I have a lot of respect for my dad. He’s thoughtful and generous to all of us. His constant reading makes him an interesting and well-informed conversationalist. He makes his life decisions very carefully, yet never looks down on me for making different decisions than him. Instead, he tells me all the time that he loves and misses me, and that he’s proud of who I’ve become. I feel so lucky to have him as my dad.
Unfortunately, we have not always gotten along so well. Less than ten years ago, our relationship had been almost completely destroyed thanks to the authoritarian parenting techniques of the fundamentalist Christian homeschooling culture. Authoritarian parenting forced both of us into roles that we were not at all suited for, with tragic results.
For my dad, authoritarian parenting caused him to see our relationship as a power struggle; maintaining his authority was his biggest responsibility and highest priority. After all, if we were calling the shots in our own lives, we would become self-indulgent and lack internal self-control. That would lead us to more dangerous “worldly” teenage rebellion against our parents and God. So in order not to fail at parenting, my dad had to be hyper-vigilant against giving up power to us kids. What an insane amount of responsibility to put on one person! And how difficult to create a positive relationship with that kind of dynamic: it’s impossible to mandate real respect and love! My dad began to crack under the pressure.