Sins of the Father

By N. Mark Castro

Most new parents gush over their babies like silly and come up with the most sentimental words they could string together in trying to describe feelings that would never be captured in words to begin with.

Even the word LOVE pales in comparison to what you could only desire to express. As a new parent, and hopefully, a better dad, I certainly have made no ambitions whatsoever to capture its essence. It’s ridiculous.

But still we try, and none could be more difficult as to how one can explain the requirements of trying to discipline a child. No matter how hard we try, it is certain that our parenting will be influenced by the kind of parenting that we have received. Whether or not we follow such parenting behavior and pass it onto our children, such actions would still be a direct result of the parenting we have received.

So you can only wonder.

Or hope.

Hope.

When Pandora opened the box and all the evils that mankind became heir to came out, the last to appear was Hope.

It flew away.

I did not make that depressing story up.

The Ancient Greeks did.

And so I’m reminded by a friend’s story, actually, not too long ago, that shows so much as to how fragile life really is.

Parenting is such a tricky thing because it doesn’t come along with a textbook, which is why Corporal Punishment is such a controversial issue it’s become practically taboo.

Hurting your own child is worse than hurting yourself. I grew up in a household filled with 4 other boys so you can imagine the nightmare my mother had in trying to instill discipline among us. And that was during the ancient times when corporal punishment was an accepted norm.

My mother would scold us, my mother would plead with us, my mother would beg us, and if we continue to ignore her, my dad would come down on us and hit us real good. And it wasn’t as nice as the “Ka-pow” we used to see in those campy Batman TV shows. It was an honest-to-goodness-I-beg-I-won’t-do-it-again kind of beating: the belt or the stick.

And as I grew older, I’d devised a plan to withstand any spanking I’d get.

I placed a carton on my butt.

I was that brilliant.

Of course, I didn’t account the noise the carton would make which my lawyer dad noticed. He laughed. But I still got a good spanking.

And it didn’t help that my older brothers took to liking the same punishment every time we younger boys failed to obey them. Eldest would spank the second and he would spank the third and the third would spank me and I, well, I couldn’t touch the youngest because he was the youngest.

How’s that for middle child syndrome?

  1. So do I hate my parents?
  2. Do I hate my brothers?
  3. Did I need to see a shrink?

No.

Life was too full of promises it became my drug. I found ways to find comfort and solace in the little things I saw and did, and generally, did not really get into a fistfight with others. I ended up using glib, humor, or my pen and was instantly accepted as a friend to the other kids who, I was certain, was receiving the same kind of punishment they were receiving at home.

It was an in-thing to do.

Which was why I vowed I would never ever hit my children, no matter the cause.

Until this morning.

For some reason, Neo was throwing a tantrum this morning, whining, screaming, and kicking. My down syndrome son EJ was right next to him and he — unintentionally — hit him. I saw nothing but red and it happened at the time that I was putting on my belt.

There went the ballgame.

I used the other half of my belt — which wasn’t in yet — to lower down and hit him with it on his leg.

He was stunned.

I was stunned.

He cried.

I was still stunned.

And, I swear,  in a sprint much faster than Usain Bolt could ever do, his mother came out of her room rushing out to the living room where we were. She eyed me like a hawk but did not scream. I carried Neo up and we went together inside his room. He was still crying. And I could sense his mother at the other end of the closed door.

“Neo,” I said, “we promised each other we won’t hit each other or kick each other and that this isn’t a “hitting-family”, right?”

He kept crying, louder and louder: “I don’t like Dad, I don’t like Dad.”

I didn’t take that personally, although he deserved to feel that way. I pretty much didn’t like me as well.

Then I started off by saying “Tell me why you’re upset.” [You can see the proof that I’m such an Albert Einstein with my brilliant question.]

He still kept crying and I was afraid his mother would storm in the room and take him away from me and pull a 100-meter restraining order.

I sat next to him. He still kept crying, but I could sense that he was tired of crying he used his foot to tickle me.

I screamed: “Ouch! You hit me!”

He laughed. “Don’t be silly, Dad. I’m tickling you.”

“Ah,” I said, “now it’s my turn to tickle you!”

He laughed and laughed, but I knew I still had to address the issue and not bury it. “I’m sorry I hit you, Neo. Promise it won’t ever happen again and …” he cut me off by tickling me.

“Funny Dad,” he said.

It was an opening for me: I pretended to be hurt by his tickle and cried.

“Funny Dad,” he said. “You’re the baby, Dad.”

We kept at it for a few more minutes until we bought knew we bonded again.  Then we calmed down and exited the room, with his mother just staying at the wing, quietly avoiding any discussion in front of the kids. As we were walking towards the living room couch, here comes EJ sensing it was time to have fun again and started tickling both of us.

I sat them both down and said: “Remember, no hitting in this family, ok?”

They both said OK and Neo trailed off saying: “Only the bad guys, Dad. I hit the bad guys.”

“Noooooo! We only let the cops take care of the bad guys.” Mental Note to Self: Cartoon bad guys have to be re-explained.

I bid them both goodbye, they kissed me and promised there would be no hitting.

Naturally, I couldn’t exit the house without having a chat with their mother, so like a kid ready to be scolded, I entered the room with her to explain: “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I don’t know what the heck hit me!”

“We swore, Mark,” she said, “We swore NEVER to hit the kids. I don’t know if we would even have a reason to reserve that for an important one but we don’t.”

“I knoooow and No, there shouldn’t ever be a reason for that. I will so make it up to him.

“You better,” she said.

I’m not quite sure how much psychological impact I’ve wrecked but I know that I would have to spend the rest of my life mending that. I could never show him that we need to favor EJ due to his slower pace of development. I need to explain to him why he’s different, even though he seems to know that much more than we’d expected.

Do I feel guilty? No. Do I feel bad? Big time.

But this entire episode today allowed me to look into my own personal experience. Despite everything I’d done, I guess the monster is still inside of me. There would be many more ‘brushes’ like this as they both grow older, and it’s important that I make a double effort in seeing to it that this never happens again. NEVER. So here I am on the net thinking of creative ways to make them happy when I get home …

I’ve got three juries I need to convince here, of course:

  1. Neo
  2. EJ
  3. Their mother … if I still want to remain as her husband.

And if I need to put up an insanely huge poster of “NO HITTING” all over our household, I would.

But they’re always free to tickle Dad 24-hours a day, 7 days a week, including holidays.

But a story needs to be inserted at this point.

While Dad was polishing his new car, his 4 year old son picked up a stone and scratched lines on the side of the car. In his fit of anger, Dad took the child’s hand and hit it many times and didn’t realize that he had hit the child’s hand with a wrench.

At the Emergency Section, his child asked: “Dad, when will my fingers grow back?”

The Dad was wrecked with guilt but couldn’t answer his child. He went back to the car and kicked it with so much anger — at himself, at the car, everything. As he sat down right next to the car, he looked at the scratches the child made. It read:

“I LOVE YOU DADDY …”

About Asmartrock

N. Mark Castro is the chief political communications strategist for PT AsiaLeads, a political and communications policy-making body based in Jakarta, Indonesia. He is also the Executive Director at the Southeast Asia Consulting Group, an investment advisory company assisting clients roll out their presence for the ASEAN Economic Integration in partnership with government. The views posted here are his own and do not in any way reflect the views of the companies he represents.

Posted on August 14, 2012, in Fatherhood, General and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. When I was younger, I remember saying to my mom I couldn’t understand how anyone could hurt their child. She said “wait till you are a mom”. I completely understand now. This post is a great discussion of why to get over that impulse!

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