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Adrian Peterson was hit as a child. So was I. So were the majority of men our age and much older.
But here’s the thing.
Seat belts weren’t mandatory when we were growing up. It’s a piece of fabric that can prevent the loss of countless lives but I don’t ever remember my dad ever telling me to buckle up or buckling up himself. Now we know better.
It wasn’t that long ago that half of all American men smoked. I remember my dad puffing away on the balcony as my mom chided him relentlessly. Now, even he knows better than to light up because it’s not worth the health risks, nor the verbal abuse.
My dad used slurs that would be considered inexcusable by today’s standards, ate a diet that would make Paula Deen’s cooking look like a Michelle Obama school lunch menu, and sure, there was the occasional “whooping.” Now he knows better, as we all do.
All this isn’t to castigate my dad, that’s how most dads were. That’s how I remember most of my friends’ dads as well. It’s to say that when Adrian Peterson justifies hitting his kids because that’s how he was raised, he really should know better.
After the news of Peterson’s indictment broke, fellow NFL’ers like Darnell Dockett, Mark Ingram, and Donte’ Stallworth all chimed in about how times have changed compared to when guys our age were growing up.
The thing is though, we wouldn’t lament the “good ole days” the same way if Adrian Peterson were smoking two packs a day, throwing his toddler in the passenger seat without a seatbelt, and yelling racial slurs out of the window during frequent road rage outbursts.
Yes, times have changed. Because now we know better.
But it’s not guys like Dockett, Ingram, and Stallworth that are wrong. They’re right. That’s how we were raised. But Adrian Peterson is using that same line to actually justify repeatedly striking a 4-year-old kid with a tree branch and continues to incredulously defend his actions as though he did nothing wrong to the point where he literally smiled for his mug shot.
Peterson even told police that he would “never stop” hitting his kids. It’s one thing to understand abuse – or even look the other way when you see a parent hitting their kid. It’s another thing entirely to use as your all-encompassing parenting strategy.
While we may all look back and remember getting hit by a parent, most of us didn’t have a 220-pound NFL superathelete for a dad. The spankings were bad, but I couldn’t imagine how bad they’d be if one of the most impressive athletes in the world were behind them. Especially if that superhuman was holding a tree branch.
Adrian Peterson and the people that defend him have to realize that there’s a reason child abuse and child injury laws are on the books. Yes, most of us endured “whoopings” but not every “whooping” is created equal. Most of them don’t leave cuts across a child’s body a week afterward.
What Adrian Peterson did while intentionally trying to discipline his child was unintentionally assault him. It clearly wasn’t Peterson’s intent to “injure the child” but it’s never been any father’s intent until that father accidentally went too far.
It’s never been a father’s intent to leave a black eye, to leave cuts and bruises, or even to break an arm. Yet, as Adrian Peterson well knows, a father’s good intentions can quickly degrade into unintentional trauma.
And when Adrian Peterson says his “whoopings” helped him become who he is, I say the “whoopings” never beat talent, skill, or determination into him. Just like my dad’s whoopings didn’t beat supposed writing ability into me. I’m not a better person for the whoopings I received, and clearly, under indictment, neither is Adrian Peterson. Whoopings only beget more whoopings. They did “contribute”, however, to who he is today – a child beater.
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