Friday, June 18, 2010

A Parenting Code of Honor

The discussion over at Alastair's Paper Bullets of the Brain has been very interesting lately. He raised questions about the meaningfulness of the Chivalric Code in today's world. Is it relevant, is it not. Does trying to raise the consciousness of men necessarily demean women? Does a code that requires a certain behavior of men toward women intrinsically reduce the status of women? I think not, but there's lots of very intelligent discussion over there for you to peruse. Just don't fry your synapses. They take a while to recover.

While thinking all this deep and meaningful stuff over, I witnessed something in my own life that made me think there should be a code of conduct for parents toward their children.

1) could be distilled as - cause no physical harm

2) could read  - cause no emotional harm including shaming, belittling, yelling, threatening. Nothing but the building up of emotional worth in children allowed.


3) should read no part of this code shall require parents to stay in painful or unhealthy relations for the sake of their children. Because I believe that children learn to parrot those painful and unhealthy ways of relating.

When a woman stays in an abusive relationship to create stability for her children she teaches them some very negative ideas. Like if a man treats a woman badly she should just take it. If my mother took it, then I should take it too.

We teach our girls to sacrifice their happiness for their children. In fact we teach them to stay in abusive relationships for the sake of their own children, which is just wrong. There is a cycle of unhealthy and unhappy behavior that needs to be stopped.

And we teach our boys that it doesn't matter how they behave, their women will stay with them regardless, to give stability to their children.

I say stop it now.

The following may fall under the category of too much information. If you're squeamish about personal details you might want to stop reading now.

I've recently realized that I am living my mother's life. My mother left my angry and emotionally unstable father to marry an emotionally closed man. She stayed in that unhappy marriage until the second we all moved out and then she fled. That has been my plan. I was waiting for my youngest to turn 18 when I could flee.

When I made that plan I didn't realize that I was thus dooming my girls to repeat the whole thing again. And dooming my boys to behave like giant asses until some smart woman hits them over the head with a frying pan.

As an aside, I don't think my brothers became giant asses, so maybe boys don't become their fathers. Or maybe I have exceptionally astute brothers, I don't know which but it's probably the later.

But it's all just freaking wrong, making martyrdom for one's children a virtue. And yet my mother believed it. She advised me to stay, even after she witnessed the meanness, the smallness of spirit my husband exhibited toward our small children. Before she passed away six years ago I asked her point blank if there was any point in leaving a bad relationship and she said no. She said it was unlikely I would find anything better. Stick it out was her advice. I wish now that I hadn't listened.

Because now my children have learned to talk abusively to me, their mother. The boys and girls alike will use contempt on me in order to try and get their way. They don't get their own way, I'm not rewarding that behavior, but it appalls me that they think it's okay to talk to me like that. But I know where they learned it, and I'm stopping the cycle now.

I wish there had been a code of honor among parents when I married. I think both my husband and I would have done better if there were clear rules. Sure there are books and whatnot floating around, but what if there had been an "Order of the Enlightened Parents?" And elite group to inspire the rest of us. will clear rules - and not too many. Like my rules above. Only better, and more so. More like the Chivalric Code. A code that demanded honor among parents. A code that stated that yelling at children is smarmy. That an adult is supposed to control their own behavior when the child cannot.

Would I have been a better parent if there had been an elite group to aspire to? I think so. I'm very competitive that way. I would have wanted to belong to the Divine Group of With It and Compassionate Parents. Who wouldn't?