Am I Doomed to Abuse/Screw-Up My Child?

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Am I Doomed to Abuse/Screw-Up My Child?

Post by reboundstudent on Thu Jun 04, 2015 7:56 pm

Probably seen out there on the Internet the story about a 13 year old girl who jumped off a highway bridge after her father posted a "shame punishment" video in which he cut off her hair. A lot of the comments that I've read talked about how the father is clearly abusive/should have had his children taken away from him, as this sort of behavior is clearly emotionally (if not physically) abusive.

I've run across similar sentiments in other news stories of punishments, and it's started to gnaw at me, because I've begun to wonder.... how can someone truly know if they're an abusive person?

The reason I think this is because while I think making a video just for the purpose of shaming a child is stupid and pointless*, I don't see cutting off a child's hair as a form of punishment all that terrible. Like on a scale of 1 to 10 of "horrible forms of punishment," it's like a.... 3. But this news stories is filled with comments from folks with memories of having their hair cut as punishment when they were children, and it apparently deeply traumatized them. They categorize it as emotionally abusive because it interferes with the child's body autonomy.

So if it never occurred to me to view hair cutting as emotionally abusive, what other assumptions are floating around in my head about child rearing? And now I start to fall down the rabbit hole and analyze how pretty much any punishment I can think of (and have used when baby-sitting) is potentially abusive. Sending a kid to their room when they won't finish their supper... isn't that emotionally abusive because I'm potentially starving them? Forcing them to eat.... am I encouraging destructive eating habits?

Reading these stories, deep down, I am terrified that I could potentially be an abusive parent and not even be aware of it. How can you stop something you're not even aware of? If there is this potential, should having kids just be completely off the table unless I can guarantee I'll never hurt them? Do these thoughts ever occur to anyone else?

*I actually think forcing kids to hold signs on street corners in response to stealing is a "punishment that fits the crime", if the victim was a stranger/a community member, because it's a crime that effects the community at large. You don't know who you're harming when you steal from a store, so the apology should be likewise wide-spread.
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Re: Am I Doomed to Abuse/Screw-Up My Child?

Post by The Wisp on Thu Jun 04, 2015 8:12 pm

Caveat: I'm a 21 year-old with no children, take what I say with a grain of salt.

I think the fact that you're really worried that you'll be abusive means that you're much less likely to actually be abusive. Not that it isn't possible for somebody to worry about it and try to avoid it and be it anyway, but I'd say it's less likely.

By analogy, I was really anxious about a year ago that I would become suicidal. I wasn't actually suicidal and had never been, but I was really afraid that I would become that sad. I talked to my psychiatrist, and she told me people with that worry have never become suicidal in as long as she's been a doctor.

So, I think it is good to be mindful of how you can possibly be unintentionally abusive, but I think you're taking them too far.


So if it never occurred to me to view hair cutting as emotionally abusive, what other assumptions are floating around in my head about child rearing?

Well, that's why you should take parenting classes and read books on these issues, and talk to other parents with older children. Maybe you do have some screwy ideas about how to be a parent now (or maybe not), but you're not a parent yet! The key is to do your research, to learn, be humble, and be mindful.

If there is this potential, should having kids just be completely off the table unless I can guarantee I'll never hurt them?

No, because then nobody would have children, which is a rather absurd conclusion to come to. All parents hurt their children at some point. I think my parents unintentionally hurt me a lot growing up. But they weren't malicious or abusive, but rather I had an unusual psychology that wasn't very externally visible. My brother was raised very similarly and wasn't nearly as hurt. This is not their fault. It's just something that happens. Obviously, you want to try to hurt your child as little as possible, but it will happen. And, I should note that hurting your child doesn't always imply that you are abusive.

If you're a mindful parent, and humble enough to learn from others and do your research and admit when you've made a mistake as a parent, I think you'll very likely do fine.
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Re: Am I Doomed to Abuse/Screw-Up My Child?

Post by reboot on Thu Jun 04, 2015 8:17 pm

I think you have to think of the act in the context of the relationships. If I had to hazard a guess, the people who are telling their experience of forced hair cutting are speaking from a history of an overall abusive relationship. The hair cutting in an otherwise healthy relationship would possibly have sucked and pissed someone off, but would not be seen as abusive (e.g. me when my mom could not handle my wild mop and cut it off and did not let me grow it again until I was old enough to cope with it)

The thing with emotionally abusive relationships is that the individual acts are often not that big but part of a cumulative pattern of boundary violation, controlling behavior, diminishment of self in the abused, etc..
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Re: Am I Doomed to Abuse/Screw-Up My Child?

Post by Aggrax on Thu Jun 04, 2015 8:23 pm

I think, for a lot of people, this is a pretty common fear. We don't want to hurt children, especially our own. I'm not a parent, but I've had the same sorts of thoughts myself and here is what I've come up with.

First, don't give out a punishment while angry. Kids are going to do stupid things, I know I did my share. When emotions are running high, it can often be easy to over do it. Second, don't be afraid to re-evaluate the situation. If a punishment seemed fair at the time, but turns out to be too harsh (or to lenient) in practice, feel free to change it. Lastly, as kids get older, communicate with them about the punishment. Be willing to listen to objections and be flexible if you need to, but also firm if you have to be. Remember that the goal is not to make your child's life hard, but to provide a meaningful consequence for what they have done.

For what it's worth reboundstudent, I don't think you would be an abusive parent. If all else fails, ask someone else. An outside perspective can always be helpful for figuring these things out.
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Re: Am I Doomed to Abuse/Screw-Up My Child?

Post by eselle28 on Thu Jun 04, 2015 8:29 pm

I didn't even get into the comments on that Jezebel, because my father still threatens to cut my hair off sometimes, simply because he doesn't like its current styling. I'd agree it's a bodily integrity violation, which for a lot of people means it might be more like a 7 or an 8 on the punishment scale.

