HA note: Quick Silver Queen blogs at The Eighth and Final Square. This story is reprinted with her permission. Also by Quick Silver Queen on Homeschoolers Anonymous: “All My Fault, Not Good Enough.”
Trigger warning for To Break Down a Child series: posts in this series may include detailed descriptions of corporal punishment and physical abuse and violence towards children.
I wish I hadn’t done a lot of things, and wish I could change other things, but basically, I have one regret in my life. One thing that I wish I had done differently. One thing that still angers me to think about, because of the cruelty.
Thanks to a friend of mine who posted the link on facebook, I read an article titled “First time obedience, really?” First-time obedience is something that is extremely important in my family. It pretty much goes along with formula parenting. The example my dad would always use as to the merits of first-time obedience is if one of his very small children ran out into the street (which wouldn’t happen anyway), and a car came, he would say “Stop!” or “Come back!” and they would do it immediately, unlike (again, his example) “your cousins”. (Sorry, uncles and aunts. Don’t feel bad, though…at least your kids still have brains that aren’t being controlled!)
So while seeing the downside to it (which I will elaborate on in a minute), I was also warring inside myself. It would save someone from death, right? So it’s good? But on the other hand, I saw what happened, and it was most certainly not good.
Two years old. Rebellious. Self-willed. Wicked. Too young to like or dislike anything. Too young to have opinions.
Uhh yeah, that’s my parents for you. They don’t believe in the “terrible twos”…they believe in “terrible hearts”.
You know, the verse in Proverbs that says foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child but the rod of correction will drive it from him. And the verse that the heart is wicked and who can know it. So the first problem is, they don’t come to parenting with the view that these are people. They come to parenting with the view that these are wicked little sinners who need a radical change, whose thoughts and feelings and opinions and likes and dislikes don’t matter because it is all selfish willfulness.
Cue the dinner table. There’s a very small child in the high chair, whom dad is feeding. This child is a baby, really…crawling, maybe walking; can’t even say real words yet.
“Open up!” dad says, moving the spoon towards her.
She accepts that bite, but doesn’t like the food, and spits it back out.
“No, you eat it,” dad says, scooping it back up and attempting to give it to her again.
She makes a disgusted face and turns her head. We all laugh at the cute little shudder she makes.
“Don’t laugh, it encourages her,” dad says, still trying to force the bite with the slightly more stern command “Open”. He presses the spoon against her soft mouth, trying to force it open.
When she continues resisting, he moves her head to face him and commands sternly, “Open.”
She may open her mouth at that point, or she may not; in which case he takes the tray off the chair and gives her a few loud swats, sets her back down, and resumes with the “open” stuff.
Meanwhile the rest of us try to ignore it and eat our dinners.
If she still doesn’t open her mouth, again with the swats, and she sits there crying, looking at him with terror in her eyes, her nose running all over the place. If her mouth is open from crying, he shoves it in. If she tries to spit it out, he doesn’t let her, and she accepts that she has to keep it in her mouth.
Then comes the battle to get her to swallow.
What one- or two-year-old do you know who knows the meaning of the word “swallow”, let alone “open”? Most one- and two-year-olds are lucky to know the word “no”.
I’m sitting there, dying inside, longing to take her in my arms, wipe her tears, blow her nose, and cuddle her safe in my arms.
Nobody, not even mom, was allowed to give her any comfort. Not even dad did, until she did whatever he wanted. And if he got tired of spanking her, he sent her to bed…and when she got up she had to eat the same thing she disliked. Because her likes and dislikes didn’t matter.
Nothing mattered except that she obeyed the first time, every time.
My only regret is that I didn’t stick up for her, for them, every time it happened with I don’t know how many of them, probably all, at one time or another.
The last time it happened when I was there, I was so close to exploding that had he spanked her one more time, I would have done something. I just wish I had…that I had stood up long before.
And that is my regret.
you were a child. to be made responsible for siblings is another wrong to lay at their door, not yours. i’ve been the one at the table too, wishing it would all just end, trying to be invisible.
you are brave for speaking.
I was a child when I watched my mother ‘spank’ a child for an entire week. To this day it still sickens me and forgiving those involved, including myself as a witness, isn’t easy. A single mother from our church absolutely had to be out of town and her two year old little girl ‘Jaime’ couldn’t accompany her. My brother was the same age and since our house was already set up for children, we gladly took on another. The poor child cried from the moment she left her mother’s arms. My mother, being the obsessive religious addict that she was, determined that this child was simply a ‘brat’ who needed discipline. ‘Jaime’ was told to hush, given to the count of three, picked up and slapped vigorously until my mother tired, and set down again and told to hush. She cried until she vomited. Mom said it was deliberate and manipulative. She sobbed until she shook. This only brought on more beatings and every beating only served to make my mother more angry. The only time she wasn’t crying was when she slept out of sheer exhaustion and even then she heaved uncontrollably. I don’t know how she survived. I never saw her eat or drink a single thing (mom was terribly upset that a child of age 2 still relied on a bottle and refused to give her one). I do remember rocking ‘Jaime’, to give her some sort of comfort, when my mother had to do other things and couldn’t be focused on ‘breaking her will’.
My mother is a pediatric nurse who has since spent many years healing the wounds of children. She has given her entire lunch to a kid who simply said ‘I’m hungry’. She has a heart big enough to love all the world’s children and has cried herself to sleep due to those she couldn’t save.
To me, this only goes to show how terribly the fundamental Christian teachings can warp those who truly have pure intentions and good hearts. And I may never forget the sound of that child’s sobs.
Wow, that is sick!! Poor baby!!! My dad ignored the kids saying when they had to use the bathroom, and spanked them anyway, but when they went in their pants, he spanked them more because he was angered.
It amazes me that our government is allowing this criminal abuse to continue. I hope you former homeschoolers organize and continue to expose this barbaric abuse. Being a secular person, my opinion doesn’t have the weight your opinions do, being formed from harsh experience. You are all wonderfully brave! Know that the vast majority of Americans are with you. Not to mention the many Europeans who are far advanced on this matter, even outlawing “spanking.”
Even a few years ago, I would have thought Pearl’s teachings were an aberration, but when one sees the extent to which harsh punishments are advocated in some churches, remaining complacent is a luxury we can no longer afford. When one hears, for example, a pastor who claims that shyness in a child is a sin and that a parent is not training a child correctly unless the child has been spanked five times before breakfast, it is impossible to ignore just how prevalent the view that a child’s will should be broken and the tendency to overspiritualize everything a child does has become.
The abuses I see in the stories, are not so obvious in Southern California, unless you go to an Assembly of God church, United Pentecostal, and an IFB church, if you can find one. Funny how these disgraces -for-parents never realize that at best, they do make God and Jesus to be monsters by their examples, and appear to have values consistent with the Dark Ages than recent centuries. And your father, QSQ definitely has narcisstic personality disorder, which CAN be aggravated by religious mania. You are trying to break this cycle in your own life and more power to you ! There is a blog that goes into the various forms and states of narcissm, I think it’s called Lightshouse Blog, you may want to Google it. My room mate went on the site and printed the things that applied to his family, and they were both alarmed and angry that he could think far enough to do this-because now what they did could be named, and he was on to them, so the gig was up.