Jason was raised in a very strict, Christian household. Jason raised his children the complete opposite of that way.
Take it from a former pastor’s kid. Being overly controlling and untrusting of your children will only make them hide more from you. And be sneaky about it. Been there, done that.
One thing I’ve been quite proud of in my years of parenting three children is that I’ve trusted them. I’ve never been one to micro-manage. My therapist Bride and I both agree that being overbearing and controlling of your children is not the way to raise well-adjusted children and solid citizens. Trusting them and guiding them when they make the occasional poor choices always worked well for our family.
I was raised by a pastor father, a stay-at-home mother, and attended church three times a week until the age of 21. I’ve never been to jail. I’ve never killed someone, beaten a woman, or abused my children or a pet. Do I attribute this to being raised in a Christian home? Hell no I don’t.
This is not to say I didn’t learn a few good lessons from hearing about Jesus and learning the Bible front to back. I am sure I picked up some great lessons along the way. But I also endured what most would consider a tough upbringing. My dad was fair, but leaned on the side of “Swing first, ask questions later.”
By “swing first”, I don’t mean a fist. Nothing that fucked up. But a belt on the bare ass. Which is reasonably close to child abuse. And completely unnecessary. I’m fairly certain we would have still ended up productive members of society without belt-welts on our asses.
I get it. My dad was raised by a tough dad. My grandfather evidently belted his six children, as well. I heard that we didn’t get it nearly as bad as they did. And I tend to believe that. We were usually given warnings. Typically we were told once, and maybe we got the death stare a second time. Three strikes and you’re out.
I actually didn’t even mind the whoopins that much. Sure it hurt. Sure we were upset and humiliated for getting the belt. But at least we were never grounded. I’d take a belting if it meant I could still play Nintendo that same day or the next. Losing that for a week would have been far worse than a sore butt.
It wasn’t the corporal punishment that bugged me as much as it was the control factor. When you’re a small child, it doesn’t matter as much. But once you hit that junior high to high school age though, it’s lame. I can remember moving to Tennessee during my junior year of high school. Most of my dad’s brothers and sisters lived there.
We had cousins we had never been around almost our whole lives because we lived on the west coast of the country. We wanted to hang out with them. Spend a lot of time together with them. We were invited to spend the night fairly quickly after we moved into town and my dad wouldn’t let us do it.
He wasn’t a fan of one of my uncles in particular. I got the vibe that he felt he was kind of weird or somewhat off. His excuse for not letting us stay the night with them was that they were too involved in their church and he didn’t know what kind of people they had in their home on the regular. Never mind that this was his sister’s home we’d be staying over at. Or that our four cousins would also be there with us. Or that I was in high school. His word was the law, and that was the end of that.
We ended up moving back to California shortly after we moved there. Less than six months later, getting to be around our family that we never had the chance to know growing up was over with. No debate, no questions asked. We didn’t dare protest or voice our opinions.
When you are raised in a very strict family where your thoughts and opinions hold no weight, it can be pretty depressing. You learn to figure out workarounds in many situations. Another thing that we weren’t allowed to do was listen to rock music. Any kind of music other than church music, generally.
We started watching MTV and VH1 around the time I was in high school. We’d just watch whenever my dad wasn’t home. My mother wasn’t nearly as strict as my dad, so we didn’t have to be nearly as careful if she was home, doing things in the other room. She’d never rat on us to him, and I’ve always loved that about her.
I started listening to the radio more around this time. I remember my dad catching me listening to C&C Music Factory once right before dinner and telling me to turn that crap off. Then at the dinner table, trying to shame me in front of my mother, saying, “Evidently, YOUR SON is a punk rocker!” I had to really hold in my laughter on that one. C&C Music Factory, punk rock? No. Rock + Funk and Soul. Duh.
We started buying cassettes and CDs while we still lived at home. Well, let’s be honest. We shoplifted most of them. There’s that whole sneaky aspect I mentioned before. We weren’t allowed to have jobs, therefore we had no money. We became adept at stealing music for this reason. Not something I am proud of now, but we were good at it.
At the height of this poor decision-making time of our lives, my brother and I were just about professionals. I had a car and a license, we even had tools in the car we’d bring with us to cut the cassettes and CDs out of their cases. We’d sneak them into the house by shoving them into our pants and our music library grew. Who knows what would have happened if my dad actually crawled all the way under our beds and found our shoeboxes full of music.
We got WAY into Guns ‘N Roses at the time. I recall feeling a lot of guilt for listening to music with so many F-bombs scattered throughout almost every song. I often wondered why they had to put so much profanity in their music. I knew my dad would either beat me or kick me out of the house if he heard some of the things I listened to.
It was even worse than that. Like just about any teenager, we were curious about the opposite sex. I remember friends loaning us nudie magazines about the time I was in 9th grade. Talk about being sneaky and feeling guilt. My dad would jump on my case if I even tried to buy an issue of Sport Magazine that had a swimsuit feature in it.
