Sunday, April 14, 2013

Parents Say the Stupidest Things

There were no words from my childhood that I hated more to hear from a parent or other authority figure than “because I said so.” It was my mother’s favorite response. If any of us were stupid enough to utter the word “why” after we were already told, “No,” then that was the answer. What kind of a reason is that?

Can you imagine how far it would go if a child tried that line?

Parent: “Go take out the trash.”
Kid: “No.”
Parent: “Why not?”
Kid: “I don’t want to.”
Parent: “Why not?”
Kid: “Just because I said so.”

First of all, I would have had to be suffering from some sort of involuntary speech disorder to even get the word “no” past my lips when addressing one of my parents. Second, realizing the folly of such an action, I would have been immediately running for my life with the trash in hand and begging for mercy all the way. It’s fun to wonder about it though.

My father’s favorite saying was little more elaborate. It went something this. “If I have to tell you again then me an’ you are gonna’ be goin’ to the hospital to get my foot taken out of your butt.”

Just try to visualize that for a moment. Here is a child walking kind of stooped over for the discomfort of the forcibly placed foot in his backside. Hopping on one foot behind is the father and owner of said foot. How are they even going to get in and out of the car or an ambulance, for that matter, to get to the hospital? This is more of a Squad 51 job that would require separation at the scene before transporting to Rampart.

Once at the hospital, the dad is going to be in big trouble. Child protective service is going to take issue with a boot in a child’s bootie. Therefore, the threat is a non-threat. He ain’t gonna’ do it. He’s gonna’ do something, though. You could count on it.

Then there was the line, “Don’t you lie to me. If you tell me the truth, you’re still going to get it but you won’t get it as bad as if I figure out that you’re lying to me.”

Okay, so let’s weigh in on this. If I tell the truth then I’m going to get beat. If I get caught lying then I’m going to get beat. If I lie but don’t get caught then I won’t get beat. Any kid with the good sense that the good Lord gave him is going to go for the lie every time.

How is he going to know that I lied anyway unless my little sister knows? If she did know, we wouldn't be having a discussion because she already would have spilled the whole story complete her own embellishments. She was always more than willing to step forward with her version of the truth. I don’t know if she just loved sibling suffering or it was simply the attention that she won for herself. Maybe it was some of both.

I remember one Saturday that my cousin and I left a Boy Scout patrol meeting that ended early. Instead of going straight home we went down to the river for some quality time away from adults. There is nothing better to hold the attention of 12 year-olds than hanging out at the river.

Unfortunately, we lost track of time as we were cleaning all of the flat rocks off the sand bar. We found some nice skippers, too. Our parents began to worry and called the patrol leader’s parents to find out that the meeting had ended hours ago.

I walked into the house, after being gone for about six hours, to the roar of, “Where have you been?” I should have known by the fury in his eyes and voice that I was already busted. However, since I was certain that my little sister didn't know, I went for the lie. That was it. Game over!

“Alright, if you’re going to lie to me then you’re going to get a beating.”

After the fact, it was amusing how he said that. It wasn't like I wasn't going to get beat anyway with my dad having had hours to build up a rage. I have to give the old man credit, though. He always gave me chance to defend myself before he beat me.

A few years later, when my cousin and I had our own cars, my cousin stayed out too late one night. When he got home there was no immediate discussion. As soon as he walked in the door, his face collided with a fist full of fatherly knuckles. When he came to, there was a discussion, but no dialogue.

My dad also had this other theory that if he couldn't figure out who was lying then he would beat the whole bunch to be certain that he got the right one. Then whoever didn't do it could beat on the one that did it in order to even things up. I don’t think that Dr. Phil would have approved of that theory.

The plan had two serious flaws anyway. The younger siblings weren't strong enough to beat on the older ones. If an older sibling got caught beating on the younger ones then one of my parents would beat them for that. My little sister wouldn't take a beating for you anyway. She would rat you out in a heartbeat, whether you did it or not, and then beam with satisfaction while she told on you.

I remember once, in one of my less than sterling moments as a parent, I tried that idea of whipping all of my kids for lack of finding out whodunit. It started as a bluff. I thought that somebody would give up the culprit. The problem was that my little sister wasn't there.

I told them to line up and bend over just like my dad used to do.  I seldom spanked my kids and I really didn't want to go through with it. I laid the folded belt across three butts but I was careful not to hit too hard.

I swear to this day that one of the boys launched off like he’d been mule-kicked before the belt even touched him. He went into the air like he was doing a swan dive. He tucked and rolled before he hit the floor and sat there screaming like he had been soccer-kicked in the man parts.

I stood back in complete awe. I didn't know whether to laugh or make him get up for a replay. I talked to his mother about it later and she wanted to enroll him in private gymnastics lessons. She was certain that we had a gold medal Olympian on our hands. At least, a stunt man for the movies, I agreed.

One of the stupidest things that both of my parents used say was, “Do you want me to give you something to bawl about?”

Picture this. You've just had the living crap kicked out of you and you’re, quite naturally, wailing and carrying on from the emotional, as well as, physical trauma of it all. Then you hear the most ignorant question that a parent could ask a kid in this situation.

“Do you want me to give you something to bawl about?”

What are you supposed to say?

“No, Dad. That won’t be necessary. You've done a pretty fair job of that already.”

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