I don't think the fact that you didn't realize it would be a punishment that a child might find damaging means you're bound to be an abusive parent, though. It sounds like you don't want to cause emotional harm to children and might be willing to consider other punishments if you knew something was likely to cause that. You're already exposing yourself to lots of different perspectives. I suspect you'll end up having many more by the time you have a child in that age range. I don't really get the sense that everyone who has a baby has the emotional tools to raise a teenager before they start checking ovulation cycles. Most people I know who parent pick things up along the way, and some have had to adjust with later children because what works for one kid is a lot more charged or is ineffective when dealing with another.

Also - and I think I have some perspective on this because there was abuse in my home - it generally isn't just one thing that makes someone feel a parent abused them. It's generally lots of things, regularly over the years, most of which probably don't even relate to punishment and some of which can hang over someone's head even during times that would be labeled as being good. I think the pattern is more the concern rather than the possibility of making one mistake about what counts as appropriate discipline. Referring back to the first paragraph, I suspect part of the reason I find it so violating is that my home was generally pretty bad about respecting those sorts of boundaries, especially ones relating to choice in how to present myself to others.


Last edited by eselle28 on Thu Jun 04, 2015 8:32 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Am I Doomed to Abuse/Screw-Up My Child?

Post by Enail on Thu Jun 04, 2015 8:32 pm

I don't know where the line on abusive is, so I don't really feel qualified to talk about that, but I do find these "parent punishes child by smashing their computer/cutting their hair/etc. and posts it on the internet" situations rather... red-flaggy in a way I can't totally put my finger on. But it seems like the intended message is "if you disobey me, I will destroy things you love" and "if you do something wrong, I will humiliate you in front of the whole world in a way that lasts forever." Those are not messages that go well with "I love you and care about your feelings even when you do something wrong" to me.  And they often feel like they have weird sort of self-congratulatory quality, too, "see, world, what a strong disciplinarian I am?" which makes it creepier-seeming.  

I'm incredibly much not an expert on either childrearing or abuse, and this is a very vague way to think of it, but I sort of feel like parents should show a level of basic respect for their children as valid human beings with real feelings and a right to a certain level of autonomy (as appropriate with their age), even if they're being very strict with them, and it's the presence or absence of a sense of that that determines to me if a punishment seems okay or in some way cruel or icky.

And I do think these things sometimes depend more on the motive behind the action than the action itself: Something that I really appreciated in my family was that we had an unofficial rule that we didn't fight in front of company - if I did something wrong, they'd pull me aside and scold me in private or wait till later; if I was mad at them, I had to wait until we were alone to have it out. We're all pretty private people, and so the message I got from that was 'none of us like to have to be embarrassed or upset in front of our friends for things that are between family members, it would be uncomfortable for our friends to be involved in our family arguments, so we all, parents and children alike, have to respect that even when we're mad at each other."  But I could imagine that there are situations where not fighting in public would be less about giving each other dignity and more about maintaining a perfect image or even concealing harmful or abusive behaviour. It's the way it's carried out and the feeling behind it that decides that, not the practice.

Sorry, this got rambly and only loosely connected to your topic!


Last edited by Enail on Thu Jun 04, 2015 9:55 pm; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : couldn't stand the lack of a needed comma any longer!)
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Re: Am I Doomed to Abuse/Screw-Up My Child?

Post by Andrew Corvero on Thu Jun 04, 2015 8:52 pm

because I've begun to wonder.... how can someone truly know if they're an abusive person?

I think that by asking this question about yourself you've revealed that you're not "destined" to become abusive.

Abusive persons aren't soulless monsters. They do horrible things, but they're not without possibility of redemption.

Based from what you have written I don't think you have abused anyone or want to abuse anyone. The fear of being a terrible parent is a common one to have, and as long as it doesn't paralyze you and you do not make it become an absolute certainty of doom, I think it could actually help you to become a better parent.

No parent is perfect. All parents are human beings who can some time make mistakes. What, IMHO, separates the serial abuser from the parents who could sometimes overreact is the willingness to question your assumptions and to learn, to make some changes.

There are many books and courses on child rearing. Parenting skills can be learnt, just like any other kind of skills. Nothing is set in stone and no one is "destined" to become anything.

Sending a kid to their room when they won't finish their supper... isn't that emotionally abusive because I'm potentially starving them? Forcing them to eat.... am I encouraging destructive eating habits?

I don't think that either of those behaviors are necessarily abusive per se. There is room for disciplining your children. I think that what makes the difference is how you discipline your children. If you explain them why they need to eat, why sometimes in life you need to be doing things even when you don't want to, and you make them understand that you still love them and care about them even though they have to learn what is right and what is wrong I don't think that some moderate, explained, restrained punishment is abuse.

But if you berate your children, make them feel worthless, administer punishment for little to no reason, never explain your actions and the reasons why you give them rules and don't know when to stop then yes, the line between discipline and abuse can be crossed.

Let me tell you a story. I grew up in a rather emotionally abusive and sometimes physically abusive family. My father was fond of telling me how much he disliked me, how much he didn't care for my interests because they were "stuff that only losers can like", believed that I was "weak", "too skinny" and a "complete disaster" and that no matter my academic achievements I could have never ended up doing anything with my life because I lacked "grit".

Boy was he fond of saying "grit". According to him every man who wasn't him or a selected choice of role models (mostly sportsmen) lacked "grit" and therefore was a "loser".

I hated sports and exercise in general. I still find it extremely hard to find any enjoyment in any physical activity, which I know is bad for me but probably has something to with the fact that my father told me since I was really little he told me that I was too weak to do anything, and then forced me to run while he laughed at me whenever I got too tired and he threw sticks at me when I was too slow. Did I mention I hate running and being laughed at, and that for a long time I thought that everyone who was into sports was an asshole? I wonder why.

He mostly didn't care about me, though, because I was a "lost case" and he preferred leaving home to carry on his affair with his friend's wife. One time (I was four or five I think) I saw him kissing her, told my mother, and was thanked with a kick in the shins, some threats, and a punch to the face when I told it again when my mother asked me. Good times.

He was also very emotionally abusive towards my mother: in his opinion she was "letting herself go", "no longer fun", "a pain in the ass", and, most importantly "raising a good for nothing boy". He joked often that I couldn't be his child since I was so skinny and weak and said that she was "spoiling" me by not forcing me to do sports.

