For Minnesota Vikings fans, last fall 2014 was a disaster. After four winning preseason games to lose our star running back was a huge loss. But even worse were the accusations of child abuse during punishment of his son. As a fan, I was very disappointed by how the situation played out. Let’s be clear; there is no excuse for child abuse in 2015. We’ve long past those dark days when beatings were common discipline. However, we need to acknowledge that this is still a common way for many parents to handle child discipline problems. But, can we understand how a dad, who was also beaten by a loving father when he was a boy, could hit his child hard enough to leave bruises and scratches? Yes, I can. That is the nature of the cycle of all types of abuse. And I’m afraid a lot of our culture supports and reaffirms a culture of heroic survivors who overcame challenges. Sadly, a lot of people who endure abuse of any type do not overcome but suffer from the aftermath of these events for the rest of their lives. Understanding is not acceptance however. Adrian still has that cross to bear for quite some time.
For that reason, I was saddened that Adrian hasn’t fully embraced a new role as a model for reformed dads who come to realizethat hitting your child is just plain wrong. In his press conference today at Winter Park, it’s clear that Adrian loves his kids and his family. He told an emotional story of how is son suggested they run away together because he still loves him. That’s normal of course. Kids will do a lot of things to stay with, and protect their parents even if they are getting hurt in the process. That’s what makes the job of being a father such an awesome responsibility (in the dictionary sense of the word); we have to use our power, size and strength to protect our kids, even when that means protecting them from our worst impulses on how to “teach them a lesson.”
Given the NFL, contracts, agents and PR specialists, I doubt Adrian really had or has the independence to speak freely about this issue, or to open the Adrian Peterson Center for Non-Violence, but we have to hope that the issue continues to dog him now, if only because it will help more dads understand the difference between discipline and abuse.