The Nurturer and Disciplinarian

Growing up, my mother was the nurturer and my father the disciplinarian. His was a thankless and unrewarding job, I’m sure; but someone had to be responsible for keeping me and my brother in line. It wasn’t until I was grown that I was able to appreciate all the effort and love required of his role.

My brother and I laugh over some of the absurd threats he’d make when we were kids. As funny as they seem now, they can sound quite convincing when you’re 10-years-old. Our favorite: “Boy, I’m gonna tear you a new asshole if you don’t straighten up!”

I think it was because of his role as disciplinarian that we were never close when I was a kid. There was a time when I was too afraid to even speak to him, and only in the last four or five years has our relationship matured into a real friendship. In fact, my father and I are capable of discussing topics I would never dream of mentioning to my mother. Sex, threesomes, masturbation—there’s almost nothing that can make my father flinch.

And yet, it took me almost a year to finally get up the courage to tell him and my mother about my legal trouble.

I fantasized about killing myself during the entire drive to their house. I couldn’t decide which would be most devastating to my parents: the disappointment of losing their son in a car crash or the disappointment of learning their son is going to prison for child pornography. Although death did sound like a reasonable option at the time, in retrospect, I realize it was absurd of me to think I could erase one selfish wrong with another.

After we ate dinner, my mother went to the bathroom while my father and I sat down in the living room to watch television. At the commercial break, I turned to my father and asked if he would be busy the following Monday.

“No. Why?”

My eyes began to swell, but I was relieved. I knew that once I got the conversation started, the rest would be easy.

“I need you to do me favor and go with me somewhere.”

My dad, who had been half asleep a minute earlier, sat straight up in his chair. The tears began to fall now, and somewhere within my chest, a knot began to form. I took a deep breath before continuing.

“I made a mistake, and I need you to come with me to see a lawyer.”

My father didn’t miss a beat and moved quickly to the couch to put an arm around me. His voice turned calm and delicate.

“Of course I will. Whatever you need. What happened?”

Not wanting to speak those dreadful words, I kept my response as vague as possible. “I downloaded some things I wasn’t supposed to. Some pornography.”

His tone remained calm, but I think he understood what I was talking about because he didn’t ask me to clarify.

I gave him the rundown of everything that had happened: the search warrant, the interview with the FBI, and the target letter. He held me as I cried into his shoulder and spoke encouragingly about getting everything sorted out. I couldn’t tell if he was saying those things because he actually believed them, or if he really was ignorant to the amount of trouble I was in.

I didn’t care, though. It had been nearly a year, and it was nice to finally hear something comforting.

The sight of my crying startled my mother when she walked into the room, and she asked what was wrong. My father, not wanting to upset her, said something vague and promised her everything would be okay.

I doubt she knew what he was talking about, but she went along with it, anyway.

“It’ll be okay,” she said. “Just don’t worry about it. I don’t want you to get sick from worrying.”

This made me cry even more. My mother didn’t even know what it was I had done, yet it made no difference to her. I could have murdered someone for all she knew. Her only concern, along with my father’s, was my wellbeing.