My mother also wasn't a perfect parent. Having a conversation with her was like running through a minefield without a map, she snapped at me for little to no reason, punished me often and sometimes for no reason at all. She and my father had a really strained relationship and while he treated her horribly she responded in kind and was very passive-aggressive towards him.

She also joined in with the jokes about my chronic weakness from time to time, and wasn't too afraid of getting physical about punishment.

BUT, and it's a big but, she also showed me some affection, was proud of my intellectual achievements, and she eventually got so fed up with my father's bullshit that she gave him an ultimatum. He ran away.

Why am I telling you this story?

Because over the years my mother has said that she was sorry, that she really cared about me and I have, in time, completely forgiven her. I don't think she was, or is, beyond redemption, no matter how abusive she might have been, because she has found ways to make up for her mistakes and most of all she has recognized that those were mistakes.

My father, on the other hand, never admitted that he was wrong. Hell, he's probably going to jail now for a crime (assault and battery of his new wife, who used to be his friend's wife) which he definitely committed (I've talked with her and she has shown me some bruises), but still doesn't want to admit that he did anything wrong. He probably never will.

So the difference between an abusive parents and a non-abusive one is the willingness to admit that you might be wrong, that you might need tips on parenting, that you might, at times, make mistakes and that your children aren't your toys.

I'm pretty sure you'll make an amazing mother if you keep this in mind and you're willing to improve yourself. Good parents aren't just born that way, they learn how to raise a child, either from the good example of their parents or from somewhere else.

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Re: Am I Doomed to Abuse/Screw-Up My Child?

Post by Andrew Corvero on Thu Jun 04, 2015 9:03 pm

Sorry for the rant. I guess I actually did want to talk about my father after all, I was just waiting for the right time to do it.

Anyway, again, nothing is set in stone, and worrying at least a little about being a good parents is a good thing because it means you care about being a good parent. I wish you the best of luck.

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Re: Am I Doomed to Abuse/Screw-Up My Child?

Post by PintsizeBro on Thu Jun 04, 2015 9:52 pm

Enail wrote:I don't know where the line on abusive is, so I don't really feel qualified to talk about that, but I do find these "parent punishes child by smashing their computer/cutting their hair/etc. and posts it on the internet" situations rather... red-flaggy in a way I can't totally put my finger on. But it seems like the intended message is "if you disobey me, I will destroy things you love" and "if you do something wrong, I will humiliate you in front of the whole world in a way that lasts forever." Those are not messages that go well with "I love you and care about your feelings even when you do something wrong" to me.  And they often feel like they have weird sort of self-congratulatory quality, too, "see, world, what a strong disciplinarian I am?" which makes it creepier-seeming.  
You hit the nail on the head here. That is exactly the message that this type of punishment is meant to convey. Cutting a child's hair because the hair itself is out of control is one thing. Cutting a child's hair as a punishment for something completely unrelated to the hair itself is completely nonsensical as a a punishment. There's no logical connection. This is 100% about power and control. If that poor girl had not killed herself, she would have to live with her shame being out there, in front of the whole world, forever. As things stand, that will just be her legacy. The Internet never forgets.

This is such a shocking disregard for the child's basic human dignity I can't imagine anyone thinking that simultaneously violating her bodily autonomy and humiliating her on a global scale is a reasonable punishment for anything a 13-year-old could have done. Her dad refers to "getting messed up" in the video, which could mean a few things, but my money's on something to do with drugs or boys, both of which are harmless if you get the right kind in the right quantity.

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Re: Am I Doomed to Abuse/Screw-Up My Child?

Post by BasedBuzzed on Thu Jun 04, 2015 10:02 pm

The only pedagogical purpose in a mild public humiliation vid would be to show the child the comments section on it later filled with self-congratulatory smug fucks who brag about what they'd do if they were the parent and Concerned Mom(tm) helicopter parents who want to bubble wrap the child. "See, if you'd behave in a reasonable manner, you won't sound like these folks."

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Re: Am I Doomed to Abuse/Screw-Up My Child?

Post by eselle28 on Thu Jun 04, 2015 10:06 pm

BasedBuzzed wrote:The only pedagogical purpose in a mild public humiliation vid would be to show the child the comments section on it later filled with self-congratulatory smug fucks who brag about what they'd do if they were the parent and Concerned Mom(tm) helicopter parents who want to bubble wrap the child. "See, if you'd behave in a reasonable manner, you won't sound like these folks."

Yeah, as someone who's had her hair involuntarily cut in the days before everyone had a webcam, I'm going to say that reading a bunch of YouTube comments wouldn't have convinced me that my parents were somehow superior to the theoretical evil helicopter parents. Whatever I might have said (and I might have said a lot of things to let it be over with), it would have done anything but further my already existing notion that my parents were weird jerkasses. Not everyone's involved in this see-both-sides-of-the-culture-wars rhetoric, especially not teenagers.


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Re: Am I Doomed to Abuse/Screw-Up My Child?

Post by Caffeinated on Thu Jun 04, 2015 10:10 pm

The phenomenon of kids being shamed on the internet is a disturbing one. How can any of us really understand what it means for that video to last forever?

This particular instance made me think of the end of World War II in France, when women believed to have collaborated with the occupying Germans had their heads shaved and were paraded through the streets. http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2009/jun/05/women-victims-d-day-landings-second-world-war

The punishment of shaving a woman's head had biblical origins. In Europe, the practice dated back to the dark ages, with the Visigoths. During the middle ages, this mark of shame, denuding a woman of what was supposed to be her most seductive feature, was commonly a punishment for adultery. Shaving women's heads as a mark of retribution and humiliation was reintroduced in the 20th century. After French troops occupied the Rhineland in 1923, German women who had relations with them later suffered the same fate. And during the second world war, the Nazi state issued orders that German women accused of sleeping with non-Aryans or foreign prisoners employed on farms should also be publicly punished in this way.

Also during the Spanish civil war, Falangists had shaved the heads of women from republican families, treating them as if they were prostitutes. Those on the extreme right had convinced themselves that the left believed in free love. (The most famous victim in fiction is Maria, the lover of Robert Jordan in Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls.)
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Re: Am I Doomed to Abuse/Screw-Up My Child?

