Friday, November 19, 2010

The Fish and the Furious

I was going to write a real post today.  A real feel-good meditation on the wonders of children learning about their world.  Seriously.

But I got a little sidetracked by some of the comments on my last post, and then by re-reading what I had written, and so I figured I would write a quick follow-up to that instead, and save the magical, miraculous minds of babies for another day.

In case you don't feel like reading that post, here's the quick and dirty, using the terminology of the department where I used to teach at Very Large State University:

Project: Through an anecdote about his own reaction to a difficult pet, the author presents a cautionary tale regarding the issue of anger, particularly as it concerns men.

Argument: He suggests that if anger is recognized and addressed within the self, it is less likely to be indulged or expressed violently.

Here are the things I wanted to say about the post and the comments:
  •  Stella is fine.  She didn't even get sick from eating hobo shit.  She's at her usual level of skittishness, or maybe slightly lower than normal because I'm making sure to give her a lot of reassurance and keep the children away from her except when they are being mellow.  Cobra had a nice petting session with her yesterday morning.  We've had two fine walks since the recent unpleasantness.  She shows no signs of PTSD.  Everybody's happy.
  • It might have sounded like I don't like my dog.  I do. You should see how proud of her I am when she's pulling the kids around in a wagon.  A couple commentators suggested that I might want to find a new home for her.  I've felt like that a couple times, but it always passes.  I'm glad to have her around, and I wouldn't get rid of her unless I thought she was becoming a danger or a liability. 
  • It may have sounded like it would be really difficult for me to keep from going off on my kids, given my loss of control with the dog.  But as Seattle Dad said in the comments, there's a barrier keeping (most of) us from going too far with any anger we feel towards our children.  I don't know what all is in the aggregate that makes up that barrier, but I know it's tangible and impenetrable in my case. 
  •  A reader scolded me and quit following this blog because I'm a dog-kicker.  That's fine.  I'm sorry she left, but some people have hard and fast standards regarding what they will and won't consume or patronize.  I respect that, but that's not how I feel about anything except the most egregious crimes against humanity.  And Autotune.  There are a lot of people I like to talk to, or whose work I like to read or watch or listen to, even though I don't agree with their perspectives or approve of some of their past actions.  
  • I'm a bit (maybe too much) of a moral relativist.  Even though in my world, it's never okay to hit a child or a pet (and I don't excuse myself for the "foot-nudge"), I don't condemn outright everyone who would do either of those things.  In other words, I don't always see a bright line between discipline and abuse in the case of other people, although  I know where the line is for me.  There's a continuum: harsh words-->leash-check-->foot-nudge-->shock collar-->ass-whupping-->etc.  And your position on the continuum is based on your conscience and your context.  In some contexts, spanking children is totally acceptable.  In some contexts, hitting a kid on the head with a shoe is considered okay.  I know where I stand philosophically on the continuum (spanking is over the line for me, for instance) , but I'm reluctant to judge others, since none of us have much control over our context.  (Of course, society provides some bright lines; i.e., laws, that can be helpful.)
  • If you want to have a discussion here about discipline, anger, violence, gender, whatever, that might be cool.  Or you could watch these very relaxing videos and think about all the fun you'll have this weekend.




  1. to go with the fish tank video.

    great ad over here for a vitamin drink called berocca (other vitamins are available)

    Looking for it on youtube,because I was looking for the name of the song,I found this which always makes me smile.

  2. I'm not going to read the comments to your other post, because well, I've been on the internets long enough to learn not to do that *g*. I totally have those 'hulk SMASH' moments. This spring we were a family of one 2.5 year old, 2 huskies (one was incontinent and the other loves to destroy V's stuffed animals). And I have a little pressure valve that goes 'eeerrg!' And now V does it too *sigh*
    But that wasn't the point, I started writing to say I really appreciate your writing about anger, recognizing and dealing with it.

  3. I really don't want to sound corny here, but I think it's brave to share our lesser moments. I think it helps to embrace them and talk about them and, therefore, avoid repeat performances.

    That said, I really don't think the dog incident is a major offense.

  4. Autotune is awesome. You are dumb. I have to unfollow your blog immediately. Thanks for the free book, sucker!!!

    I kid (except that I really do like Autotune). I see the discipline thing with kids as a cultural thing, man. Old school Cubans hand out ass whuppings like they hand out advice. To be honest, I deserved a lot of them and I think they're responsible for me growing up with the appropriate trouble detection devices. Also, there have been some great times with friends when I got older, talkin' 'bout da ass whuppins we had.

    Now I got a kid and I'm not going to whup his ass like my family did me, but there's gonna be SOME kinda discipline. Kids need to respect and trust their parents. And early on, they do not have the tools to properly understand stuff like "Don't lick the electrical socket or you could hurt yourself bad." But they understand the good old ass swat.

    All the people that read this blog got raised up a lil bit different, right? And maybe we don't agree with the way our parents did a lot of shit. But we're here acting pretty grown up and not blasting off on each other, right? So maybe our parents weren't ALL wrong.

    Habitual line steppers need to be corrected, you know? That's kids, significant others, and animals. Whether it's using the silent treatment, grounding, or a swat on the ass, you don't just let components of your family just go around doing whatever they want.

