Abby had crumpled to the floor, with Peter coiled over her in prizefighter stance (but without fists raised), shouting at her to “Answer me, answer me!” She hopefully opened her mouth to produce an offering of words that would soothe his anger, entice her loving dad to appear again from behind the clouds, regain a sense of his love….or maybe just to get him to leave her alone. “Don’t you talk back to me!” he shouted. So she closed her mouth. “Answer me!!” he shouted again. Again she opened her mouth. “Don’t talk back to me!” Again he silenced her with his rage, size, voice, and authority.
She began to cry, sitting on the floor, a sweet and fiery 11-year old girl, educated in honoring her parents, and who innately loved peace.
“Oh, look at the little crybaby. You’re going to cry! Waah, waah! What a little crybaby!” he taunted derisively. She cried harder.
This was utterly out of line. She would never DESERVE this, but she didn’t do anything to INVITE this, either. The tape recorder was running, for documentation. I had interrupted many such situations, to draw fire, deescalate, protect a tender child, or just plain shut him up. Parents should be unified in front of the kids, I had been taught. Submit to husband and parent. Stand. Protect your children. LOVE. I was weighing the issues again. Intervening would get the heat off Abby, turn the argument to me, display division and disrespect between her parents (like I could avoid THAT!). Non-intervention would leave Abby victim to her dad’s verbal assault – alone, with me shattered by doing nothing. As I positioned myself to intervene, Abby answered my unspoken questions:
“Mom, don’t try to stop it. Because then I feel like you and Dad are fighting and it is my fault.”
He was finished anyway. Episode over. Yeah.
The mini-tape recorder hidden in my pocket picked up only muffled sounds from my position in the hallway. But I left it on, and it DID pick up the next half hour, during which we watched Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman on TV while Abby quietly sobbed in the background.
Abby, now 30 years old, is still calm and proactive but quickly and effectively sets the boundaries if someone is abusive to her, without second guessing or guilt. She also deals with diffused anxiety much of the time. Overall, she is fairly happy…but isn’t a big believer in religion or God, marriage or anything permanent. Can you believe she once started Bible College to become a missionary?
These are my practical questions for you:
What could I have done differently for a better result?
In theory, I should have gotten those kids out of there. But that wouldn’t have been the end of the story. They probably would have some sort of shared custody (he says, she says), which would put them with him alone. Or, they would have missed Dr. Jekyl Dad, and had anger and fear toward Mom for keeping him from them. Perhaps go from trusting one of us to trusting neither of us. How much Mr. Hyde justifies dumping Dr. Jekyl?
Does anyone know what would have been helpful to position myself for better legal protection? Would it have helped to get a better tape recorder and try to record the really obvious instances of abuse? For court or credibility? And to record in writing other instances, with dates, times? Maybe have a couple of trusted friends document having listened to and read these accounts, or, with modern technology, e-mail or mail them and ask the friends to keep them to confirm accuracy of dates recorded?
Would it have been less harmful for Abby for me to butt out, or butt in?
Here are my scriptural questions for you:
What could I (or others) have told Abby (and myself) about God to preserve the belief in His love, guidance, and protection? Or, is the expectation of guidance and protection a false ideal in the first place? Or, if love, guidance and protection are always there, then is being AWARE, FEELING God’s love, guidance and protection up to us to “cause” or is it up to God to “supply?” What inspires belief, trust, faith, perseverance when all one hears, for years, is silence.
How do you interpret the verses below, in light of this situation?
Col 3:18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
Col 3:19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
Col 3:20-21 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.
And the biggies:
Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 10:37-39 “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
What do you DO, real life, when husbands ARE harsh? The spirit and letter of the law.
Talk with me.