Dr. Laura – Friend or Foe?

When my older kids were younger they used to listen to Dr. Laura on the radio when their grandpa picked them up from school. The irony of that does not escape me now.  I was working and not able to be there for them.

There were times, when I was married to my first husband, that I was the only one working and bringing in income.  Quitting work didn’t seem like an option. And after I was divorced working was a necessity.

And funny enough, years later when clearing off a bookcase to move, I found one of Dr. Laura’s books there. I vaguely remember buying it. It was probably 1992 – I read a lot of self-help books in 1992. This one was 10 Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives. I would have read that one when my now-ex-husband left me the first time.  I tried hard to fix what was wrong with me. Guess I should have read it more than once.

Problem was, not all of it was me. I married a person (NOT a real man) who beat me and verbally abused me. I figured as long as he didn’t hit the kids and they didn’t know he hit me it was all ok. Guess that kind of went out the window when he beat my head into a wall right in front of three of them. This was right after he locked himself into a bedroom and shot a gun so that we’d all think he’d killed himself. I can still hear the screams. Their screams. How could any parent do such a thing?

Pretty simple, I guess when its all about them. Self-absorbed and childish are two of the kinder words I’d use to describe him. I should have changed the locks when he left the first time but I was afraid I couldn’t raise four young kids on my own. And I was afraid to admit I’d made a mistake. I wasn’t used to failure and this was a BIG failure.

Even when he said to me one day, “I’m trying to decide, should I just kill myself or should I kill you first,” I didn’t act. I remember that little voice inside screaming, “If I get a vote, I pick just you,” but I didn’t leave and I didn’t make him leave. Instead I accepted that he was going to kill me one day. It seemed inevitable.

Wow, how pathetic a mother I must have been letting my kids endure such an environment. I even had a next-door neighbor who I hardly knew come over and give me a lecture about raising my kids in such a house – seems I wasn’t hiding things nearly as well as I thought I was. Everyone knew what he was doing but nobody said a thing until that.

Eventually, I got lucky. He left me telling me that I’d never been there for him. Completely untrue and unfounded but a blessing for me and the kids.  I know I wasn’t perfect in the relationship either but I had stood by and tried to help through all of his mental illness.

It was rough for them dealing with everything. And I was mostly at fault for the state of their life. I hadn’t picked well. I hadn’t picked a good dad. They loved him but he wasn’t good for them and he wasn’t good at being a dad. Kind of explains why they struggled so hard as they grew up.

Funny thing is, I have a fifth child now. The rest are all grown. And he looked at me the other day and said, “We’re so lucky to have dad.” At first I agreed. But then I said, “No, I’m lucky to have dad. You’re not lucky. I picked him for you. Its not luck.”

I listen to Dr. Laura now almost every day. In my office and in the car, if its time for her show you can bet my radio will be tuned in. I learn a lot from listening to her show. Sometimes its words of wisdom directly from her. Odd, how sometimes its such obvious things but when we are wrapped up in the situation we just can’t see it. And sometimes its from her listeners. I am inspired by them in two ways. Often times I am struck by their power to overcome really tough situations. And sometimes, I hear them tell their story and ask their question and think to myself, “I never want to be like that.” Sometimes these are hard lessons to learn and I feel for them. It took me a long time to learn after all.

And there are moments, brief moments like snapshots that stand out. Experiences that make me smile – when Courtney, my daughter, is in the car with me, she’ll grumble if Dr. Laura is on. “We used to have to listen to that with Grandpa,” she’ll say. 23 and worldly, she doesn’t need Dr. Laura now she thinks. And other times, I’ve come into my office to find her yelling at the radio. “What’s wrong, now?,” I’ll ask. And worked up, she’ll reply, “These people are so stupid. Even I knew that wasn’t the right thing to do,” she’ll explode. “Dr. Laura told them exactly what I would have,” she’ll conclude.  And I try to hide my smug smile. Maybe even after screwing up some important things she’s gotten the message.

So many people berate Dr. Laura for her views and outlook. How many of them have ever really listened to her? Her message is really so simple. Put children first. If your focus is there then you’ll fight hard to do what is best for them. Children aren’t an accessory like a new purse or bracelet. They are little people who depend upon you for everything. Don’t sweat the little things. Pick wisely, not just from the heart. Morals and character matter. Real men will swim through shark-infested water for their wives. Real wives will take care of their husbands because they love them. Once you put everything into perspective its all so easy.  What’s there not to like? Be secure in yourself and don’t make excuses. Own your own stuff and change what you don’t like about yourself. “Go do the right thing.”

I wonder what would have happened if I had sat in Grandpa’s car and listened to Dr. Laura years ago. 

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