4badmommies is thrilled to welcome Dave Farland, bestselling author of over fifty novels including the hugely popular series The Runelords. The first book in his wonderful new series Nightengale will release this November. Two of the main characters are a bad foster mommy and a good foster mommy who struggles to do the right thing in the worst possible situations. To learn more about Nightengale be sure to visit www.nightingalenovel.com. But first…heeeerre’s Dave!
The Bad Dad and the Light Socket
by Dave Farland
As a child, I lived in a poor neighborhood and got to see all different kinds of child abuse, from families who taught their kids to steal in order to put food on the table, to a neighbor who used to chase his wife around with an ax while their six kids sought to save her, to a neighbor who once kept his two sons chained to their beds for up to six weeks at a time.
So I looked at that mess and decided young that I wanted to become the ideal father. But what’s an ideal father? My own dad, bless his heart, wasn’t quite ideal. His father was a gangster and worked for the mob for most of his life. His jobs included bootlegging, counterfeiting, running underground gambling casinos, smuggling, and a few other things that are too unsavory to mention. So you can imagine how my dad was raised. By the time he was eight, he had learned entirely too much about how to dispose of a body.
So at the age of six, I began watching other men, looking for better models. One kindly neighbor, Bill Foster, was a devout Catholic who had always wanted a son, and he began to take me on fishing trips and have me over for dinner. I admired the way that he always spoke respectfully to his wife and daughter, seldom raising his voice. If he was really angry, he’d let you know with a subtle shift of tone. But that was like what, once every five years? There was one occasion where he managed to lock a bull elk in his barn while in a drunken stupor, and when he tried to milk the darned thing, he let out with a string of curses that became legendary in our neighborhood. (The elk was none too pleased, either.)
As a teen, I became friends with another family, the Haroldsens, who had a strict “no-spanking” policy with their offspring. They used “time-outs” as punishment, and when mom had to punish one of her children, she’d usually cry—which made the kids feel so terrible that they’d cry, too. They were some of the most loving people I’ve ever known, and I decided that they were living the ideal.
The problem was, how could I be that kind of dad? What if my kids didn’t give a darn if I were unhappy? What if expressing alarm or anger through tone of voice wasn’t enough? What if my child wouldn’t listen to reason? Should a dad ever have to spank a child for his or her own good?
So I was constantly watching those “ideal families” who managed to raise healthy, well-adjusted children without resorting to “the belt,” “the willow switch,” “the stick from the woodshed,” or the most dreaded—“pull-down-your-pants-in-public spanking.” I got all of that and more when growing up.
In college I took a parenting class from a renowned educator, one of the foremost scholars in family science. I was shocked when he taught a lesson on “When to spank your children.” He pointed out that children learn best when strong emotions are involved—love, fear. And at times children will do things that are so potentially dangerous to themselves or others that in order to be a good parent, you needed to use physical discipline.
Of course as a sophomore in college, I knew better. I’d seen parents raise their kids without spanking, and do it well. That’s the kind of dad I wanted to be.
It wasn’t until three years later that I had my own first child. My daughter was only two when she decided that it was fun to stick things in light sockets. I caught her twice and warned her not too. I resorted to “shaking my finger” and threats. She just laughed at me. After all, dad was a softy.
When she shorted out a socket with a hair clip a few weeks later, it gave her a bit of a scare and a shock, and I hoped it would end at that. But the next day, she decided to perfect her technique by putting a wet toothpick in her mouth and inserting it into the light socket orally.
For just a second I had an image of her all lit up like a Christmas Angel, and I shouted at her to stop. She just laughed at me and stuck her tongue back in the light socket as if it were a game.
So I decided then and there to be a bad dad. Sometimes your children do things so dangerous, you’re not left with any good choice. They get the spanking, you get the guilt. She never did get killed by sticking her tongue in a light socket, and she never did do it again.
She’s 26 and says that she’s never going to spank her children–period. I wish her the very best of luck.
Have you ever had to play Bad Dad or Bad Mommy to save your child from a dangerous situation? Please share or leave a comment by clicking on the number near the title above. And don’t forget to check out Dave’s new novel Nightengale at www.nightingalenovel.com . It’s guaranteed to be on a whole lot of giving lists for the coming holiday season!