His anger on that day, and other days, did help me learn a lesson that was of crucial importance. I have a mind that (you may have noticed) approaches many questions in an unusual way. If I had not learned the lesson he wanted to teach me -- to take time to think about how other people feel and what other people want, instead of listening only to my own heart and mind -- it is difficult to see how I would have gotten along in the world. A person whose mind works like most others can probably afford to rely on themselves to know what they ought to do socially, but the more unusual your mind the more you need to learn to be thoughtful, to take time to determine what people want and how they feel.

So I must say that, in addition to being the lesson he fought hardest to teach, it was also a lesson that I particularly needed to learn.

Posted by: Grim at June 21, 2010 04:45 PM

C, I'm sure that if your son wanted to embarrass you, he'd hop on here with a link to photographic evidence of the scars left by your teeth. They're forensically distinct, you know.

Grim, you are a little out there, but in a good way. The tapestry is not supposed to be gray!

Posted by: Texan99 at June 21, 2010 05:13 PM

Oh trust me - he has psychic scars :p

Poor kid. I am so proud of that boy. Not the least b/c he survived my parenting.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 21, 2010 05:19 PM

"Poor kid. I am so proud of that boy. Not the least b/c he survived my parenting."
Heh. I never found the ISBN # for Parenting for Dummies... I'll admit that I could have used one.

But like I used to tell my kids, unlike a male lion or bear, at least I did not and would not eat them.

Posted by: bthun at June 21, 2010 05:25 PM

I suppose every parent is different but the bottom line is that strong willed children need MORE (not less) discipline than the average child. They have to learn to accept legitimate authority.

Cassandra's story about coming in 15 minutes earlier rang a bell for me, too. In my case the trigger was the number of times walking up and down the very steep stairs at home correctly, after being repeatedly warned not to run down them. I think the highest it got was 35, with my friends waiting for me tantalizingly close on the other side of the front door. Torture!!! The lesson certainly stuck, though (and it also became a lesson in self-control because I was furious by the time it got to 15, but each stomp on the stairs just raised the number until I figured out how to regain self-control).

Posted by: FbL at June 21, 2010 05:29 PM

I seem to have trouble commenting here lately.... Let's just retry that whole thing. LOL

I suppose every parent is different but the bottom line is that strong willed children need MORE (not less) discipline than the average child. They have to learn to accept legitimate authority.

As a strong-willed child myself, I gotta say, "Amen."

Cassandra's story about coming in 15 minutes earlier rang a bell for me, too. In my case the trigger was the number of times walking up and down the very steep stairs at home correctly after being repeatedly warned not to run down them. I think the highest it got was 35 consecutively, with my friends waiting for me tantalizingly close in the yard through that front door. Torture!!! The lesson certainly stuck, though (and it also became a lesson in self-control because I was furious by the time it got to 15, but each stomp on the stairs just raised the number until I figured out how to regain self-control).

Posted by: FbL at June 21, 2010 05:31 PM

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Posted by: Cassandra at June 21, 2010 05:35 PM

T99:

Your remark, and the earlier thing that you posted at the Hall about 'gold against brass,' have worked together to remind me of a few lines from The Everlasting Man. You may find them interesting to your thoughts, as the memory was provoked by your thoughts.

"I do desire to help the reader to see Christendom from the outside in the sense of seeing it as a whole, against the background of other historic things; just as I desire him to see humanity as a whole against the background of natural things. And I say that in both cases, when seen thus, they stand out from their background like supernatural things. They do not fade into the rest with the colours of impressionism; they stand out from the rest with the colours of heraldy; as vivid as a red cross on a white shield or a black lion on a ground of gold."

Posted by: Grim at June 21, 2010 06:11 PM

Absolutely -- the great thing about GKC being his flipping on its head the idea that Christianity, or good people, were bland while evil was exciting.

Self-control doesn't make you dull. It allows you to be yourself instead of a mass of impulses initiated by other people.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 21, 2010 06:22 PM

Evil may be exciting but it's something that takes you over, not the other way around. So if you wish to be a slave, you can make a Hell for yourself if you wish.

Many people wish to feel a thrill, an adrenaline drive, by doing things which human artifice has made obsolete in our drive for perfection or survival. But they do it safely under the confines of civilized rules and assumptions. They can visit the slums or the barbarian lands, but they always know somewhere in their heart of hearts, that they can return.

But that's a cheap and superficial experience with evil, chaos, and violence. To truly experience it, you must go deeper, to the point where you know you can't come back once you take the next step.