I can specifically recall two instances where we likely would have been sent to a Christian deprogramming camp if we’d been caught doing what we were doing. The first was when I somehow acquired an issue of Penthouse Magazine. That’s a bad one. Not just tits and ass like in Playboy. We’re talking P to the Vagine. Again, the sneaky thing, and I got good at hiding things like that.
I quickly realized that ripping the cover off and having the first page be a cigarette ad was far better than Jenna Jameson showing her goods on the cover. I had a built-in bookshelf in my closet and a stack of sports magazines filling it. I kept my Penthouse somewhere in the middle of the stack, thinking that logically, nobody would suspect one of the 30 or 40 magazines would be a porno mag.
My dad was upstairs and I figured I’d hear him coming down the stairs should he decide to. I decided to sneak a peek and it must have been a hell of an issue, because the next thing I know, the door to my room opened. How did I NOT hear my 220 lb father coming down the stairs?
I had no play other than to toss the coverless porno mag to the top of the pile. He must have seen me make some kind of movement because he went to pick it up. I quickly stepped in front of him and said, “No, I’ll get it.” I can’t believe that actually worked.
I quickly rifled through my Sports Illustrated magazines with the coverless-Penthouse sitting right on top. Joe Camel looked at me disapprovingly from the top of that stack. About halfway through the pile, a miracle occurred. A swimsuit catalog amazingly appeared and saved me from certain doom. I turned around with the most guilty, defeated look on my face and handed it over to him.
He looked at the cover, flipped a few pages, and told me how disappointed he was. I fought the urge to do a victory backflip and the Ickey shuffle. I had won! I wasn’t about to be murdered. He confiscated the swimsuit issue and headed back upstairs. My younger brother and I both agreed that he probably used it later that day.
Again, that’s my point. Being controlling with your children and being a hard-ass just turns them into sneakier kids. That wasn’t the only time we almost were caught with pornography. Shortly after, there was a second, even worse incident.
We had somehow acquired a VHS cassette of an actual porno. As bad as getting caught with an issue of Penthouse would have been, getting busted with an actual plunger-movie would have had us disowned. My dad left us home alone one afternoon to go run errands, so we thought we’d check it out.
The details are still sharp in my mind, 30 some years later. The title of this movie was “Crocodile Blondee II”. Not the original, the sequel. I can’t believe there was a sequel. My brother was supposed to watch through the blinds as our lookout. It didn’t seem like my father was gone for very long. We probably should have actually listened when he told us where he was going.
That movie must have been somewhat riveting, because the next thing we knew, we heard my dad’s key in the door. HOLY SHIT! Was he gone 10 minutes? Was the movie that incredible that an hour felt like 15 minutes? Were we about to figure out what murder felt like?
Fortunately, two factors saved our horndog asses that afternoon. The first was my positioning close to the VCR. I was sitting close to the TV. I mean, c’mon, TITS. Porno. You get the picture. I was in the position to react quickly, and you’re damn right that I did.
The 2nd factor that saved our lives that infamous day was the eject button. I shit you not, we had one of those old-ass VCRs that when you pushed the eject button, the machine would make a series of noises and it would take anywhere from five to seven seconds to actually eject the tape. Jesus, Allah, or Buddha was on our side that day because the instant I frantically pushed the eject button, the movie shot out immediately.
By the time my old man finally got the key in the door, turned the knob, and opened it, he saw the flash of my back foot flying down the hallway. I ran to the end of the hall, threw a Roger Clemens-Esque fastball of the tape under my bed, and tried to casually walk back down the hall.
He eyed us suspiciously and could tell something was up. My brother edged his way toward the TV while my dad glared at me and quickly changed the channel from the blue VCR screen back to cable. I thought up yet another quick lie (remember, when you’re hard on your kids, they get good at being sneaky and lying) and tried not to look guilty. My heavy breathing though was a dead giveaway.
“Were you guys TUSSLING?” That was his word for us wrestling or couch pillow-boxing like we’d often do but weren’t supposed to. My brother and I shot each other quick glances and knew we were about to get out of this shit alive. Heavy sighs from both of us. “Yes, we were tussling.”
Again, that disappointed, mean look. “You know what I said about tussling. Don’t DO THAT. Or it’s the belt, next time.” We tried not to smile at this point and didn’t even high-five each other until he left the room.
Again, I cannot stress enough that being a hard-ass, untrusting parent will make your kids sneakier. If we had been cut even just a little bit of slack in some areas, I feel we wouldn’t have gotten involved in half the things we did.
It didn’t get much worse than these examples. Sure, we rifled quarters out of his change bag to get sodas at school. We stayed up way too late playing Nintendo with a blanket over the TV to hide the light and the sound turned all the way down. But we didn’t drink, do drugs, or have children while in high school.
We turned into solid citizens without a criminal record. I’ve helped raised three children the complete opposite way we were raised, and they’re all brilliant, respectful, headed to college, and curse like sailors. If I’m going to hell because of Guns ‘N Roses, Penthouse Magazine, and Crocodile Blondee II, at least my parents won’t know the better of it. And I’ve still raised three amazing young humans, despite my sins.