Post by reboot on Thu Jun 04, 2015 10:11 pm

PintsizeBro wrote:
Enail wrote:I don't know where the line on abusive is, so I don't really feel qualified to talk about that, but I do find these "parent punishes child by smashing their computer/cutting their hair/etc. and posts it on the internet" situations rather... red-flaggy in a way I can't totally put my finger on. But it seems like the intended message is "if you disobey me, I will destroy things you love" and "if you do something wrong, I will humiliate you in front of the whole world in a way that lasts forever." Those are not messages that go well with "I love you and care about your feelings even when you do something wrong" to me.  And they often feel like they have weird sort of self-congratulatory quality, too, "see, world, what a strong disciplinarian I am?" which makes it creepier-seeming.  
You hit the nail on the head here. That is exactly the message that this type of punishment is meant to convey. Cutting a child's hair because the hair itself is out of control is one thing. Cutting a child's hair as a punishment for something completely unrelated to the hair itself is completely nonsensical as a a punishment. There's no logical connection. This is 100% about power and control. If that poor girl had not killed herself, she would have to live with her shame being out there, in front of the whole world, forever. As things stand, that will just be her legacy. The Internet never forgets.

This is such a shocking disregard for the child's basic human dignity I can't imagine anyone thinking that simultaneously violating her bodily autonomy and humiliating her on a global scale is a reasonable punishment for anything a 13-year-old could have done. Her dad refers to "getting messed up" in the video, which could mean a few things, but my money's on something to do with drugs or boys, both of which are harmless if you get the right kind in the right quantity.

Cutting off women's hair for having sex with the wrong people has a long history in ours and many other cultures, so my money is on boys or boys+substances, but definitely boys.

@Andrew. Thank you for sharing your perspective. I think this is why, despite their somewhat dysfunctional parenting, I never felt my parents were abusive. They did harsh and occasionally messed up things, but they were never done to harm me or my brother, and they made that clear somehow (neither was much of an explainer). It was always clear that they loved us, despite their sort of weird ways of expressing it.

So RBS, there is one example of how bad parenting is not the end of the world. You can be kind of bad parents that your kids may not necessarily like as people, but those same kids still love you and know you did your best with what you had and appreciate your efforts (even if some of the whackier stories get shared as WTF? humor)
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Re: Am I Doomed to Abuse/Screw-Up My Child?

Post by reboundstudent on Thu Jun 04, 2015 10:59 pm

Enail wrote:I don't know where the line on abusive is, so I don't really feel qualified to talk about that, but I do find these "parent punishes child by smashing their computer/cutting their hair/etc. and posts it on the internet" situations rather... red-flaggy in a way I can't totally put my finger on. But it seems like the intended message is "if you disobey me, I will destroy things you love" and "if you do something wrong, I will humiliate you in front of the whole world in a way that lasts forever." Those are not messages that go well with "I love you and care about your feelings even when you do something wrong" to me.  And they often feel like they have weird sort of self-congratulatory quality, too, "see, world, what a strong disciplinarian I am?" which makes it creepier-seeming.  

I think it can be red-flaggey if the video doesn't really seem to fit what the kid is being punished for. Like, taking a video of you destroying a cell phone because your kid abused that privilege seems.... not at all connected. But I guess I don't see it as necessarily red-flaggey in all situations because sometimes it seems like social media is the only way to really get the kid's attention.

Like, what do you do as a parent when normal punishments, like removing privileges doesn't really work? A lot of the "viral" videos I see seem to center around the kid having social media when they shouldn't, or abusing their social media accounts in some way. Taking the cell phone/computer away only works if you as a parent have other ways to stay in contact with your kid, and are able to closely monitor how they use the computer. It's a privilege that has slowly eroded into being so obsequious it's actually far more difficult for you as a parent to remove.

Thinking back to my own teenage-dom and when I did a lot of babysitting, it seemed like the only thing that really mattered to kids was their peers' opinion. I guess I see these shaming viral videos, and the feeling I get off of them is one of desperation. Social media's impact on us is like nothing else in the course of human history. I feel like sometimes the parents just hit walls in how to police this stuff, and finally decide to fight fire with fire. I think also perhaps a lot of parents are themselves ignorant of technology (I've worked in tech for years, it is almost unbelievable how even highly educated people don't understand basic tech concepts), not realizing that all the privacy filters in the world on Facebook doesn't stop someone from sharing media from their page.

So combine the huge impact of social media, technology ignorance and a feeling of desperation, and from that mess shaming videos are born.

And I suppose part of what underlines my fear and anxiety is, putting myself in the parents' position, I have no idea what I'd do instead. Like shaming videos don't seem super effective... but then again, in an age when you could have a completely different life online without anyone being the slightest bit aware, what would be?
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Re: Am I Doomed to Abuse/Screw-Up My Child?

Post by reboundstudent on Thu Jun 04, 2015 11:05 pm

PintsizeBro wrote:
Her dad refers to "getting messed up" in the video, which could mean a few things, but my money's on something to do with drugs or boys, both of which are harmless if you get the right kind in the right quantity.

Dude, see, this is partially kind of the stuff I worry about, because I really don't agree that drugs are totally harmless in the right quantity, especially at that age. A big part of my fear is that my own morals and values are so out of step with my surrounding community that any kind of enforcement of them would label me a horrible parent.

For example, there's been a huge news story blow-up in my city about a private school teacher who took her class to a local sex shop. Now, I've been to the local sex shop-it is a classy joint, but a teacher taking my underaged child there without permission really rubs me the wrong way. I want to be sex-positive and raise my kids to not be ashamed, but I still don't think it's appropriate to show sex toys to a 13 year old. But in a lot of the articles I've read on the subject, a lot of folks labeled the parents who objected as "sex negative" and "damaging their children", and clearly the parents are repressed.

I admit the way I would raise a kid is probably more conservative than not, but don't I get to make that choice? Am I really going to be judged as being an awful parent because I'd like my kid to abstain from drugs and sex until they can at least freaking drive?
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Re: Am I Doomed to Abuse/Screw-Up My Child?

