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An addendum to my parenting post

2012/03/10

Now I understand why so many bloggers schedule posts for the next say instead of posting as soon as they are done. It’s so easy to leave stuff out. The following is is stuff I left out of my post “Why I hid my college education.”

I am the oldest of five siblings. I was born in 1980. I have a sister born in 1982, a brother born in 1986, a brother born in 1989 and another born in 1992. Starting about the time I turned eleven or so, my sister and I were frequently put in charge of our younger brothers while my parents went out on a date. I don’t mean they outsourced their parenting or anything, but they liked to get out for three or four hours every few weeks and sometimes overnight on Valentine’s Day and their anniversary. My experiences here were quite different from the ones Libby Anne related in her follow-up to the article I linked before. I wasn’t a substitute parent on these occasions. I was not allowed to hit my brothers in any way. Of course, I had seen little model of how to manage kids without hitting them, so this was difficult. Of course, they were also aware they couldn’t be hit. If they acted up, they might get spanked when our parents came back, but that wasn’t immediate and they could try to dispute our story. So, half the time we ended up hitting them anyway and trying to argue necessity later. This could easily get us in trouble, but the only alternatives we were aware of were letting them run wild or bribery. I think this had lasting bad effects on my relations with my younger siblings. I can get along with them and everything, but this basically set us into rival teams instead of cooperation. That doesn’t just go away. For instance, when my 1986 brother was secretly married last year (to avoid parental interference), He told the 1989 brother and had him at the clandestine courthouse ceremony, but not me. At first, I was mad at him, but now I blame my parents.

In my previous post, a commenter asked me how I can forgive my parents. This is part of it. When I was put in charge, I was probably worse. Also, they truly believed they were occupying a fair middle ground between a hands-off approach that encouraged all our worst impulses and dictatorship. I may have gotten spanked for a wide variety of misbehavior, but my dad got spanked for every time he annoyed his stepdad growing up. This didn’t just mean swiping cookies and stuff, but doing things like laughing inappropriately. They told a lot of stories contrasting their parenting methods with those of their parents and people they knew. They had a friend who thought that Moms are for loving kids and dads are for punishing them. Another couple insisted their kids address them as “sir” and “ma’am.” They talked about people who would punish their kids preemptively, like purposely giving them a minor burn to teach them not to touch a hot stove. Compared to their perceptions of other parenting methods, they were downright liberal.

Plus, they’ve been pretty decent to me as an adult. They’ve always welcomed my friends, even when they weren’t exactly good, conservative Christians. They can get a bit patronizing sometimes, but they really don’t know better (and it’s difficult to explain.) Plus, they’ve always lent a hand when I needed help with home improvement like attaching a door or moving a shelf or something else that takes more than one person. Despite their regressive political views (and they are the Ron Paul type of Republican not Santorum), they are pretty decent parents for an adult to have. This bought them a lot of good will.

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