Ask Amy: Terrible parents create terrible legacy

  • Article by: AMY DICKINSON
  • February 14, 2014 - 1:24 PM

Dear Amy: My sister and I have been conflicted about our parents for a long time.

All through our childhood, our dad used to beat us (and our older brother). We vividly remember him coming into our room at night and choking us for not going to sleep right away because we were talkative and shared a room. I was about 4 at the time, my sister 6.

Our mother did nothing about it and sometimes even watched! These days she remembers it as trying to “defuse” the situation. Since when is her behavior called defusing?

Our parents think they were model parents and even encourage me to punish my 1-year-old baby the same way they punished us.

They talk down to us, and my dad has given me a very inappropriate nickname. He smacks us around the back of our heads as he walks by (we’re in our 20s now). My mother calls us failures because we didn’t go to college.

Our parents also let us smoke from young ages (14 and 16) and never gave us any sort of sex talk, even though we had boyfriends around. We just can’t stand their attitude, and we’re not sure what to do.

We need an unbiased opinion.

Amy says: My unbiased opinion is that your parents are dangerous. They demeaned and physically punished you. When you were children, they didn’t teach you right from wrong. They didn’t protect you.

Instead of raising you to embrace the world (and have the world embrace you right back) your parents laid down a legacy of abuse and failure.

Do not let them continue this into the next generation. Your local department of children and family services may offer free parenting classes. Take a class to learn how to parent respectfully and to see how good your own instincts are (I think they’re great).

You need to protect yourself and your child. You don’t say whether you live with your parents (I hope not). But if you do, I think your first goal should be to get away from them. Second, you should put every ounce of your energy into making an awesome life for your baby — full of discovery, joy, love, kindness and respect. Never leave your child alone with your parents, and never follow their parenting tips.

‘Nonsense’ is serious

Dear Amy: I am 64. My second husband is 46. We’ve been married for three years.

We have an excellent sex life. My 26-year-old daughter lives with us. Often my husband mentions my daughter in his sexual fantasies. She is cute, trim and vivacious.

I’ve told him repeatedly that this is completely inappropriate and unacceptable.

How do I get him to stop this nonsense? Should I tell him to think of Halle Berry instead, or should I do something more drastic like getting up out of the bed and leaving the room every time he starts this verbal nonsense, so he will realize it’s not cool?

Amy says: It may help your husband to think of Halle Berry, but I think it would help you to think of Woody Allen (look it up).

If your husband doesn’t understand your actual verbal statements — “This is completely unacceptable” — then maybe he will catch on when he hears the door slam behind you (take your daughter with you, by the way).

You seem to think he’s a cutie pie in need of a little direction. I think he’s a creep and something of a threat to your household.

Touching production

Dear Amy: A letter writer was at a loss about what to do when her husband died.

I remember when a friend’s dad (who was an atheist) died. They thought a church service would not fit his lifelong views.

They found a small local theater and put a big screen onstage and had a slide show of photos from his life playing on a loop while family and friends used the podium to eulogize him. It was one of the most touching services I have ever attended!

Amy says: Funeral directors can help guide a nonreligious memorial service.

Send questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at

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