But most people won't willingly do that. And circumstances don't often force their hand. They can experience some of the thrills of danger and primitive life, but they eventually go back to their "boring lives", because they know that they wouldn't want to actually live where the exciting things are.

They don't need self-control as much, because they have a safety net. They rely upon somebody else, an institution perhaps, to save them. They don't commit everything. They don't trust themselves enough to.

Prof Gates and Obama, after all, always knows that somebody will come save their bacons because of their connections and wealth/power. They don't need self-control. That's for peons and slaves getting whipped for being uppity at their betters.

What this means is that good people are often capable of excesses of violence which exceed the things evil is capable of. It's not a difference in power, but toughness. Not capability so much as willingness to use what you have. Good people aren't often willing to use any of their own personal power without the limiters on. The chains that society has placed upon them, the chains society demands, the peace bond, as the requirement for mutual existence and life. Now what these chains mean is that good people are often out of practice or totally unfamiliar with violence and death. Thus evil often has an advantage because they have more "experience" and it is this experience that is touted as "superior" or "a good strong horse". Exciting, even.

But evil's maximum capacity for violence is actually lower than ostensibly what good people are capable of. The difference is simply a matter of priorities. Out of any total time or energy investment, good people invest most into creating things while evil invests in learning how to blow stuff up. Since it is easier to blow stuff up than to build, most of the power of civilization is tied up in assets designed for mutual benefit rather than mutual destruction. Even though evil has far less total energy to invest, they can get more bang for the buck simply by focusing on killing and hurting.

The tipping point comes when an ostensibly good and peaceful society turns more than 50% of their total resource output to war, death, violence, and killing.

Then you will see something that is rather rare. The same is true for individual men and women as well. Evil men and women have experience and an edge in speed and efficiency. Good people are often behind the reaction cycle, catching up. And dying before they do. The excitement of absolute power over the life and death of another human being is real. And it is addictive. But at the same time, those with self-control can also contain more killing ability than their evil counterparts.

It's not good training to always be preying upon weak or defenseless sheep, just trying to live the life. (It's a dog's life) Evil men and women aren't testing themselves everyday. That's what makes them evil. That they choose weak, rather than strong, foes. That they would rather destroy than improve themselves.

Self-discipline is the road to self-improvement. Rules and mutually beneficial restrictions on the ability to kill, tends to do the same for a civilization on the macro. On the outside, this makes civilization and its members weak. Evil men and women come to feel a lack of respect because they operate under no rules while we operate under many. This can make us look like sheep, with them being the natural predators. Top of the food pyramid.

Well, there are some vegetable eaters that are prey. And then there are Cape Buffalos.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at June 21, 2010 07:48 PM

"The trick is not to squash the essence of boys, but to channel their natural wildness into manliness."

I have spent the last 18 years as a Scout leader working on this. In my upper-middle class southwest Chicago suburban environment it's a bit of an uphill climb, since the Dads spend most of their time working or something else and I end up dealing with the Moms a lot. I think they fear that a boy's natural agressiveness coupled with inquisitiveness will end up leading him into danger, and he might get hurt.

Of course, they're right. But what they don't realize is that boys need to get banged up a bit. I tell the parents that their kids shouldn't come back from a campout with any permanent injuries, but no guarantees about cuts, scratches, minor burns, etc. Knives, guns, fires and axes worry them quite a bit. But they're necessary if a boy is to learn not only skills, but learn that part of the job of a man is to teach boys how to be a man.

Posted by: RonF at June 21, 2010 07:56 PM

That wasn't the hard part for me at all. That part was very easy. I loved having a baby, and had no problem at all making that child the center of my life when he was a newborn. It was a delight.

The hard part for me has been when the child stops being helpless and entirely dependent, and needs to be trained and civilized -- while, at the same time, they are asserting their independence through pushing their boundaries and pushing against you. This is the place where every natural instinct I have seems not to work quite right. I know how to lead by example, but the child defies the example because they want to be themselves, not you. I know what they need to learn to do, but every attempt to teach it is met with resistance or avoidance.

Bookworm started around the same place as Cassandra. She said it was simply a lack of maturity. Or rather, a lack of the ability to look beyond the self.

Given that you, Grim, had already gone to China for somebody else's sake, I think you were past this stage. That you didn't need parenthood to help you bridge the gap.

On the second part I quoted, it sounds like a case of boundaries.

The child wants to develop or expand his own personal boundaries and through conflict or inexperience on both sides, it is coming up against your space or what you see as yours or space that is shared.