Post by jcorozza on Thu Jun 04, 2015 11:07 pm

Andrew Corvero wrote:What, IMHO, separates the serial abuser from the parents who could sometimes overreact is the willingness to question your assumptions and to learn, to make some changes.

The learning part is a huuuuge factor. It's true in basically everything else, so it makes sense that it would be tue in parenting. For the most part, my parents, my mom especially, were pretty decent, but the thing that drive me craziest about my dad is his inability to apologize for anything, even if it's really obvious that he's in the wrong, or has done something hurtful.



Andrew Corvero wrote:There is room for disciplining your children. I think that what makes the difference is how you discipline your children. If you explain them why they need to eat, why sometimes in life you need to be doing things even when you don't want to, and you make them understand that you still love them and care about them even though they have to learn what is right and what is wrong I don't think that some moderate, explained, restrained punishment is abuse.

Oh man, if I ever adopt kids, I will absolutely be that parent that sits kids down for explanations of why they're being punished, why they can't, say, use "gay" as an insult (I've had this conversation with a couple of children, and they realize pretty quickly why it's awful, and they almost all quickly say, "no, of course I don't hate gay people!", that that gives me hope for future generations), etc. For some reason I have almost infinite patience for explaining these things to children, but very little for doing the same for adults. But it is sooooo important.

Andrew Corvero wrote: Let me tell you a story. I grew up in a rather emotionally abusive and sometimes physically abusive family. My father was fond of telling me how much he disliked me, how much he didn't care for my interests because they were "stuff that only losers can like", believed that I was "weak", "too skinny" and a "complete disaster" and that no matter my academic achievements I could have never ended up doing anything with my life because I lacked "grit".

Boy was he fond of saying "grit". According to him every man who wasn't him or a selected choice of role models (mostly sportsmen) lacked "grit" and therefore was a "loser".

I hated sports and exercise in general. I still find it extremely hard to find any enjoyment in any physical activity, which I know is bad for me but probably has something to with the fact that my father told me since I was really little he told me that I was too weak to do anything, and then forced me to run while he laughed at me whenever I got too tired and he threw sticks at me when I was too slow. Did I mention I hate running and being laughed at, and that for a long time I thought that everyone who was into sports was an asshole? I wonder why.

He mostly didn't care about me, though, because I was a "lost case" and he preferred leaving home to carry on his affair with his friend's wife. One time (I was four or five I think) I saw him kissing her, told my mother, and was thanked with a kick in the shins, some threats, and a punch to the face when I told it again when my mother asked me. Good times.

He was also very emotionally abusive towards my mother: in his opinion she was "letting herself go", "no longer fun", "a pain in the ass", and, most importantly "raising a good for nothing boy". He joked often that I couldn't be his child since I was so skinny and weak and said that she was "spoiling" me by not forcing me to do sports.

My mother also wasn't a perfect parent. Having a conversation with her was like running through a minefield without a map, she snapped at me for little to no reason, punished me often and sometimes for no reason at all. She and my father had a really strained relationship and while he treated her horribly she responded in kind and was very passive-aggressive towards him.

She also joined in with the jokes about my chronic weakness from time to time, and wasn't too afraid of getting physical about punishment.

BUT, and it's a big but, she also showed me some affection, was proud of my intellectual achievements, and she eventually got so fed up with my father's bullshit that she gave him an ultimatum. He ran away.

Why am I telling you this story?

Because over the years my mother has said that she was sorry, that she really cared about me and I have, in time, completely forgiven her. I don't think she was, or is, beyond redemption, no matter how abusive she might have been, because she has found ways to make up for her mistakes and most of all she has recognized that those were mistakes.

My father, on the other hand, never admitted that he was wrong. Hell, he's probably going to jail now for a crime (assault and battery of his new wife, who used to be his friend's wife) which he definitely committed (I've talked with her and she has shown me some bruises), but still doesn't want to admit that he did anything wrong. He probably never will.

So the difference between an abusive parents and a non-abusive one is the willingness to admit that you might be wrong, that you might need tips on parenting, that you might, at times, make mistakes and that your children aren't your toys.

I'm pretty sure you'll make an amazing mother if you keep this in mind and you're willing to improve yourself. Good parents aren't just born that way, they learn how to raise a child, either from the good example of their parents or from somewhere else.

First of all, that's some crappy stuff, and I'm really sorry you had to go through that. Jedi hugs! And frankly, I'm impressed that you've been able to forgive your mother, and have dealt with it in a way that is more mature, understanding, and generous than most people could be in the same circumstances.

But I think it also brings up the important point that, when people become parents, they're going to make mistakes. Most of them are small, but some of them will be bigger. Within reason, though, recognizing that those things are mistakes, apologizing for them, and then actively trying to do better go a heck of a long way towards fixing those problems. I think most parents who are putting in an honest effort to be good, loving, supportive parents are at least...80% successful.
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Re: Am I Doomed to Abuse/Screw-Up My Child?

Post by reboundstudent on Fri Jun 05, 2015 12:26 am

Thanks for the replies guys, and sorry to complain. Sometimes I slip up and talk when I really just need to sit down and keep things to myself.
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Re: Am I Doomed to Abuse/Screw-Up My Child?

Post by BasedBuzzed on Fri Jun 05, 2015 3:35 am

eselle28 wrote:
BasedBuzzed wrote:The only pedagogical purpose in a mild public humiliation vid would be to show the child the comments section on it later filled with self-congratulatory smug fucks who brag about what they'd do if they were the parent and Concerned Mom(tm) helicopter parents who want to bubble wrap the child. "See, if you'd behave in a reasonable manner, you won't sound like these folks."

Yeah, as someone who's had her hair involuntarily cut in the days before everyone had a webcam, I'm going to say that reading a bunch of YouTube comments wouldn't have convinced me that my parents were somehow superior to the theoretical evil helicopter parents. Whatever I might have said (and I might have said a lot of things to let it be over with), it would have done anything but further my already existing notion that my parents were weird jerkasses. Not everyone's involved in this see-both-sides-of-the-culture-wars rhetoric, especially not teenagers.

Luckily, I don't plan on having any spawn. By the time I'm in a position for that to be a feasible idea, forcing people to read a Youtube section will hopefully be classified as a violation of the Geneva Conventions.

