Trigger warnings: references (sometimes graphic) to emotional, physical, religious, and sexual abuse.
HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Auriel” is a pseudonym. Auriel blogs at Drying My Wings.
Also in this series: Part One: Growing Kids the Abusive Way | Part Two: Isolation and Ideology | Part Three: Mini-Parents | Part Four: The Sound of a Sewing Machine | Part Five: The Aftermath of Childhood Abuse
Part One: Growing Kids the Abusive Way
“Turn around, put your hands on the bed.” You scream, “No mommy, please!” She’ll grab you by your arm, wrist, shoulder, lapel, jaw or hair, shake, twist, or drag you, scratch, pull, shove, slap or kick you if you don’t move your butt to her room. “You selfish, spoiled rotten brat! You’re just a little ingrate, you little jerk. Let’s have a spanking!” she yells. Escape is futile.
“You’re abusing me! How could you be so cruel?” your mom asks in tears over her rage. You clench your fists and teeth at the injustice, but can do nothing. After all, you’re an “idiot” and a “stupid a-hole.”
She has told you that this hurts her more than it hurts you.
My parents were abused as kids.
They perpetuated the cycle with us.
With their first child, my parents discovered Growing Kids God’s Way by the Ezzos. True to the teachings, my parents controlled our hearts with fear, and later taught Growing Kids classes to dozens of families over the years, and taught me the classes to use on my younger siblings. I grew up in a Catholic, upper middle class family, and was homeschooled K-12, starting out under an umbrella charter school, moving to become our own private homeschool when I entered high school.
As far as didactics go, I learned a great deal. While my friends used Mother of Divine Grace (MODG) or Seton, we used an eclectic mix of those and other curriculums like Abeka since the Catholic curriculums usually require an overload of coursework. My education was classical and informative until middle school when my chronically and mentally ill mom gave up on teaching us. From there, I had a tutor, online classes, or taught myself through my textbooks. Lucky for me, I had a passion for learning and was pretty studious. I ended up graduating early!
Unfortunately, the damage was done.
I was physically, sexually, emotionally, and spiritually abused and neglected as a child.
From the time I was 6 months old, up until I was a teenager, my parents beat me with a leather strap. This was based on the Ezzo’s teaching of chastisement. My parents would force me to pull up my dress, and if I were especially stubborn, they’d have me pull down my panties. Just the humiliation was enough to fuel my ire. The pain only compounded the injury. Flinching, screaming, or crying meant longer beatings. So, you learn to shut up, have “first time obedience,” “right away all the way with a happy heart.” Don’t show even a flicker of anger, sadness, discontent, or any negative emotion. Those are signs of rebellion.
I often had scratches and bruises, in various stages of healing. They’d start out as the new red or white fingerprint marks or welts, moving to purplish blues, healing to ugly greens and sickly yellows.
Some days, the punishment was only receiving smacks from a wooden ruler, running scores of laps around the yard or being flicked in the face. Other times, punishment was no supper.
My stomach would suffer, painfully contorting, gnawing at the emptiness, and I would cry myself to sleep.
Sometimes we would only be fed plain oatmeal or bread and water for the week as punishment. My brothers were locked outside or forced to sleep naked on the cold floor as punishments. And it’s hard to imagine the amount of screaming we bore.
Back then, tears were weak. They could be used against you. I couldn’t let anyone see them, or they’d be powerful. I’d curl in a ball on the floor in a corner, and just sit, and rock, and cry, soothing myself in the dark. I reverted to thumb sucking when I was 8. Even today, I still rub my arm and hug myself to self-soothe.
I tried to protect my siblings by covering for them on chores and standing up to my parents for them. My littlest sibling even called me Mommy, and would call to me for help and protection. We’d take beatings for each other too. But if no one confessed to a failure on a chore (read: perfectly swept floor), everyone would suffer. If we brought a sibling into our mistakes, we would be held outside the room, while our parents reminded us that the screams of our siblings were our own fault. Overtime, you become jaded to pain. It no longer hurts you, and the screams of others become mundane and almost comical.
To be honest, I was so sheltered, I didn’t even know I was being beaten or abused. I thought this was legal spanking.
Nightly, we’d fall asleep to domestic violence, fights, slamming doors, broken glass. After a nice tuck in and a whispered, “Jesus loves you,” we’d hear Mom attacking Dad. She’d claw, scratch, knee, hit and punch him, pounding her fists into his chest and back, smacking him with objects.
A few snapshots of my home life:
- Mom threatening Dad with a knife in our kitchen right in front of me
- Dad leaving me in my Mom’s room to talk her out of suicide
- Dad throwing my brother into a bedpost
- Mom driving recklessly nearly driving into oncoming traffic or a telephone pole
- Mom yelling at us and publically humiliating us in restaurants
In the end, I learned to lie to save my skin.
I learned to take my siblings away from domestic violence. I learned that violence was acceptable.
This is not to say that my parents didn’t love me.
I firmly believe they did, and see it in countless examples. They hugged me, cared for me, kissed away my childhood scrapes, bought me gifts just because, and told me that they loved me. Birthdays and holidays were special, and they taught me fervently, took me on outings, gave me my faith, drove me to events, encouraged me to learn musical instruments, play sports, and compete in speech and debate.
It’s not like they are monsters.
But they are hurt people who probably should never have had kids. The abusive techniques propagated by the Ezzos jived with my parents’ abusive upbringings. It was their normal, supported by “experts.”
I don’t hate my parents.
I don’t know how to hate human beings. All I feel for them is love, pity, and a need to be far away from them out of self-preservation.
To be continued.
We did GKGW, too. I had a lot of spankings, but there were never a beating, and I always got the number of spanking of my age. Every time I was spanked when I was ten, it was always ten spankings, no more, no less. I’m not sure where my mom got that from, lol.
I am so sorry this happened to you. It’s not right, and it amazes me at how many homeschool families took it that far. My mom was beat as a child, and so she was very conscience that she didn’t want to take spankings that far.
Thank you for your caring. I’m glad your mom remembered her childhood pain and did not hurt you as much as she was hurt.
I am so sorry that this happened to you. It is hard to parent right with an abusive background – you were not extended grace and you don’t know how to do that with your own kids. I hope you get some counseling before you have children to learn what you did not get too. Keep learning and growing and healing!
Indeed, I think my parents only knew abusive tactics from their parents and GKGW didn’t help that. I’ve been through counseling including several types of proven therapies, and read all psych self-help books my library has. 🙂 I aim to be a good mom to any children who might come in my future.
“I aim to be a good mom to any children who might come in my future.” Almost all of us aim to be that mom, but sometimes we forget, in our zeal for some other goal or our preoccupation with our own struggles, that children are given to us as gifts, that we are responsible in how we treat those gifts, and that each child is a human being, an equal, a brother or sister to us as we journey together, worthy of our respect just as we expect respect from him. May the community of homeschool parents foster the right kind of parental attitudes and behavior.
Reblogged this on Leaving Fundamentalism and commented:
After yesterday’s post on the Ezzos, here’s the firsthand experience from Auriel, who was raised under their Growing Kids God’s Way method.