Accept who and what you are.

Standards of Behavior

As it says in the About Me page, the domain name of this website is from something my dad used to say. “I’m not crazy, I’m just nuts.”

Today is Father’s day, so I thought I’d talk about mine.

Dad worked a lot of hard manual labor and he provided for us in the best way he could. I don’t have many childhood memories of him because he was always working or working on something. Most of my memories come from after I was an adult and his health and mental state went bad. His illness tainted our relationship.

When Dad’s bi-polar disorder kicked up, he would be in the manic phase for months until they could get his meds regulated to normalize him. During his manic phases, our relationship was pretty rough.

I used the words “we don’t get along” when I described our relationship to a friend I knew at the hospital, but one of the paramedics that had just transported Dad corrected me.

“Don’t let her fool you. He hates her.”

Dad hated me because I held him to a certain set of standards and would not compromise or lower them. Ever. I set my standards for his behavior and made sure he knew what they were. Then I made him comply with them.

At one point, he was in a nursing home and had a doctor’s appointment. My schedule wouldn’t allow me to pick him up, so the social worker brought him to the appointment, but I was the one who was talking to the doctor.

During the visit, Dad got agitated, loud, and was ramping up his behavior. I sent him to the waiting room while I finished talking to the doctor. On the way out, I stopped to do the paperwork. They requested Dad’s identification and I asked him for it.

Dad was still agitated. In his mind, he was going to be forced to have surgery which had been mentioned, but was not actually an option. He was defensive and excited and for some reason he thought I would keep his ID. His behavior was getting in the way of getting things handled and I said one word.

“Sit.”

It seems like a little word written out like that, but I have been told I channel a drill instructor sometimes.

When I said, “sit,” he sat. No questions, no argument, no hesitation. Instant compliance, because I said it with authority. It was how he had taught me to deal with him when he was agitated. It was the only way to get him to do what I wanted.

The social worker, whom I had already decided was a pansy ass bleeding heart, did not like this. She thought my tone of voice was abusive and called a meeting to discuss it. I took my mother in her wheelchair and another nursing home employee attended as a witness.

Dad got excited within a minute. The rest of the time was spent with the social worker repeating his name over and over again, trying to get him to listen to her.

My Dad was ill, but he could behave himself when it suited him. He demonstrated this when my brother took him to the hospital for an involuntary mental evaluation. The doctor didn’t see the problem because Dad behaved himself the whole three hours they were at the hospital. The moment they were in the car on the way home, not so much.

The social worker, didn’t understand how to handle Dad. She approached him in her touchy feely way and wasn’t smart enough to see that approach didn’t work with him. As she said Dad’s name for the fourth or fifth time, I cast a little smile at Mom.

She smiled back. One word from me and Dad would pipe down.

I didn’t say it. I watched. I found it amusing to watch the woman try the soft and gentle approach with a man who didn’t recognize or respond to either. They finally had to talk him into leaving the room. Again, one word from me and he would have sat down and been quite.

The social worker explained that she thought my way was abusive. I told her Dad didn’t respond to softer approaches as had so clearly been demonstrated a few seconds before and his behavior at the doctor’s office was unacceptable.

She argued, “But your father has a disease.”

“Yes, he does,” I responded. “But that disease is a reason for his behavior, not an excuse. I’m not going to lower my standards because he’s sick.”

The social worker thought I was being mean to him, abusing him. But it wasn’t true. My father was the aggressor in every encounter we had.

He’d start it, but I finished it.

When he raised a hand against me, he learned not to do it again. Sometimes, he learned the hard way. He ended up on the floor at least once, and I remember facing him down with a fist cocked when he made a move to slap me. I went toe-to-toe with him every time he tried something with Mom or my cat as well.

He learned I wouldn’t tolerate the abusive behavior and he modified his actions to suit. Dad hated me because I held him to a higher standard, but he behaved himself and respected me because I did.

I don’t hate my dad. I didn’t like him very much, but I never hated him. His disease tainted our relationship, but that relationship is why I am the way I am. His lessons were also my lessons. He is a part of me and always will be. Warts and all.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

How many times have you seen people lowering standards for someone who has trouble meeting them? When do we stop lowering them and start expecting people to live up to them?