When you directly set the limits, from his perspective as a lower mark on the totem pole of power and hierarchy, you are stepping over his space and making it yours, rather than his, built by his hands.

Even if you were to give him challenges, it would still be seen as coming from you, as being your own idea, regardless of how much you think it is for his own benefit or serving his own best interests.

It's always the better case to let people think they came up with the idea on their own. That's not too hard, unless people simply don't know what it is they want. People want something, but they can't always tell you what it is they are interested in. Until they do, all you can do is to give them opportunities to find and tell you what it is that interests them. Some people are interested in physical activities. Others, more mental. Some, more spiritual. And some simply want to understand humans and how they tick.

A challenge, when it comes from another person, is now a personal issue. A challenge that comes from nature, simply demands self-improvement and no excuses. But the distinction is often hard to parse in parenting. The parent can't expose their child to all manners of environmental dangers. There has to be some limit. So the parent introduces some controlled threat as a challenge. But by being the one that originates the challenge, now the child responds to that challenge as coming from the parent, not coming from nature or external environment. Instead of self-improving, they get defensive and now the monkey starts driving the bus. Whereas in an environmental danger situation, self-improvement is what normally our instincts demand as the path to salvation.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at June 21, 2010 08:17 PM

That concept, Ymar, runs directly counter to the one Cassandra is advocating: that I shouldn't try to make him think he's getting his way, but should teach him precisely that he has a duty to submit to legitimate authority. I'm afraid I must say that I agree with her position. He has to learn to do what he doesn't want to do, because he has binding duties to others.

Teaching that requires a certain amount of conflict. Sometimes I have to do what my father did for me, which is point out that he is failing in his duties to others -- duties he may not have learned to recognize. If I just try to make him think he's doing what he needs to do because it's what he wants to do, I'm avoiding the lesson because I'm avoiding the conflict. That would be my failure, in my duty as his father.

The main thing I want him to learn is to be honest, and upright. That's going to require him to fight a lot of strong people in his life, so he may as well start with me.

It's just hard, in a number of ways. But it is my duty even though it is hard.

Posted by: Grim at June 21, 2010 08:24 PM

Now, mind you, what you say is wise when it is pointed at humanity in general. I agree with most of it, for most occasions. It just happens that I am under a particular duty in this case that compels me to conflict, and I may not avoid it.

Posted by: Grim at June 21, 2010 08:37 PM

He has to learn to do what he doesn't want to do, because he has binding duties to others.

Teaching that requires a certain amount of conflict.

As I don't know the specifics, I can only speak in generalities.

Which is sort of the opposite of what I said about Obama's motivations and the distinction not being important at this time.

If I just try to make him think he's doing what he needs to do because it's what he wants to do, I'm avoiding the lesson because I'm avoiding the conflict.

That is true, since this ploy, so to speak, was designed to avoid friction. Specifically inter-personal friction. But it also has less growth potential than, say, an actual conflict or winning an actual conflict between poles of power.

It modifies behavior, and that's about the only thing it does. It doesn't teach anything, really, because what comes from it comes from a person's own ideas. And people normally don't always have everything they need in terms of information when they come up with an idea. Whatever that person has learned, he has already used.

The main thing I want him to learn is to be honest, and upright.

Perhaps I was lucky or unlucky that I felt something akin to physical sickness whenever I thought of using lies as an expedient solution to an immediate problem. Yet, it was not something my parents taught me. Although my grandfather may have in the mists of time.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at June 21, 2010 09:34 PM

One of the fundamental motivations for studying deception and things like tradecraft concerned the fact that even though I had a sort of physical limiter of a rule concerning dishonesty, I never knew why it was the way it was. Why was dishonesty worse than honesty. And why was it that dishonesty, yet, worked better than honesty from what I saw. Yet, the rule would not go away.

The conflict sparked a life time interest. Much akin to Texan's divide between fakery and the normal social circle.

Adherence to rules will never be heart felt until people believe that they have a personal stake in doing so. They can be told that it is important. They can be presented with good or bad options. But until they believe, using whatever reasons they personally accept, then they will always resist somewhere, some when.

And the real kicker, there are people who don't resist. They simply do as they are told. Because they don't care what's true or not. Go along to get along. Stubborn people may be wrong. But at least they'll put up some kind of fight, whereas the follower just does as he is told, regardless of whether it is good or bad to other people, or to themselves even.