    I think you deserve a t-shirt that has the words, "Check Yourself Before You Riggedy Wreck Yourself."

  5. omg, dude, I can't believe u offended some folks.. then again, there are some that just don't get your tongue and cheek they say ' pick your battles'... this is one u should not have to justify.. as far as the one blogger that left your page, well, bfd as my brother use to say.

  6. tank.....mmmmmm, what were you saying?!? People need to seriously chill out!

  7. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the people who got mad at you for kicking your dog didn't actually read the entire anecdote. I was appalled at first when you mentioned kicking the dog because I was picturing her in a football-type situation. HOWEVER, when I read about what actually happened I was relieved/grossed out. Also, I really just felt sorry for you, because I knew that people wouldn't read the whole thing to discover that you actually just nudged him.

    Oh well. At least if people un-followed you for that, then they won't be leaving any rude comments in the future.

  8. Trust me, bud, your karma is safe. It would've been even if you hadn't written this follow-up. I thought your earlier post was valid, interesting and relevant. Everyone has what neeroc above calls "Hulk Smash" moments. How those moments manifest is always the question, but I defy anyone to say that they've never let their anger get the best of them at one point or another.

    Obviously there are lines that should never be crossed, context or not. Hitting a child is never ok. You say it yourself here -- even spanking is going to far for you. And obviously, such lines apply to animals too. But your post was about how we feel about our own anger. I thought it was a good one.

    So there.

  9. I've been working your last post over in my mind, and I still can't form a meaningful comment. I understand the negative comments, it's difficult sometimes to read about angry actions towards animals, especially when you're a bleeding heart puppy lover like *cough* some people we know. I cringed when I read the part about the foot nudge, but only because it reminded me of my own moments too. (Namely, an incident in which I was transporting a painting on a 6'x6' canvas in the back of my station wagon, my dog with me up front, and he saw another dog out the window and jumped in back, on top of the painting, and skittered the shit out of it with his nails out. I don't accurately remember what happened next, but in my memory it's evolved into a "Blazing Saddles" style punch in the face, although I KNOW I've never punched a dog in the face. (Do you know the scene I mean? With the horse?))

    So what I'm saying is, nobody likes to hear it, but it's an ugly truth, and I'm not worried about Stella one bit. You're a good dog owner, maybe some of your commenters just haven't been reading for long enough.

    I DID want to comment, though, as the very flinchy daughter of a man with a hair-trigger draw-back. I think if you're aware of the possibility of raising flinchers, you're already in a good place. But in defense of us Flinchy Americans, I am hyper-aware of my surroundings, I can intuit the slightest shift in someone's mood, I am champion at dodgeball and the hand slap game, and my permanently pin-sized pupils can detect danger from a mile away. I'm a fucking warrior. There are worse things, is my point.

  10. Beta Dad: Well written!

    I also enjoyed the comment: "in my memory it's evolved into a "Blazing Saddles" style punch in the face"

  11. Ditto Nicole. I can only speak for our success:
    We never used any corporal punishment or spanking of any sort, and we reared two very well adjusted, unspoiled children (now adults). I never allowed pets because I deal in food. I cheated: I let my husband get his pet fix through the neighbors' pets (there were plenty). I think everyone should calm down and look at the aquarium videos: I love anything to do with water - it's so relaxing!

  12. We all get angry, no exception. Repressing it and pretending we don't is probably THE best way to eventually end up snapping & expressing that anger inappropriately. It's good that you admit you're human. It's even better you admit your regret & fear of that anger.

    If people want to look at the mistake rather than how you might have grown & learned from making it, that's on them.

    As for whether you're on one side or the other about spanking, no punishment works when it's meted out in anger. That's how I see it, anyway.

  13. might I just say the tea collection dresses your adorable girls are wearing at the aquarium just might make them even more adorable than usual :-)

  14. Since I began following your blog, I find you to be a humorous and intelligent person. The loss of followers I'm sure is inevitable since you have a lot of them and sometimes you are just incredibly offensive :)

    Actually, I was telling my mom about your last blog and how it bothered you the way the dog was flinching around you and she said (she's from Thailand by the way), "He must be American. Since no one else worries about something so minor. Not even American Women worry that much- flinching is a good thing." (remember, this is my mom which explains a lot about me)

    So see, don't fret, you are just a humorous, intelligent American man who can be incredibly offensive!

  15. You gave us a completly honest account of an incident that obviously left you a bit troubled and you needed to "write it out". I would challenge ANYONE who read your blog and found it offensive, that they had not done the exact same thing at least once in their lives. No-one's a saint. But really what you did wasnt anything terrible anyway. In saying that, people are entitled to their own opinion, and you should'nt take it to heart. I found the blog honest and great.

  16. You know, if we supported you in regards to the anonymous comment you received, surely I hope you don't think it's because any of us (by any of us, I mean me, of course) think it's cool to kick or foot nudge a dog... I think we (as in we, I mean me) know the difference between the need to tell a good story and spill the beans on a temporary loss of self control and a full blown violent personality. If you know what we (oops, "I") mean...

