Saturday, July 20, 2013

dueling banjos and appropriate parent-child physical contact once a kid has reached adolescence or beyond

How far is the link . . .
. . .between Pat Boone and dueling banjoes?

The whole Pat Boone matter causes me to ponder the level of physical contact in various contexts between parents and their children that is appropriate once a child is beginning to reach or has reached physical maturity.  While I find Pat Boone's former disciplinary practices strange to say the least, I would not suggest that the man is or was a pervert or that his actions were motivated but anything other than a desire, however ill-guided,  to be a good parent. Such is probably the case between most parents and their maturing children in terms of physical contact. The vast majority of what goes on out there falls within a range that would be considered perfectly normal.

Pat Boone's spanking of his daughters beyond their eighteenth birthdays in at least one or two cases is deviant behavior to me, however well-motivated.  I can't think of a situation that would cause my father to strike my bottom at my current age of eighteen. The last time he did so, I  was fifteen, which is arguably a bit past the point when such would take place, but it was a single strike over a fully clothed body, and occurred as a result of my having forged his signature on a form that allowed me to parasail when my healing leg probably was not sufficiently healed. In my father's defense, my body was not yet approaching puberty, if physical development  in any way trumps chronological age. At the time I was outraged, but in retrospect, his action was not as inappropriate a I had considered it to be  at the time. I'm still not sure I'd recommend it to another parent, but all's well that ends well. It did make me think twice about forging his name on any other document.  Perhaps he was concerned that my next act of forgery might be on his prescription pad, which might have led to legally, physically, and psychologically disastrous consequences.

My family has friends who have two daughters.  The older of the daughters is twenty, and has been physically mature since she was approximately eleven. Almost anytime our families are together, she finds some reason to crawl into her father's lap and to remain their for a lengthy interval. I can remember as early as when I was eleven, which would have made the girl thirteen, my parents discussing on the way home from our visit with this family that they, my parents,  were uncomfortable with the amount of time this physically mature girl sat on her father's lap. They weren't overly judgmental - my mom suggested that the girl's emotional maturity might be nowhere near her level of  physical maturity, but that there might be more appropriate ways for the two of them to exchange affection. As I recall from both that incident and subsequent incidents and discussions (the behavior is still happening to some degree) nothing in the family dynamics suggests that anything weird beyond the girl sitting on her father's lap is happening, and other family interactions, both between the father and daughter and between other family members  seem to fit within the boundaries of propriety. still, the behavior in question in and of itself is, to y parents and my, somewhat odd.

The last time I recall sitting on my on father's lap was when I was fifteen, which is possibly older than some would consider proper for such father-daughter contact.   I was in a hospital, in traction with a horribly mangled leg. Despite that the wound on my leg was still open and I was not allowed to have visitors beyond immediate fqmily because of the possibility of germs and contamination,  a girl (who probably felt entitled because her mother was a nurse on the floor) entered my hospital room  to do me the ostensible favor of letting me know that the boy with whom I had a date to the prom, had cancelled our date without informing me and would be attending the prom with her instead. She also snapped cell phone photos of me in a very disheveled state, as it was Wednesday, and my hair had not been shampooed since the previous Saturday morning. I cannot recall precisely what about this visit caused me to cry, but I seem to recall it as being a combination of factors. my leg and fractured clavicle hurt terribly in spite of drugs Iwas being given to control pain and to fight infection. I was cold but unable to communicate this to anyone. I was not coherent enough to make it clear to anyone that the drugs were not sufficiently relieving what they were intended to relieve. I felt both groggy and physically ill from all the medications I was being given. While I may have been upset by learning of the cancellation of my prom date, I was far more upset by the girl's loud and intrusive visit, and by the flash of light from her cell phone camera. The the girl and the charge nurse of the shift began a loud dispute and a struggle over the girl's cell phone, the noise from which hurt my ears and head,  as the charge nurse knew the girl had used her cell hone to photograph me in traction and in an unflattering state of appearance.  Th nurse was concerned that these photographs might be used to publicly humiliate me. As the nurse in charge, she didn't wish to be blamed for the occurrence of such.

At some point, my response to the situation was to cry. I had groaned,  gasped, and moaned, up to that point during various phases of trearment of my injury, and had even uttered a few profanities,  but had not cried.  The nurses tried to comfort me and get me to top crying, but had no success. They eventually paged my father, who came to my room immediately. When he was not able to say or do anything to cause my crying to stop, he disconnected e from my traction devices and lifted me onto his lapin the adjacent rocker-recliner, where I remained until the wee hours of the morning. This action would have been, in the eyes of many, highly inappropriate, as I was fifteen years old at the time. I was, however, a fifteen-year-old with the physical development of more like a ten-year-old, and the circumstances were most extenuating. I don't for a moment regret what my father did, nor do I suspect he regrets it. It was at the time the only thing he could think of that might have made me feel even slightly better, and it did ease my physical and emotional  burdens to a degree. Nurses wrapped me in blankets, and it was the first time in days I remembered not feeling cold.