From a kid's perspective, all this complex stuff is too much. None of it makes sense. No connections to make it reasonable or sensible. So they learn physically or through some baby steps. But they got one advantage going for them. They'll never stop trying. You'll never win if you don't try, as they say.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at June 21, 2010 09:44 PM

No, you're right. It's good that he fights. It's just not a lot of fun. But -- I say about boys as John Wayne said about horses -- I wouldn't give a nickel for one who won't fight. They quit when the going gets tough.

Posted by: Grim at June 21, 2010 10:14 PM

Ymar, runs directly counter to the one Cassandra is advocating

That reminds me of something (yeah, doesn't everything).

There was this kid, kind of chubby, weighing around, I don't know, 60-70 some pounds. He was the child of an adult friend of my friend's mother. We were at his house celebrating his mother's birthday, so to speak.

Judging from the accents involved, he was Mexican or such. I didn't see a father. He also had a sister, a smaller, more quiet type. Now this boy obviously had some energy issues. He was running all over the place. Super hyper. And because of his size, I was probably sure his mother couldn't physically control him. For one thing, I'm stronger than she is, and it takes some effort to lift this guy up to chest height. When this boy starts pulling on you, it becomes slightly more difficult to beat him on energy.

Lack of order and discipline, no father figure around that I could see, and energetic-hyper-insecure-dominance.

The kid, by how he is treated or how he interacts with sister and mother, has now put himself in a more dominating position. But he doesn't know it, so some issues there. He gets his way I suppose.

I was showing his sister something she asked about, internet games, on a laptop. Here comes this big energetic kid pulling on my arm wanting me to swing him around in the air. Which is feasible, but rather tiring. So I ignored him for a few moments, while talking to his sister. Btw, when this kid first flew in the door, I looked at his sister and you could tell by her face that she knows he has problems and knows she can't handle it.

Anyways, he kept bugging me, like he always got what he wanted. His high pitched demands were getting on my nerves, but I wasn't going to pay him attention, reward him, and make her uncomfortable. So I took his arms and locked them under my armpits, then leaned back using my torso and gravity to pin him to the ground. All the while speaking calmly to the little sister about how to work the laptop.

In that position, his weight is of no advantage and he can't overpower me. He got kind of quiet after that for some reason.

At this point, I had already learned much of TFT's basics in terms of inflicting injury on human beings. Thus I knew the difference between controlling a person's movements and putting so much pressure on their tissue and joints that they would suffer intense pain or injury. This presence of control, perhaps, communicated something to the boy that words had as yet failed to accomplish.


While everybody was leaving, I really felt sorry for the mother. But more so for the sister. That little girl is going to find it hard feeling secure with this out of control kid around. Especially when he gets into the hormonal stages.

On the topic of anger, I also get the needles stabbing into my head image. But that's cause I was holding it in and preventing it from moving my body. I think many people, not just women, feel a need to control their anger. And I was one of those that never felt right doing anything based upon anger. Until some things changed.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at June 21, 2010 10:16 PM

There's also this video of a father being involved in a physical altercation in defense of his family.

Link

That Bt posted at Grim's.

Another story of a father defending his family

It was funny but true when they said a man had to protect his woman. It doesn't matter how he does it, but he at least has to try, even if he lacks the resources to do it well or fully. Somebody that takes off and leaves his woman and kids to get eaten by predators, probably is something else.

In the first video, the dad didn't know how to kill nor did he seem familiar with fighting on a social level. Using what Grim mentioned, there is a certain jump in perspective when a person obtains the means to destroy other human beings. You get a certain new perspective, a new power, bundled together with a new responsibility and fear. Now instead of fearing the big black man coming towards you and your wife, you're afraid that the other guy is too stupid and will get himself killed, by you, and now it becomes a huge hassle, paperwork, etc.

However, esoteric knowledge or rare training can be taught. Toughness, however, is something a little bit more innate. Some people think that they become tough by winning fights, like that Obamabot in the first video.

But there's a stark difference. The father there won't give up and will fight using what he has got. The anti-Tea Party activist, however, isn't worth anything in a fight. He's trash. I can train or educate people on how to fight. But I can't give them the motivation to do it, to risk what needs to be risked.

It's just foolish. Only a fool or self-inflated egoist, tries to encroach upon the space a man's family occupies and thinks he is in his own home and can do anything he wants. Because there are some dangerous people in the world. And they had better hope they pick a target that either can't or will refuse to destroy them.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at June 22, 2010 07:53 AM

Thanks for the link to the story about the dad and the tornado on Father's Day, Y.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 22, 2010 10:03 AM

No problem, Texan.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at June 22, 2010 01:06 PM

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