  17. A little rage never hurt anyone. Frankly, losing your cool and exploding is probably a lot healthier than being some kind of zen'd out, prozac-eyed hippie - or maybe not. At the very least, I feel validated by both your posts after yesterday in a rage coming close to being an apoplectic fit, I hurled a mop across the cafe I work in.

  18. I have a good friend who often kicks his dog--hard--and it infuriates me. He also refuses to walk him on a leash, which I could do because my dog stays close--but I can't control cars, cyclists, homeless people, other dogs, or myriad other facets of urban living.

    As for spanking, I got spanked plenty. I don't think it did much good or harm; it seems more a way for parents to release frustration. And actually, I don't recall my father ever spanking me, to my mother's annoyance. Spanking just seems dated and ineffective. If you do it moderately, it doesn't really hurt. If it hurts a lot (say, if a spatula or piece of wood is used), you're doing it too hard and that's wrong. And I don't think parents should be sources of violence/abuse. But again, my minor spankings didn't make me live in fear, and were rare and richly deserved.

    As to variations in violence between men and women, I think you hit it when you said that both sexes have the same potential for it, but that men tend to cause far more damage. Men are responsible for, what, 95% of homicides, assaults, and other heinous crimes? For reasons of psychology and physiology, women aren't anywhere near as likely to cause such problems.

  19. I appreciate your honesty in your previous and current post. And by the way, at the thought of cleaning up hoboshitvomit in the middle of the night, I'd have been compelled to have a temper tantrum too. I don't know that I'd have kicked her, but there would have been a verbal tirade enough to put her into psychic shock for some time.

    As far as the temper when it's concerning children, healthy, reasonable adults recognize the line that we don't cross when it comes to temper and frustration. There isn't a problem in admitting you get frustrated. I remember feeling a distinct impulse to throw my 3-week old babe out the window at 2am after she had been screaming for hours on end. I was so desperate for sleep. What separates healthy people from the ones who need to be locked up, is not actually following through.

  20. I still can't get over the hobo shit, lol. Can't imagine.

  21. Okay, I am a dog lover and child lover. Not so much a people lover (at least not at large) and I totally respect the post you did. Anyone who has dogs or kids would be lying if they said they NEVER got frustrated with them. It shows courage that you are willing to discuss these feelings and your reactions and fears.
    Of course, regular readers are used to lighter fair on B.D. For instance, I myself was delighted when I saw the title, "Mr. Furious", seeing as how he is my favorite super hero ever. But it was a great post and meaningful and it made me think. And it probably made any readers who left think as well. Sometimes that's hard.

  22. I'm not going to read the comments on the other post either, because it's too early in the morning for wading through vitriol.

    I'll just say that even the act of posting it shows that you are a thoughtful and self-reflective father. And "beta" though you may be, a little fear is never a bad thing with some parenting relationships. My own father would NEVER hit us - we weren't even spanked - but that didn't mean he wasn't a scary-ass mofo sometimes. Did I ever feel physically threatened or "flinchy"? Not at all. Did I listen? Oh hell yeah.

    (He once punched his dog in the face for shredding the interior of his car. Just for context. And one time a bear ate all the food at the campsite so he went after it with a shotgun...still in his underwear. But he was very careful not to show us too much of that side of him, or direct it towards us, because he is also a thoughtful and self-reflective father. Those are stories we heard after the fact.)

    I've had my own hulk SMASH moments with my dog and with my kid. They usually involve shit, too. Deep breathing and promising myself a glass of wine gets me through them. It's what separates us from the animals.

  23. So, that's the thing about blogging. In order to have a blog that people read, you have to expose your lesser moments; you not only exposed yourself (heh!) you owned it, fretted about it and learned from it. As most of us did when we read it.

    Keep it up. If we were all so thoughtful about our actions and reactions, the world might be a better place.

  24. if you can find a way to kick autotune, I'll be your best friend for life.

  25. I too recently received some fairly negative comments on a post I hadn't realized would be so controversial. I suddenly doubted myself as a moral human being. But there will always be those people, and as long as YOU know who you are, then that's all that matters.
    PS - this anonymous poster will probably implode due to suppressed rage.

  26. I didn't comment on the other post when I read it, because though I don't like the idea of your dog getting kicked/foot-nudged, I can't say that I've never done anything wrong to one of my animals in my life. Yes, I too have done things that I would never repeat because they are on the line between abuse and punishment. That being said, I will applaud that you are able to be honest about it, learn from it, and move on. When I'm perfect and never screw up, then I'll get all judgey.

  27. It makes me so glad to know that there are good parents who get angry. While I am not a parent (Yet) I do worry about having kids. I have quite a few "Hulk Smash" moments but I believe that I could control them around my children in the same way that I stop myself from kicking my bunnies when they chew up the wires for the surround sound/chew up the carpet/wee in my cupboard/poo in my shoes etc.

    Also I have a feeling that people who would get offended by your blog posts are those kind of individuals with slightly off kilter views on the world. I picture your anonymous commenter as the same female who left her trolley in the car park and allowed it to roll into my car while looking the other way. Despite the presence of a trolley return bay another two cars away.


Don't hold back.


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