After I was physically attacked by a male and two females in  a school restroom, and then after the three perpetrators of the attack and another male propelled a rock and a brick through my bedroom window the next night by using a high-powered slingshot, I developed a form of anxiety that later turned into post-traumatic stress disorder, otherwise known as PTSD. When it did not respond readily to the treatment of a local practitioner, it was recommended that I seek help st a residential treatment facility.

The facility was hundreds of miles from my home. I would remain at the facility for roughly a month, ad then would  come home for  a brief visit.  My father usually accompanied me on the return trip, as his trip often coincided with a work-related visit to one or more  hospital in the area or further south. When my father dropped me off at the facility, he usually took me to my room. We would lie down on my bed together and talk for an hour or so before he left me. We didn't get under the covers together, as, for one thing, we were both clothed, but if we were cold, we'd each have our own separate blanket.  One particular nurse walked into our room when we were on my bed together. We weren't engaged in an embrace of any sort -- in fact, don't believe there was any physical contact between us and, as I recall, only I was cold and was wrapped in a blanket, as my father was dressed in sweats and was sufficiently warm.  The nurse  turned red and muttered something like, "I seem to be interrupting something."

My father replied, "Yes, we are having a private conversation, but if there's something you need to do, go ahead with it, and we'll continue with what we're talking about afterward. I recognize that you have a schedule you need to follow."

The nurse took my vital statistics, then left the room, still red-faced, and not saying anything else.

A few minute later, my dad's close friend and the director of the facility, Dr. Jeff, came into the room. He sat down into a chair. He sighed and said, "I'm not sure exactly how to tell you this, but the nurse who was just in here will probably file a CPS report."

"What?" my dad and  exclaimed in unison.

"She thought she saw something improper," Dr. Jeff continued, " and the other nurses and I were unable to reason with her  about what she saw. And, as you know, if she's making a report in good faith, no job superior can stop her no matter how wrong she is."

The nurse made the report by telephone and followed up with the required written report. Nothing came of it.  I would like to think it was because the social worker on the other end of the line saw
nothing about which to be concerned with what he or she was told. Sometimes such is the case, on the other hand, that there is cause for  concern,  yet nothing is done to follow through, either because staff too overworked, or, in some cases, they're under-motivated to do anything about cases when something they're told should be of concern to them.  Regardless that nothing can come of my case because of either statutes of limitations have been reached or because I'm not a willing complainant, somewhere floating in the ether is a report of suspected abuse with my father's name on it. While nothing will ever come of it, and most likely it's been lost or thrown away anyway, it still bothers me, All my dad was doing was being a good father and talking to me, an emotionally unstable pre-adolescent,  before leaving me in the care of non-relatives for over a week before I would again see another relative.

Furthermore, on some nights when my dad was in the area, he slept in an extra  bed in my room. I had my own room with an extra bed so that out-of-town relatives could stay overnight in my room with me on occasion. The suspecting nurse, who, paranoid as I believe she was, was probably acting out of concern, must have had  a field day with my father sleeping in my actual room, even if we weren't in bed together. After all, the beds were separated by a few mere feet.

As recently as a few months ago, I've crawled into my parents' bed with them after an especially scary nightmare. Usually, instead of my coming into their bed, one of my parents  comes into my room and sleeps in my recliner for the remainder of the night following an especially vivid nightmare or night terror. I have a really comfortable fold-up roll-away bed with a Westin mattress that doesn't fold but stays in the closet and is lifted on to the top of the roll-way bed. My friends use it when they sleep over, but my parents almost always just stay in the recliner.  If I'm having a horrible time getting back to sleep, they sing to me or rub my head and shoulders.  According to some, this may be the stuff of which legitimate CPS referrals are made, but I find it all very silly and a  waste of precious resources.

My dad occasionally hugs me, or occasionally even roughhouses with me, and he does kiss me once in awhile, though only on the forehead. If that's foreplay or  a make-out session in the eyes of some, so be it. Dirty minds find dirty things on which to dwell.

