Abusive families, miscarriage, air travel, talking to our girls, and apologizing to women

Posted on July 4, 2011

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This month the Fathers Circle Facebook group was the location for some serious debate on some weighty topics.  Check out highlights below.  As always, if you’re a Dad at any stage of the journey, search for “Fathers Circle” on Facebook, then click “Ask to Join Group” to join in this discussion space.

Handling emotionally abusive parents/grandparents

  • eventually had to cut them off. It was sad, but it ultimately made theirs, and my life better.
  • I ultimately I believe our children will cherish that we choose to involving loving people in their lives – family, ex-family, friends, or otherwise – and like many things, it will only occur to them that not having specific named people involved because they are “family” is a big deal if we make it a big deal.
  • “cut them off” teaches our kids the same deal.
  • There are a couple relatives on both sides who will never get to influence my children because they are fucked up and I will lose no sleep whatsoever over them. I have interaction with them, and so does my wife, but we simply choose not to attend family functions they are involved in because we want them no where near our children ever. As our children grow older, we will explain our choices to them and give them the opportunity to meet these people if they are still part if the family, but we will not allow them to perpetrate their bullshit on them while they are still so impressionable. . . .  Just because you’re related doesn’t mean you have to associate with assholes.
  • I’ve never had to cut family members off, but I have had to ask family members to modify their behavior around my family if they wish to remain in our company. They have, and I’m glad for it, but I was prepared to cut them off, because in my analysis of the situation, the cost of a life without their presence (or a few years…sometimes families reconcile and people change) was less than the cost of having to repair the damage they were doing to relationships I care about. And in order for me to have those conversations, where I asked them to modify their behavior, I had to process and overcome the sadness I felt at the potential of losing them, and step up to the plate and talk to them.  In negotiation, you cannot get what you want unless you’re prepared to walk away from the table.
  • take the focus away from the parents and onto yourselves, this might need some distance, just cutting loose is not going to solve it if there is such a strong connection. One of my brothers has done exactly that and it has not brought him any peace, it is a sore point that he still doesn’t know how to deal with.
  • our time and energy is precious as fathers to young children. We don’t get this time with them again…by valuing this time and respecting our needs, we are able to not only enjoy our children, but instill the good qualities in them. Our kids need us to be there for them. If am I getting sucked into the drama of my anxious and paranoid crazy mom, then a boundary needs to get made so that I am able to remain..clear headed.

Going through a miscarriage

  • We had a miscarriage 2+yrs ago, and it was devastating at the time.  Good friends came forward and offered condolences, but it was a terrible personal loss and we took a lot of time to recover. My wife occasionally speaks with acquaintances about it, who’ve also miscarried, and it help her to console others. Unfortunately the process is recorded in her medical record as a D&C, which is also the term for a clinical abortion. Some medical ‘professionals’ are unable to look beyond the term ‘abortion’ and go into unnecessary questioning about abortions.
    Going forward, we have since had a beautiful little girl and hope that medical workers get more training in counseling their patients, not interrogating them about ‘obstetric choices’.
  • The medical model is coming from this standpoint that the woman’s body is not sufficient to take care of itself. We noticed a great level of fear coming from the folks at the hospital in addition to a strict adherence to intervention.
  • many, many women miscarry after giving birth once. Seems quite common, perhaps because mama’s body is not quite ready for round two. Of course, many women successfully carry thereafter. Unfortunately, it seems some couples experience major relationship-breakdown as a side effect, possibly because men and women process the loss differently (the woman likely needs more time to recover emotionally/psychically, while the man may want or need to “move on”). Just being aware of that difference should help avoid meltdown.
  • My wife had a couple miscarriages. That was a difficult time for us, and we had some serious conversations about not trying again. In the end, possibility won out over pain. Supporting her through that time for me was mostly about being a safe space for her to move through what she needed to move through.

Air travel with a newborn

  • The worst thing about air travel for such a small child is takeoff and landing. The air pressure change can clog ears and cause pain – pain that they cannot resolve for themselves because they can’t clear their own ears like we can. The BEST way to unclog their ears is to feed them during this time. Breastfeeding (or bottle feeding) involves suction, which will help regulate ear pressure and prevent the pain. It can also be useful, though it’s risky, to withhold nap time until it’s time to fly – they’ll be pissy, of course – but the takeoff feeding and the jostle of the plane will soothe them to sleep and they just might sleep the whole goddamn flight.  Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help from flight attendants. That’s what they’re there for. Water, kleenex, vodka…anything you need. Ask them.
  • pacifier or thumb-sucking, if that’s a possibility, works just about as well as feeding.
  • whatever happens, it could be worse. A friend posted this to FB yesterday: “Redeye, EWR-TLV. Eitan throws tantrum when forced to sit for takeoff, gets so worked up that he pukes on me as we’re cleared to fly. Hysterical stewardess aborts takeoff and calls POLICE & PARAMEDICS onboard to pressure us to disembark. Cop is like, lady, this is Newark, we have actual crime. Paramedics engage the hysterical stewardess on the difference between spitup and vomit. Eventually, we proceed, late.”
  • Air travel with a newborn is indeed much easier than air travel with a two year or three year old. However, one of the benefits of traveling with a two or three year old is that if you have to deal with idiots at the counter, you can just turn a blind eye to your offspring’s antics and let them act their age. Once [an airline] made us deplane to deal with a ticket issue that they created and we ended up missing our connecting flight. [My 3-y-r0ld] started playing with some little girl while we were dealing with the obstinate ticketing agents. [My wife] moved to tell him to settle down and I stopped her. After [he] managed to knock over a bunch of shit and paperwork playing tag with the little girl and climb behind the counter several times, they wanted us out of there as fast as possible. We got a 1st class upgrade on the next flight out for no additional charge. As a bonus, [our 1-yr-old] spit up most of his lunch on the counter as we were leaving. Karma is a bitch.

