Where do I get it from?

Posted on 15 February 2010 at 12:10 pm in Personal Stories, Writing.

What is it about growing up that defines the kinds of people we become?  How do we chose from the myriad of characteristics and values of our ancestors, which will become part of our makeup? There are many characteristics of my parents that I see in myself. Just as there are characteristics of me that I see in my son. Then there are a number of characteristics of my parents that I chose not to adopt. What influenced me to make those choices, if they were choices at all?

Let’s look at physical contact. My mother was very close to me in that she always had a hug or a kiss for me. As much as I got, I didn’t feel there was an obligation to return the affection, but nevertheless I did. My father on the other hand was close in a different way. As to affection, I was expected to give it to him. As I grew older and into my teens, I felt either uncomfortable or unwilling to hug and kiss him, even though he expected it. My cousin on the other hand, who was the son of my father’s brother, had no hesitation in showing affection to his father no matter how old he was. I can distinctly remember him giving his father a kiss of affection even as an adult. I would never have thought to do that. Though as an adult with a family I have adopted my mother’s style.

Both my father and his brother came from the same family. Where did they learn this different style of parenting that created two different son’s reactions? Or was it the influence of our mothers that directed the behaviors of my cousin and me or the environment that we grew up in? Both my cousin and I had older sisters. Did that have an impact?

There was another difference in physical contact and what we chose to adopt and that was concerning discipline. My parents had no problem with spanking me. My mother was less likely to and she would only use her hand. My father would not only use a hand but also his belt and periodically this broken dressmaker’s yardstick that he stored in a closet. This is not to say that I was a terrible child that always needed disciplining, but when I did, that seemed to be the method of punishment.

When I was in second grade I remember my second grade teacher hitting me for something that I did. When I told my parents, there was not much of a reaction. Can you imagine that happening today?  It wasn’t a big hit. I think that she was walking down the aisle by my desk and turned around as I got up and accidentally struck me, to which I blew way out of proportion. At least that’s the way I see it now. I’m sure my parents questioned me about I had been doing, and where and how hard she hit me, but I’m pretty certain they didn’t follow through with any action. It was an acceptable behavior on their part.

So here I’m growing up in an environment where spanking is an acceptable behavior. So why doesn’t it become part of my grown up behavior? I would never consider spanking my child or any child for that matter. What was it about the environment that I grew up in that made me choose not to add that to my makeup? Is it that I grew up in the radical 60’s where non-violence was the philosophy of the day. That certainly didn’t affect my reactions when I played ice hockey in college. Was it an anti violence reaction to how I was brought up with spanking? Not that either my mother or father was what I would call violent in their reactions. My parents education was never beyond high school. Did my higher education make the difference?

As I said in the beginning, what is it about growing up that shapes our behaviors and personalities? What can I do as a parent/teacher/storyteller that can encourage the good qualities to be passed on and any negative ones to be ignored or and not acquired?

My best guess is that you choose to follow what works for you. As a parent/teacher I need to model the behaviors that I want to pass on and hope that is what gets picked up.

I heard this apropos quote in 2000 while I was attending Confratute at the University of Connecticut.  “If you are not modeling what you are teaching, you are teaching something else.”

Hopefully I’m modeling what I want to pass on.

1 Comment

  1. PDeverit - February 16, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    People used to think it was necessary to “spank” adult members of the community, military trainees, and prisoners. In some countries they still do. In our country, it is considered sexual battery if a person over the age of 18 is “spanked”, but only if over the age of 18.

    For one thing, because the buttocks are so close to the genitals and so multiply linked to sexual nerve centers, slapping them can trigger powerful and involuntary sexual stimulation in some people. There are numerous physiological ways in which it can be sexually abusive, but I won’t list them all here. One can use the resources I’ve posted if they want to learn more.

    Child buttock-battering vs. DISCIPLINE:

    Child buttock-battering (euphemistically labeled “spanking”,”swatting”,”switching”,”smacking”, “paddling”,or other cute-sounding names) for the purpose of gaining compliance is nothing more than an inherited bad habit.

    Its a good idea for people to take a look at what they are doing, and learn how to DISCIPLINE instead of hit.

    I think the reason why television shows like “Supernanny” and “Dr. Phil” are so popular is because that is precisely what many (not all) people are trying to do.

    There are several reasons why child bottom-slapping isn’t a good idea. Here are some good, quick reads recommended by professionals:

    Plain Talk About Spanking
    by Jordan Riak,

    The Sexual Dangers of Spanking Children
    by Tom Johnson,

    NO VITAL ORGANS THERE, So They Say
    by Lesli Taylor M.D. and Adah Maurer Ph.D.

    Most compelling of all reasons to abandon this worst of all bad habits is the fact that buttock-battering can be unintentional sexual abuse for some children. There is an abundance of educational resources, testimony, documentation, etc available on the subject that can easily be found by doing a little research with the recommended reads-visit the website of Parents and Teachers Against Violence In Education at http://www.nospank.net.

    Just a handful of those helping to raise awareness of why child bottom-slapping isn’t a good idea:

    American Academy of Pediatrics,
    American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,
    American Psychological Association,
    Center For Effective Discipline,
    Churches’ Network For Non-Violence,
    Nobel Peace Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu,
    Parenting In Jesus’ Footsteps,
    Global Initiative To End All Corporal Punishment of Children,
    United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

    In 26 countries, child corporal punishment is prohibited by law (with more in process). In fact, the US was the only UN member that did not ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

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