Saturday, May 07, 2005

Father Knows Best

As the second-born, my childhood perceptions were always colored by the example set by my older sibling- my big sister. At every step of our lives she was there first, doing all the things I would do later. Some things that happened to her I could not understand, and I still have trouble with. The biggest thing was her relationship with our father. For some reason, her transition into puberty brought out the worst in him. Abusive behavior, some physical, some psychological, imprinted indelible scenes in my child-memory. I knew they were wrong then, and I never forgot them. She never speaks of them. What caused him to act this way? Her rebellious demeanor? She was no saint, but she was hardly a problem child. Was it that she was becoming a woman? I vividly recall him repeatedly slamming her head against a closet door, telling her: "You're fat! You're fat! Say it to me! You're fat!" What is a 13 year-old girl to do? (And she wasn't fat.) She cried of course, and said it - anything to get out of that humiliation. What could have been his justification for such behavior? Was he threatened by her budding sexuality? That he was losing his control? Control issues were very big with him. And never a reconciliation. Father knows best. End of discussion. The rage. Always just below the surface, ready to explode with the slightest provocation. He pulled stunts like that on all of us as we grew through adolescence. We all got over it, sort of.
Of course, there might be some who say, "The world is a hard place, you need to be tough, spare the rod and spoil the child".
But if you can't rely on your father, who can you rely on? If there can't be at least one stable intermediary between you and the storms of life as you pass through to adulthood, is it any wonder that so many people grow up fearful and distrusting of any relationships? The mother, of course, is the nurturer - if only by her innate biological relationship to her child. Her actions can be just as bad . And the failure of so many fathers to understand their potential role in a family is not a modern phenomenon - although the freedom offered by modern life makes it more common - it is one of the central problems of the human condition. Or is this issue cultural, something that is transmitted, generation to generation, in some sub-conscious ritual, satisfying the father's need to assert his dominance in a changing relationship?
Whatever the answer (if there even is an answer), the result is a weaking of the family bond, a sense of alienation of both father and child, and a loss of human potential.

By Professor Batty



2 Comments:

Blogger Alda said...

What a horrifying scenario! I'm not sure anyone really 'gets over' such a thing, except with some very hard work. Make no mistake, though, what you describe is hardcore abuse. Whatever your father's issues were, they don't matter - what matters is that he inflicted some serious abuse on a very vulnerable human being, and that is what needs to be addressed.


Blogger Our Fanny said...

Before Dad died, I had a conversation with him about his behavior. He could not recall any instances that I brought up. I sometimes wonder if he slipped into a surreal world that he could not remember, but then I realize he was just a prime candidate for better living through chemistry (e.g. Zoloft).

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