Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Not that kind of parent

She sat there cowering, her body trembling and tears streaming down from already cry-puffy eyes.  He loomed over her, palm open and ready to strike.  He shouted that oh-so-impractical command, "Stop crying!" as though by demanding it, her sobbing would cease.  And though she tried to stop, her body heaved and that hand swatted - landing a hard smack on her little bottom.  She bit her lip, willing new tears to hold back and a single wimper escaped.  Instinctively, I reached for her and the commanding voice sounded, "Don't touch her."  I drew back, despite my urge to save her and stood helplessly hoping she'd survive the encounter. 

This is the father I know, but this is not the grandfather my daughter deserves.  This is not how I want my daughter to experience her life - walking on eggshells, praying that she'll get an ounce of praise instead of years of rejection and ridicule.  Suddenly, I'm in my daughter's shoes, a helpless little girl who doesn't know that this kind of discipline isn't right.  It's not abuse, I know that a few good swats don't amount to much... but the emotional games lead to years of second guessing every move and vain hope that one day it'll be praise and adulation rained down instead of "you should've" or "why didn't you" or even worse, no acknowledgment at all.

And so I leave the painful place in search of sanctuary.  I hide my tears behind a mask of "it's okay" until I reach my car.  And as I drive the 10 miles towards my own home, my tears begin.  I've failed to save my daughter tonight, but it will not happen again.  I am not that kind of parent, and she will not be raised in fear and unjust devotion to impossible standards stemming from someone else's regrets and mistakes.

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