How to Talk to Little Girls (www.huffingtonpost.com)

  • “Teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything.”
  • Fathers of girls have a huge responsibility to model behavior, because their daughters will spend the rest of their lives comparing other men to their father, unconsciously.
  • fixating on the appearance of one’s child (of either gender) strikes me as obviously problematic. however, i don’t intend to cease complimenting my daughter when she’s looking good and feeling good about it. nor will i fail to praise her when she is particularly clever, kind, mannered, etc
  • I agree–withholding affirmation when a child of either sex is excited about being dressed up, well-coiffed, or what have you is not something I would encourage either. But that’s not, at least on first read, what this author was urging. Instead, the problem she identifies seems to be the cumulative, constitutive effect that blithe compliments focused on appearance can have on many young girls.
    And her solution doesn’t seem to be to substitute that kind of unthinking ice-breaker for a different default, such as hey, don’t you look clever/kind/well-mannered. Instead, she seems to suggest that we should try to engage children based on their substantive interests.
  • our children are (and ought to be) beautiful in our eyes, and i think that it’s all to the positive if they know it. their other strengths and traits should be noted and appreciated as well. i’d prefer to put the emphasis on doing what she proposes later in the piece, as you note : engaging our children intellectually and discovering who they are in as unbiased a manner possible

Thoughts on the controversial Dear Woman video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_uRIMUBnvw)

  • I don’t see this touching the men who need it most, because the entire approach is alienating and off-putting. Nor do I see this appealing to many women, because these men are being SO UNMASCULINE. I can think of few things more masculine than apologizing for one’s own actions and taking responsibility for pain one has caused. But apologizing for another man? Or men in general? Or some kind of fictitious entity called “men”?
  • There is an ideology of sexual domination that controls modern life. If you think thats right, then apologies, however awfully packaged, may do good to the extent that they force people to try and unsettle their settled expectation about gender relations. This video may not be the vehicle for this, but thats merely an empirical question.
  • I’d be more moved and inspired if it had acknowledged all of the awful shit perpetrated by men in the past and then committing to never be that kind of man (and stating the Man they do commit to being).
  • “Get to know *me*. I’m not your father or your brother or your ex. Get to know *me*.”  Equality rises out of dealing with each other as we are and not as just another member of a group that we are a part of (or perceived to be a part of).
  • I find the video inherently offensive because it is an affront to all that I hold dear about the strength and power of women and portrays women as victims further victimizing them. It also occurs for me as back handed accusation that I have, through action or inaction, continued the perpetration of “the male dominated hierarchy” on women. THAT is bullshit. I love women and support them in who they want to be. THAT is what women want, not some half ass whining apology.
  • dealing with the actual world is dealing with a world where women are constantly and systematically undervalued and dominated. they aren’t dominated either because (1) of an evil masculinity lurking in the shadows, or (2) because women are fragile snowflakes. but what keeps the domination in place is an ideology that all of us constantly perform. if that video disrupts the performance, super. even though its totally weird.
  • the patriarchal ideology is NOT constant. It’s being disrupted by a lot of men, and hopefully many many more who come into contact with them. I agree that if the video can start other men in the inquiry, that’s great.
  • Apologizing doesn’t help anyone. It is insulting to both parties. It forwards nothing. It is an altuistic pipe dream to think that it would solve something.
  • While there may be intellectual arguments as to why and how the “Dear Woman” apology inherently victimizes women or asks men to subordinate a positive masculinity (with all of its imperfections), it occurs to me that it is very masculine indeed to get so caught up with the logic of it. An apology itself must come from the HEART, not just the head, and this is another reason men, in general, struggle with it. A simpering, overly-apologetic male is no ideal to aspire to, but the feminine energy is nourished by a heartfelt apology. It’s not going to topple cities if the apology has logical problems, but it may increase the ability and willingness to relate across yin and yang.
  • I would ask men to consider: what is so threatening about the idea of expressing regret from men collectively to women collectively — or specifically to the legions of women who have been and continue to be abused and held down? “I’m sorry this happened to you and is happening you around the world. Now how about joining my community where we treasure you?”
  • Who is this video really helping? Is it helping at all? While many women appear to appreciate the video, it appears the video is not successfully inviting men into a more conscious community. Perhaps this discussion can bear fruit in defining what sort of invitation would be more efficacious in this goal.

We look forward to having your voice in the Circle, either in person or online!