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Re: Am I Doomed to Abuse/Screw-Up My Child?

Post by Hirundo Bos on Fri Jun 05, 2015 6:14 am

<mod>BazedBuzzed, this is a thread about abuse, where people tell personal stories about abuse. I'm not sure it's the best place for quite such a jokeful tone.</mod>
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Re: Am I Doomed to Abuse/Screw-Up My Child?

Post by Andrew Corvero on Fri Jun 05, 2015 6:30 am

reboundstudent wrote:Thanks for the replies guys, and sorry to complain. Sometimes I slip up and talk when I really just need to sit down and keep things to myself.

It's OK. I'm glad you wrote about this issue, and I hope that some of the answers will help you to deal with your fear. I hope you'll be a great parent and I'm confident that if you love your children and show them that you care about them you will be. It doesn't mean that you'll be perfect (nobody is) but the important thing isn't to never make mistakes but to learn from them.

I wish you all the best!

jcorozza wrote:Oh man, if I ever adopt kids, I will absolutely be that parent that sits kids down for explanations of why they're being punished, why they can't, say, use "gay" as an insult (I've had this conversation with a couple of children, and they realize pretty quickly why it's awful, and they almost all quickly say, "no, of course I don't hate gay people!", that that gives me hope for future generations), etc. For some reason I have almost infinite patience for explaining these things to children, but very little for doing the same for adults. But it is sooooo important.

An important thing to remember is that why you need to adopt the right language when talking to children, they are smarter than many people give them credit for. They're in a phase of their life when everything is a new thing, the world is full of surprises and wonder, and they want to know why, the want to understand the reasons for everything.

So I think that sitting down to explain them why they're punished, why they can't do some things, is a far better pedagogical method than "because I say so". Children need rules but those rules work much better if they understand why they need to follow them. Being punished for something you can't even understand makes you feel that you are wrong, when what you should learn is that what you did is wrong.

For all their faults I think that one thing that my parents did really, really well was explaining to me why stealing was wrong. When I was about three I stole a toy from the kindergarten. When my mother found out surprisingly she didn't get angry (it must have been one of her best days) but sat down and told me that I couldn't take the toy, because it wasn't mine. She told me that other children would also play with the toy, but now that I took it they couldn't do it any longer and they were going to be sad and look for the toy everywhere.

Then she basically explained to me that if I was taking something from others without asking for it, I was making people sad and angry, and that even if when I asked if they said no I should have said "OK, no problem" because it simply meant that the other people liked their things a lot, just like I liked my things a lot. The next day she came to kindergarten, she made me talk to the teacher and admit I stole the toy, bring the toy back and say that I was sorry.

The teacher said that she was glad I said sorry but that she also hoped I would never take something that wasn't mine or that I didn't get the permission for in the future.

It worked. I've never stolen anything ever since. Not even when I was a teen.

I think that there are ways to explain the respect for others and empathy to little children. Of course you have to use the right language and keep your arguments simple but I think that teaching children about, say, consent should go along the same lines. Something along the lines of "Your body is yours, and other people's bodies is theirs. If someone touches you when you don't want it, it makes you feel bad, and if you touch other people's bodies when they don't want to, they also feel bad. Feeling bad is bad, for you and for others."

jcorozza wrote:But I think it also brings up the important point that, when people become parents, they're going to make mistakes. Most of them are small, but some of them will be bigger. Within reason, though, recognizing that those things are mistakes, apologizing for them, and then actively trying to do better go a heck of a long way towards fixing those problems. I think most parents who are putting in an honest effort to be good, loving, supportive parents are at least...80% successful.

Yep! Nobody is perfect, so nobody is a perfect parent. It's also important to remember that it's never too late to apologize for things that you have done in good faith if you recognize that you were wrong. Small mistakes will be made but if you recognize that you were wrong a few years down the line apologizing is going to help your children to process what happened.

No person is the perfect friend, romantic partner, parent, boss, coworker, or relative in general. Sometimes we make mistakes and sometimes we hurt each other. When we care about each other, though, it's possible to fix those mistakes, to ease the pain.

If you don't care and never want to admit that you are wrong you'll never fix anything.

An idea which in my opinion is poisonous is that admitting that you were wrong is a "defeat" and a "sign of weakness". While I can understand the need to stand your ground when you are right, and you should retain your dignity at all times, being able to admit honestly and in plain words that you were wrong is a sign of growth and emotional strength. I have a huge deal of respect for people who can genuinely say "I was wrong".

reboundstudent wrote:I admit the way I would raise a kid is probably more conservative than not, but don't I get to make that choice? Am I really going to be judged as being an awful parent because I'd like my kid to abstain from drugs and sex until they can at least freaking drive?

I really don't think you'll be an awful parent for doing that, especially if you'll explain to them (at the right time) why you think that those things are harmful at a young age. I can definitely understand that you want to protect your children from potential harm at a time of their life when they're still confused and vulnerable (more than they think).

There's nothing wrong with being concerned for 13 year olds, as long as you make them understand the reasons of your concern and not blame them and label them as "evil" for wanting to experiment.

I don't think that wanting your kids to abstain from drugs and sex until they're old enough to understand how to do both responsibly is a sign of being a bad parent, but I think that if you discovered that they were interested in those things you should sit down and have a chat with them about why they can be harmful, not freak out and make them think they're "evil" or "wrong" even for just wanting to engage in those things.

Ultimately the important thing isn't to be more or less conservative, IMHO, but to make your children understand that your rules come from concern for their life and happiness, not from wanting a "perfect model child" to show around.

One thing that in my opinion is much more harmful than giving conservative rules is to parade around your child as an example of virtue (as some parents do). That's dehumanizing, puts your child on a pedestal and doesn't consider them a person but only an achievement that you can show around ("Look at my child! No drugs, no sex, a good child!").

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Re: Am I Doomed to Abuse/Screw-Up My Child?

Post by Guest on Fri Jun 05, 2015 9:26 am

I've been reading this thread over and over again, trying to think of how to respond to it, because I've been having a really weird and terrible year, and I have three kids, and my whole perception of what my childhood was has changed over the last year.