I know that lines are being crossed on a regular basis in parent-child relationships, and it makes me sick for the poor child. I'm lucky enough not to have ever been involved in any such thing, though. Whether in terms of discipline, medical practice, or other physical aspects of parenting, my parents have been above reproach, despite what a particular nurse imagined or thought she might have seen. My father, as are several of my uncles, is a doctor. Doctors occasionally need to examine their own children or nieces and nephews. In my own case, any exam that is particularly invasive is done by a non-relative  or by my Uncle Steve, who is my actual physician, always with my mom or another female relative sitting beside me for moral support. In terms of my having to lift my shirt so that someone can listen to my heart or lungs, or lower my pants to receive an injection, we get it over with as quickly as possible, with the doctor relative often reminding me that he is getting no more pleasure from the procedure than I am. There's no reason to make a bigger deal of it than needs to be made.

Pat Boone's parenting practices have crossed lines that were better left uncrossed, in my opinion, although perhaps with the best of intentions.  The results seem basically to have been positive, although,as I mentioned yesterday, I believe Lindy's quest for freedom normally granted to a young adult her age may have led to an earlier marriage that she might have  otherwise sought.  The other girls may have married early for similar reasons, though I don't know. Cherry was just more than a year older than Lindy when she married. I have no idea how old  Laury was when she was married, and I knew Debby's age at marriage at one point, but I've since forgotten. Debby Boone is  bit banal in my opinion, and details concerning her life tend not to remain in my mind for long. As far as I know , the three Boone sisters other than Debby are still remarried to their original spouses.

Physical contact, for whatever reason, between a father and daughter, or even to an extent between a same-sex parent, once the daughter begins to mature physically, is a delicate matter and deserves to be treated as such.  Parents who ignore boundaries create problems that offer no easy fixes.


  1. Debby was about 22 or 23 when she married. It was in 1979. She is still married to her original husband. Far as I know, Lindy is the only one who has been divorced. And yeah, Pat's penchant for spankings was very weird.

    My dad definitely crossed some lines he shouldn't have. But it was more along the lines of forcing me to do things like give him back massages or take his shoes off for him. When I was a teenager, he'd make me pluck his eyebrows because he apparently couldn't see well enough to do it himself. These were the kinds of things my mom should have done. I hated doing it.

    I do love my dad, but we have a very complicated relationship.

  2. I've never had a normal father/daughter relationship. My grandparents acted like my parental unit for most of my life, because my mom had me at 21 and things were complicated at best. My grandfather was 49 when I was born, so he wasn't like a typical grnadfather. I was like the baby that they didn't expect to have, but were stuck with anyways. My mom and I have a different relationship because of it, I guess that's not entirely normal either.

    I have a somewhat different relationship with my StepDad, too, again mostly because of my mom. He's the parental figure I prefer to accompany me to the hospital because he's a lot more laid back about things, compared to my mom. We get along better long term, whereas my mother gets bored and agitated easily. He's very relaxed compared to my mom, and I can trust his opinion on things better than my mom's because he's so relaxed. If he tells me that something's a big deal, it probably is.

  3. Becca, I always thought you probably had a not strictly conventional family background, but dind't want to assume too much and didn't want to ask anything that was intrusive. In terms of what's conventional and what isn't, it's almost as though there's no longer any such thing as normal anymore. Regardless, it sounds like you somewhat won the lottery in term of a stepfather with Arthur.

    Many of my friends in high school did not live with both biological parents, and in terms of college classmates (I hope to spend more time in the dorm and make a few actual friends next year, although I need to keep my focus on my senior recitals - particularly the violin one, as the piano recital is probably in the bag; still I want just a bit of the typical college experience, though I'll be careful, as bad stuff is out there) it is even less common for a student's biological parents to be married. Oddly enough, the three people I know whose parents or grandparent are in the entertainment industry are among the ones who have both parents and grandparenta whose original marriages are intact.

    Anyway, I think the children's textbook publishers got it right when they ceased to make all families so "typical," with two caucasian biological parents, 2.1 children, a dog ,a cat, and a free-standing house with a yard surrounded by a white picket fence. As educators have come to realize both that they influence the way children see the world and have come to an awareness about how children learn to read -- about how they can most easily read that to which they can relate -- it seems fair to mix it up a bit and put in a little to which almost every child can relate.

    In a perfect world, if there is such a thing, all children would have what Benny has and what I had, which is two at least somewhat stable, functional biological parents raising him or her. Such is not always the case, though, nor was it ever. And having two biological parents raisng a child is no guarantee that neither one nor both is either bat-shit crazy, a substance abuser, or someone otherwise unfit to parent a child.

    I suppose anyone who is not abused physically or psychologically (psychological abuse is tough to define; my suspicion, based on my own experience, is that in the "best of" famlies, we were subjected, if not by our own parent, then by someone in the extended family, to some form of psychological abuse), has enough to eat and a consistent roof over his or her head, and whose parent has insisted upon education, has probably received all that any of us can rightfully expect.
    Sadly, not everyone gets even those meager expectations.