I’m a casual football fan. By that I mean if their is an art fair to attend, leaves to rake, or just about anything else to do on a Sunday afternoon it will take precedence over sitting and watching football. Thursday and Sunday night games are more likely to be watched, but a nice fall Sunday afternoon is wasted in my mind if spent inside. Due to my less than devout fan status I don’t worship any of the athletes, own any jerseys, or even follow them on social media. I’m just not that interested.
However, recent happenings have made there way into more of my conversations than yardage stats ever did. Specifically, because I live in Minnesota we’ve talked about Adrian Peterson. There are so many layers and questions regarding a topic like this. Was what he did to his four year old child abuse? Is it the NFL’s job to administer punishment before our legal system has done its job? How much is race a factor? What role does geography play in the standards of what is acceptable?
I don’t have answers to those questions, but I do have some thoughts. Opinions vary of course and some are very passionate about their interpretation. This is a very raw topic, one in which a little boy often seems secondary to headlines. Here are my thoughts:
Do I think it was abuse? Yes. In my mind a four year old doesn’t learn anything good from being whipped. Instead, he learns fear and rage. I don’t think even an older child should endure this type of treatment, but what on earth could a four year old do to deserve what amounts to a beating? Do I think Adrian thought he was abusing his son? No. Since I believe him when he says he received the same discipline as a child, he doesn’t know another method or reality. Isn’t that sad.
He not that long ago had one of his other s0ns die at the hands of the child’s mother’s boyfriend. I would think the well-being, the preciousness of a child’s life would be front and center in his mind. His mother, Bonita Jackson was quoted in the Houston Chronical as saying “I don’t care what anybody says. Most of us disciplined our kids a little more than we meant sometimes. But we were only trying to prepare them for the real world…. When you whip those you love, it’s not about abuse, but love.” It seems plausible to me that young girls growing up around this would learn it was okay to be it, after all it is done out of love. It makes me glad I’m not an African American child growing up in the south. There is abuse in many forms happening to all colors, genders, and ages around this country- but in this case it sounds accepted as a cultural norm. And isn’t that sad.
Jackson went on the say, “My son is not a perfect man by no means, but in the end I’m proud to be his mom. For the most part he is trying hard to be a good parent, he’s working at it. People are judging him, but they don’t know his heart. This was never his intent.” Peterson won’t share how many children he has (or with how many different mothers) – yes I’m judging and while I don’t know his heart, I do know that a true loving father looks different to me than this.
With that said, I will share my own ugliness. Once when our son was about three he was out of control and like many young boys he was very physical. The exact circumstances have been forgotten, but I lost my temper and grabbed his arm to gain control of him and the situation. The outburst calmed and passed without much thought. The next day I noticed a bruise on his arm and wondered what he had done this time, that was until I realized that the bruises matched up perfectly with my fingers. I was sick to my stomach. My intent was never to hurt him, only to get his attention. I was in that moment convinced I was the most horrible mother ever allowed to raise a child. How on earth could I hurt this little person that I loved more than life itself?
I was embarrassed at my lack of calm and sickened at my lack of patience. I didn’t want anything like that to happen again, so I vowed to take a break or walk away in the future to deescalate the moment. Lesson learned in not repeating a bad cycle.
And that’s at the heart of this story for me. I don’t have a lot of patience for people who choose to repeat bad cycles. I hear a lot of stories of African Americans feeling they are victims. They are somehow being held down. They blame white people for their situation. I’m not naive enough to think that racism doesn’t exist, I know it does. But the white people that I know believe in America. They believe that we all have amazing opportunities here to achieve great things. People who believe in hard work to get ahead. So it is frustrating for me to learn that African American children are being beat by those who love them under the premise of preparing them for the real world.
That seems to me like a bad cycle repeating itself. Adrian Peterson’s children should have had a magical childhood. They should’ve grown up in a fancy house with all of advantages wealth brings. They should’ve been proud to watch their father play football as one of the greatest receivers in history. Instead, they are being whipped, their dad is going to court, and has possibly lost his career. To top it off, Adrian will be portrayed as a victim by those who themselves choose to live as victims. Unfortunately, he will be seen as a victim for whatever consequences he receives for his actions. When in reality he himself is a victim of child abuse.
It may not have been his intent to abuse his child, but there seems to be a lack of intent on a larger scale. There is a portion of the population that needs to break the cycle one choice at a time, stay in school, don’t dress like a gangster if you don’t want to be treated as one, commit to one woman and have children just with her, work hard every chance you get, and prepare your children for the real world with love rather than violence.
That applies to all of us. While I get that as a white, suburban mom I don’t have the same perspective as Bonita Jackson, we are both mothers who want the best for our children. At our core we may be more alike than different. Adrian, sadly didn’t know any better way and followed the example set for him. At some point, not knowing any different shouldn’t be a reason for not making the choice to know better. He has the opportunity to break the cycle and truly be a role model. If he could genuinely do that, then I would be a big fan.