Some of you probably know all of these facts in isolation, but here they are all together.  I'm a mom with three kids.  My ex-husband was a stay at home dad, and our fights about his lack of involvement with the household and the kids (despite being a SAHP) eventually led me to ask for a divorce.  I gained full legal custody, in large part because I had a lot of stories of neglect on his part that I was willing to air if I needed to, and he has a lot of physical custody time with them -- one afternoon/evening every week, plus roughly 50% of weekend days and 3 full weeks each year.  When I started divorce proceedings, I lived far enough from work that I couldn't physically drop the kids off at the earliest daycare dropoff, drive to work, work a full day, and drive back before daycare closed.  I couldn't get a new place to live until the old place sold.  So the kids and I moved in with my parents for a year.  We just moved out last weekend.

Here is what I learned during this year: my mother is an alcoholic.  She's probably been an alcoholic my whole life, but when I was a kid, drinking a bottle of wine with dinner was just what you did.  She never acted drunk, so I never registered it.  My mother views everyone and everything around her as accessories to her life, with roles to play.  She loves her "brilliant daughter" and her "creative granddaughter", but neither of those people are actually me or my daughter, so she tries, frustrated and angry, to fix us.  You may note that I talked about three kids above but only one here: this is relevant, because the other part of what I learned is that only the girls in her life are vulnerable to this.  It took me a while, even living there as an adult, to realize what I was experiencing.  I always thought my issues with my mom were because I was a difficult person, until I saw my daughter falling into the same pit, and started hearing my uglySelf words coming out of her mouth: "I'm stupid.  I'm not good at anything.  I can't do anything right."  My mother said the reason my daughter was always mad at her was that she was a "safer target" for my daughter's real anger at me, about the divorce.  But when my daughter tried to tell her, "Stop playing with my hair, it hurts," my mother would say, "It does not hurt, stop it."  And no matter how many times she promised me she would stop doing this, that, or the other thing, she would always forget.  And everyone would be upset. She would tell the kids that I needed help to be a good mother. She would tell the kids that I couldn't love them more than she did.

Here's the other thing I learned this year: my father is incapable of unqualified approval.  He always has to pull you into an error before he will stop testing.  When my son had to study for a quiz, my dad started quizzing him on the facts on his sheet, then expanded beyond it, asking questions about things he'd never been taught.  It wasn't until my son started yelling, "This isn't on the test!" that my dad laughed and said, "Well, you did okay, but there's a lot more to learn on this."  Leaving me to calm the kids down.

Here's my confession: through far too many of these incidents, I hid in my room with headphones on rather than stepping in.  These are my kids, and I love them.  But I absolutely sat there and let another person emotionally abuse them.  I knew what was happening.  I knew they were hurting.  But because I was exhausted, and worn down, and afraid of yet another round of conflict, I hid, and let them fight through it and cry it out later.

Because here's the thing: there aren't any perfect parents.  We all hurt.  We all get exhausted, and sick, and miserable.  We all run out of patience.  We all give in to the tantrum in the store and buy the fucking lollypop to shut them up.  We all fail to protect them.  We all forget the important days.  We all overreact at some point.  We shout.  We yell.  We ignore their pain.  Because we're human, and human means fallible.

Whenever I see these posts about a parent stepping over the line, I feel horrible for the child, but also for the parent.  I know that point where you just can't deal with it, where you're helpless and worried and embarrassed, and the unthinkable starts to look like an option.  I hope that I'll never be put in a spot where the entire world judges me based on nothing but my very worst moment as a parent, because I swear to you, it was a bad, bad moment.


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Re: Am I Doomed to Abuse/Screw-Up My Child?

Post by reboot on Fri Jun 05, 2015 9:26 am

There is also wanting your kids to abstain from things and how you handle it if they defy you. The big key here is letting them know that you respect their decision, even if you disagree with it, and they are not evil/slutty/dirty/delinquent for satisfying their curiosity even though you wish they waited.
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Re: Am I Doomed to Abuse/Screw-Up My Child?

Post by Andrew Corvero on Fri Jun 05, 2015 9:38 am

Whenever I see these posts about a parent stepping over the line, I feel horrible for the child, but also for the parent. I know that point where you just can't deal with it, where you're helpless and worried and embarrassed, and the unthinkable starts to look like an option. I hope that I'll never be put in a spot where the entire world judges me based on nothing but my very worst moment as a parent, because I swear to you, it was a bad, bad moment.

For all that's worth, I think that many times the world is far too quick to pass judgement, and people love to show off how moral and better than others they are.

We all have our moments of weakness. It happens. It means you're human. The fact that you recognize that it was bad, though, means you're willing to admit that you're not infallible, that you have made mistakes. That's a fundamental step for being a good parent.

The worst parents, IMHO, rarely feel bad about what they do. They think that it's the child who is "overreacting" or "defective" or they blame an external factor (society, school, video games, movies, you name it) for all their parental failures.

Many of them are also among those who are very quick to judge other parents harshly and without any nuance.

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Re: Am I Doomed to Abuse/Screw-Up My Child?

Post by PintsizeBro on Fri Jun 05, 2015 5:30 pm

The "drugs or boys being harmless" comment was partially glib but partially sincere. Reboot and Caffeinated explain the hair cutting implications very well. Those implications did inform my post, but I figured someone other than me would be better qualified to spell out the connection.

The girl in the video wasn't some out of control delinquent. Her dad had warned her against the unspecified (but probably boy-related) offense... twice. So, for acting out three times in an unspecified period of time, he decided on a punishment with two parts: one with a lot of history behind it, and another so new he could not possibly understand the implications of what he was doing.

I think your problem here, RBS, is that you're seeing yourself in people who are not that much like you. I don't think that anyone here, yourself included, disagrees that driving your child to suicide is abusive parenting.

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Re: Am I Doomed to Abuse/Screw-Up My Child?

Post by Caffeinated on Fri Jun 05, 2015 5:52 pm

reboundstudent wrote:Like, what do you do as a parent when normal punishments, like removing privileges doesn't really work?

