Thursday, February 28, 2013
Just wanted to make a little addendum to my previous blog.
First, I have to admit I can learn quite a bit from the responses to my blogs. We may all see the same world, but it is fascinating how much difference point of view can make. Our own life experiences and beliefs and opinions color so much.
That said, one thing I didn't really intend as a point of my topic was picked up on. The reason for the paddling I got and my mental response -- the topics of Honesty and Discipline.
Honesty is a tough one. It's something I consider important. I regularly battle feeling like even an omission or white lie to my best friend to protect his feelings make me a dishonest person.
However, I am not dishonest because I was disciplined. I didn't learn to be more dishonest because I was disciplined.
One key way in which I learned to be dishonest was example. And who better to provide the example ... than my parents? Nope, they never told us the Santa lie or the Easter Bunny lie or the Tooth Fairy lie. Nor did they lie about where babies come from or what death means. But there was still dishonesty aplenty that I'm not sure they even realized impressionable young minds picked up on.
Their divorce occurred based on infidelity, something that requires lying - about where one is, about who one is with (I vaguely remember that my mother was going out nights to play volleyball at the rec center). After the divorce, for many months, she would show up in the morning before we got up and be there until after my father got home (we stayed with him). It was an ongoing lie with the intent of smoothing the transition for us. When my father had decided to marry again, he sat us all down to ask our opinion. It was a formality of pretending we were involved, when he hadn't even introduced us yet, to ask if we were okay with her. Many many little lies. The kinds of things people tell kids all the time to shield them.
Another key was religion (for me). As children, our parents are certain that their faith is the truth. That is at it should be. The problem was that I looked around. We were Jehovah's Witnesses, who do not believe in the Catholic concept of the holy trinity, instead believe God (Jehovah) and his son (Jesus) are distinct entities and the holy spirit isn't an individual entity at all. Did that mean Catholic priests and many other Christian religious leaders were lying? Or that our leaders were lying? What about Mormons - were they lying about starting as angels? Basically, at some point in my early teens I realized I didn't accept a very basic premise of the faith, one on which all their evidence rested, but looking around all I could see was that everyone but the person with the true answer must be lying.
On top of that, I was too young to vocally reject the faith, or perhaps more honestly, unwilling to confront the expected consequences. I'd seen the bizarre attitudes toward my mother who was disfellowshipped back at the time of the divorce. Sometimes we were allowed to see her, sometimes not, depending on what interpretation was in play of the Bible's view on how to treat those not willing to repent. So I chose to play the role of dutiful daughter with plans to dedicate my life to Jehovah and full-time preaching. I played it up until I graduated and moved out, and only then felt safe to shed that skin.
So my dishonesty started much earlier than that particular situation and started in spite of a good job teaching us the importance of honesty. This is BIG to them - that they had large conventions annually or bi-annually in which all these Jehovah's Witnesses would gather and things could be left on seats without worrying that they'd be stolen. There's much anecdotal evidence of things like misplaced wallets being returned with everything intact.
I suppose in some twisted sense I decided that not being a Jehovah's Witness both meant I needed to lie, but also removed the necessity for honesty. (Not that I went stealing people's wallets.)
Nowadays, I do feel I am an honest and ethical person as much as I can be. I believe in the importance of honesty. I learned many years ago that I don't need a religion or a parent or an authority figure telling me I have to be honest. It is an inner choice because I prefer the person it makes me be. It is an inner choice because all lies have consequences, just as much as the truth may, though some are less obvious. When we make a choice to lie, even if no one ever finds out, we may punish ourselves consciously or subconsciously. We may use that lie as our excuse for why the next unrelated lie isn't so bad -- it's not like we're perfectly honest, after all. And so on.
So I aim for as honest as possible and try to never choose the lie. I'd rather take responsibility and face the consequences now than feed the inner ugliness until it is too much to confront.
I directly raised two of my three children (DS and DDa). I rarely used physical discipline. In fact, I only remember two specific cases. One involved running into the street, a lesson DS (a fast toddler) did not learn until he got the shock swat right after stepping off the curb with me chasing him. On the flip side, DDa learned the same lesson better by being walked up to a parked car and told to touch it and push on it then asked if she wanted to run into it. Every child is different, every situation is different.
I don't look back on my dad's paddling with revulsion or horror or think it was abusive in that instance. I think it was too globally applied, but he also had a tendency to get set in his ways. (Admittedly, it would also be harder to come up with individualized discipline with 5 kids. That, and there's a "not fair she didn't get spanked too" thing that happens.)
One thing I don't think I made clear, though. He was livid that I had lied to his face, but he didn't paddle me in that mood. He actually stomped off to his room, slamming the door, and I was punished much later when he'd cooled down. He was quite clear why I was being punished. The little thought in my head was my way of "getting back" at him, not that I'd have said it out loud. I was old enough to know what I was supposed to be learning from it. I just find it very amusing that I went to that extreme. And really, I learned the lesson of hiding the evidence better the moment he found it.
I do say "not abusive in that case" because there were other situations like him deciding one of my sisters absolutely HAD to call our step-mother "mom" or he wouldn't stop spanking her, doing so as she was crying and screaming and calling it child abuse, with some of us watching in horror. (There's another place where some of us learned to lie - calling her "mom" and our own mother "old mom" just to keep the peace. That sister simply refused to lie in that way and paid the price.)
What was the point of the topic? Just an amused look back trying to remember when I'd first dug a spoon into a peanut butter jar.
(Oh, and someone made a very good point on ice cream. Unless eating it very fast, it tends to melt - so it isn't such a good spooning snack to eat mindlessly. Even so, I always dirtied a cup or bowl, even though I hated washing the dish, and often enough had melted ice cream before I was done.)