I remember my dad’s weapon of choice. A thin leather belt.
Sure, I remember his good qualities, too. But those aren’t the ones that cause us to alter our psyche in a harmful way are they?
I’m going to start with a short disclaimer – I don’t resent my dad. And I will not slam him on the www. He always provided for our family. He never physically abused my mom and never cheated on her. He took our family camping each year. He raised me in the Baptist church and modeled Godly principles. He served his country for 21 years in the US Navy as a submariner. He’s retired three times since then. Certainly a hard worker with a work ethic as impregnable as steel. He will always be an honorable man in my eyes.
The Struggle is Real-
But I’m looking for deeper meaning in the relationship we’ve had as father and son. I’ve been examining the connection between he and I to help me understand who I am. Why I am the way I am.
Why am I so angry?
Why am I tired all the time?
Why do I hold onto bitterness and resentment so easily?
Why do my relationships fall apart?
Why do I find it so hard to communicate when it’s the hardest to communicate?
Why do I struggle with lust/porn/sex addiction?
Sure some of these are unique to me. Then there is the ole argument of nature vs. nurture. I’m interested to know the difference. The issue that largely consumes me is my mental health. Particularly depression. Was this handed down to me from my dad? If it was, I’m determined to break the chain. It’s so hard to do if it’s your everyday reality. It almost feels like I have to die and be reborn to be rid of it. The struggle is real. On the other hand, if it wasn’t handed down to me, then I’m the first link and must prevent a chain from being built with my daughter.
Yes I’m a replica of both my mother and father, but I’m interested in focusing on the dynamics of a son and his dad. Particularly because I’m a dad.
“Hi I’m Chris”-
“Hi, I’m Chris. I’m 41 years old. I served in the US Marine Corps for four years after high school. I taught high school for nine years, and am now about five years into my second career. I’ve had an unsuccessful marriage. I have beautiful nine year old daughter. I live in a 2-bedroom apartment with my bunny, Vanessa and am thousands of dollars in debt. I’ve survived with depression since middle school. Last September I hanged myself.” Some story.
So back to the belt…
My dad had a rule: we got spanked (leather to skin, no pants up folks) for every toy of ours that was laying around the house when he got home. I remember one night (while sleeping in the top bunk) my dad came in and started whipping me while I was under the covers. What did I do that was so horrible that it would make my dad want to do that to me while I was sleeping? I vaguely remember it being because of a toy truck that he found lying about. Trigger.
I remember another time I was in sixth grade and caused some destruction in the boys bathroom while goofing off with a friend of mine. That night my mother and father took me into the basement.
He took his belt off.
He told me to drop my drawers and gripped my arm to keep me in place.
I remember 13 lashes before I passed out.
I woke up in bed to my dad crying over me, apologizing, swearing he would never spank me again.
He never did.
My dad also had another tool he used to punish my brother and I. He made us box each other. Not for entertainment, but to teach us a lesson.
He would get sick of us arguing with each other – trigger – and he made us stand toe-to-toe and hit each other. ‘Course we never did. We just stood there and sobbed, saying we didn’t want to. That’s when he would get behind my younger brother and wrap his own hands around my brother’s fists and punch me into the wall.
The Code of Hammurabi-
I’ve been thinking lately that these events may rate the category of traumatic events. I’ve never thought about them that way. But I’ve been reading how some mental illnesses may stem from traumatic childhood events. I’ve tried to scan the microfiche of my life library to see where this applies to me. Is this where my depression comes from, or is it genetic?
I never held these things against my dad. I never felt he needed to be forgiven. It always seemed justified. “It only happened a couple of times.” I was in the wrong. The practical punishment seemed to fit the criminal’s crime. You know, eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth Hammurabi style, baby!
I never saw them as anything I needed to bring up in therapy, but maybe I do. Either way, I think I answered where my anger comes from.
Stay tuned for more in this probable series…
I’m a list guy. A bullet freak. An itemizing, categorizing, trying-to-be-organized-ball-of-mess. Lists and bullets force me to think and process. They force me to find a deeper meaning. I’m going to view this as a living list and reflect on this often. When something comes to me, I will add it to the list below.
Here goes –
- Hitting. Just because someone is hit as a kid, doesn’t determine they will grow up to be a hitter. Even though I was subject to physical discipline, spanked, etc., I never once did the same to my daughter or step kids. In fact, I’m not physically confrontational and hate fighting, etc.
- Love. Loving someone is not just shown in what you do, but what you don’t do. Though my dad “hit” me as a kid, he did so many other things to show his love for me. Do I condone the way he did things? No. Do I handle things differently? Absolutely. We always try to correct our parents’ “mistakes” don’t we? In the end causing our children to correct OUR mistakes with them.