I might be talking out of my ass here, since my kids are still very small, but I suspect that when kids get to be teens and the normal punishments don't work, there's probably a lot of history and context going into that. Basically, that the parents haven't managed to create a good framework of rules and discipline in the family in the years when the children were very small and learning how the family works and what kind of behavior is appropriate. But where a parent of a very small child can physically stop or restrain the child from doing things and the very small child has adult supervision around the clock, the teen is getting to be adult-sized and moving toward more independence. So if there isn't a good framework in place, it would be easy for things to get out of hand and for the parent to panic. It's like Andrew Corvero said earlier in the thread about the parent explaining to their child why a kind of behavior is wrong.

reboundstudent wrote:
PintsizeBro wrote:
Her dad refers to "getting messed up" in the video, which could mean a few things, but my money's on something to do with drugs or boys, both of which are harmless if you get the right kind in the right quantity.

Dude, see, this is partially kind of the stuff I worry about, because I really don't agree that drugs are totally harmless in the right quantity, especially at that age. A big part of my fear is that my own morals and values are so out of step with my surrounding community that any kind of enforcement of them would label me a horrible parent.

For example, there's been a huge news story blow-up in my city about a private school teacher who took her class to a local sex shop. Now, I've been to the local sex shop-it is a classy joint, but a teacher taking my underaged child there without permission really rubs me the wrong way. I want to be sex-positive and raise my kids to not be ashamed, but I still don't think it's appropriate to show sex toys to a 13 year old. But in a lot of the articles I've read on the subject, a lot of folks labeled the parents who objected as "sex negative" and "damaging their children", and clearly the parents are repressed.

I admit the way I would raise a kid is probably more conservative than not, but don't I get to make that choice? Am I really going to be judged as being an awful parent because I'd like my kid to abstain from drugs and sex until they can at least freaking drive?

Wow, taking kids to a sex shop at 13? And without parental notification first? Yikes. I'm not at all conservative on sexuality, but that would have set off all my parental alarm bells too. That's some inappropriate, boundary-crossing behavior. The people calling those parents sex negative and repressed are just being a bunch of blow-hards.

You do absolutely get to choose how to raise your kids on these issues. It's part of the job description. You basically teach your kids your values, both by actual teaching and by your lived example.

ElizaJane wrote:I've been reading this thread over and over again, trying to think of how to respond to it, because I've been having a really weird and terrible year, and I have three kids, and my whole perception of what my childhood was has changed over the last year.

Some of you probably know all of these facts in isolation, but here they are all together.  I'm a mom with three kids.  My ex-husband was a stay at home dad, and our fights about his lack of involvement with the household and the kids (despite being a SAHP) eventually led me to ask for a divorce.  I gained full legal custody, in large part because I had a lot of stories of neglect on his part that I was willing to air if I needed to, and he has a lot of physical custody time with them -- one afternoon/evening every week, plus roughly 50% of weekend days and 3 full weeks each year.  When I started divorce proceedings, I lived far enough from work that I couldn't physically drop the kids off at the earliest daycare dropoff, drive to work, work a full day, and drive back before daycare closed.  I couldn't get a new place to live until the old place sold.  So the kids and I moved in with my parents for a year.  We just moved out last weekend.

Here is what I learned during this year: my mother is an alcoholic.  She's probably been an alcoholic my whole life, but when I was a kid, drinking a bottle of wine with dinner was just what you did.  She never acted drunk, so I never registered it.  My mother views everyone and everything around her as accessories to her life, with roles to play.  She loves her "brilliant daughter" and her "creative granddaughter", but neither of those people are actually me or my daughter, so she tries, frustrated and angry, to fix us.  You may note that I talked about three kids above but only one here: this is relevant, because the other part of what I learned is that only the girls in her life are vulnerable to this.  It took me a while, even living there as an adult, to realize what I was experiencing.  I always thought my issues with my mom were because I was a difficult person, until I saw my daughter falling into the same pit, and started hearing my uglySelf words coming out of her mouth: "I'm stupid.  I'm not good at anything.  I can't do anything right."  My mother said the reason my daughter was always mad at her was that she was a "safer target" for my daughter's real anger at me, about the divorce.  But when my daughter tried to tell her, "Stop playing with my hair, it hurts," my mother would say, "It does not hurt, stop it."  And no matter how many times she promised me she would stop doing this, that, or the other thing, she would always forget.  And everyone would be upset.  She would tell the kids that I needed help to be a good mother.  She would tell the kids that I couldn't love them more than she did.

Here's the other thing I learned this year: my father is incapable of unqualified approval.  He always has to pull you into an error before he will stop testing.  When my son had to study for a quiz, my dad started quizzing him on the facts on his sheet, then expanded beyond it, asking questions about things he'd never been taught.  It wasn't until my son started yelling, "This isn't on the test!" that my dad laughed and said, "Well, you did okay, but there's a lot more to learn on this."  Leaving me to calm the kids down.

Here's my confession: through far too many of these incidents, I hid in my room with headphones on rather than stepping in.  These are my kids, and I love them.  But I absolutely sat there and let another person emotionally abuse them.  I knew what was happening.  I knew they were hurting.  But because I was exhausted, and worn down, and afraid of yet another round of conflict, I hid, and let them fight through it and cry it out later.

Because here's the thing: there aren't any perfect parents.  We all hurt.  We all get exhausted, and sick, and miserable.  We all run out of patience.  We all give in to the tantrum in the store and buy the fucking lollypop to shut them up.  We all fail to protect them.  We all forget the important days.  We all overreact at some point.  We shout.  We yell.  We ignore their pain.  Because we're human, and human means fallible.

Whenever I see these posts about a parent stepping over the line, I feel horrible for the child, but also for the parent.  I know that point where you just can't deal with it, where you're helpless and worried and embarrassed, and the unthinkable starts to look like an option.  I hope that I'll never be put in a spot where the entire world judges me based on nothing but my very worst moment as a parent, because I swear to you, it was a bad, bad moment.

Wow, that sounds incredibly hard, ElizaJane. Congrats on making it through and moving out!

Being a parent is much harder and much weirder than it looks from the outside. I too hope that I'm never in a spot where the world is judging me based on my very worst moment as a parent.
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