Of all the qualities I remember about my father, his ability to intimidate anyone he chose was most indelible. He wasn’t a physically large man; by anyone’s measurement he was of average height, weight, and build. He never achieved some lofty professional post or attained a career distinction where he could demand another’s respect, like the medical doctor who believes his eight plus years of training is justification enough for everyone to walk on egg shells. Nor did he ever achieve great wealth allowing him to buy the regard of others. Instead, my father’s ability turn another’s blood ice cold was purely God-given.
He had a gaze that would look right into the depths of your soul as if peeling back the layers of your being like an onion. A slight tilt of his chin, purse of his lips, and arch of the eyebrow was all it took to send my heart racing. He wasn’t a boisterous man, he didn’t need to be; if yours was the direction his death stare was pointing, my friend, you were in for a very bad day. My mother, on the other hand, didn’t possess this skill and again she didn’t need to. As is the case in many families when I was a kid, my mom and dad had the good-cop-bad-cop routine down pat and she would pull it out whenever circumstances warranted.
Being the first-born I was predisposed to following the rules. Rebellion wasn’t and still isn’t one of my strong traits. But there can be no doubting that the healthy fear I had of my dad did much to keep me between the lines. Because I knew that, if necessary, he would turn that gaze into something far more sinister and would light me up without hesitation or remorse. It’s common family knowledge, however, that my sister could feed him a line of garbage, which he would consume without chewing. I unfortunately never enjoyed such luxuries.
The Internet remains abuzz with the story of Tommy Jordan and his eight-minute YouTube video wherein he takes his teenage daughter behind the virtual woodshed. Apparently his 15-year-old has a penchant for using her Facebook to pontificate on the suckiness of her life and specifically on the adults in it. After receiving numerous warnings to cease and desist her disrespectful behavior she attempts to hide her last complaint about chores and whatnot from dad all the while forgetting he is an IT guy who fixes her laptop, which she didn’t buy for herself, regularly. It seems this time was the proverbial straw that broke dad’s back. So to leave a lasting impression he proceeds to read her diatribe verbatim, goes on to explain how he had warned her about this behavior before, and then seals the deal by pumping nine 45mm rounds into her laptop. If you are one of the four people left who haven’t watched (it’s already at 27 million hits after two weeks) it’s a great opportunity to observe old school Parenting 101 in action.
What first caught my attention wasn’t the shock of seeing her computer blown to smithereens, which was a thing of beauty, it was the striking similarities between this father and my own. Here was a dad, much like mine, who took matters into his own hands when the situation called for it. Setting aside any PhD approved parenting techniques he sent his daughter a message despite any shame or embarrassment it might have caused her. Personally I call that a dad who loves his daughter.
Within hours of the video hitting the web professionals, experts, and mommy bloggers everywhere were like sharks smelling blood in the water. I’m still amazed at how this one act could polarize so many people. The consensus from naysayers was dad had taken his actions too far, and publically humiliating his daughter to prove a point wasn’t appropriate for her fragile teenage self-esteem. His sudden popularity brought an onslaught of criticism and personal attacks including a visit from the local Police and Child Services. Rumor has it that as they left everyone patted dad on the back for a job well done.
This dad’s actions represent, for me, the value of fatherhood that can’t be calculated on a W2. How many mothers would have taken such bold actions to teach their teenager a life lesson? Or would they have simply grounded her for a week, taken her cell phone away, or some other trivial penalty? How many times has a mom wanted to figuratively smack the entitlement out of their teenager only to choke at the last minute or do so then feel guilty about it three hours later? Maybe it’s just me or maybe it’s how I was raised but I see part of my job, as a father, to be that of the disciplinarian. It’s a responsibility that falls heavily on me to continually impress upon my kids the morals, principles, and ethics that will serve them their entire lives, especially when doing so requires more than just rationalizing or trying to talk the into it. God didn’t sit down with Moses and talk about what the Ten Commandments ought to be hoping that none would injure the people of Israel’s dignity. He put the hammer down and said this is how it is. And when they didn’t follow the repercussions ensued.
Somewhere between my own childhood and today parents lost their minds when it comes to raising their kids. No longer is it appropriate to teach our children right from wrong through showing how their actions have consequences, instead we’ve chosen to reason with our children no matter the age and no matter the situation, with the intention of sparing them any emotional stress or loss of self respect. Instead of setting boundaries for them we’ve let them have a say in where those boundaries should be. The results of which are disastrous. One has only to watch the actions of the average teenager to see that society’s approach to child rearing isn’t working.
Along with my father’s eyes, I fortunately inherited his steely gaze and his embrace of ‘tough love parenting’. I do not and will not shy away from instructing my children, when necessary, in a way other than time outs, groundings, or taking an iTouch away. Nor would I twitch at shaming my child if I knew that doing so would better prepare them for what’s ahead. I’m convinced the parent that fails to properly discipline their child, fails to love them.
It seems that along with getting everything else she wanted from my father growing up, including a new car at sixteen, she also obtained some of his parenting insight. When talking about her kids’ behavior she’s been known to say
“They might go to prison, but they’ll be the best behaved inmates in there”