Trigger warning for Hurts Me More Than You series: posts in this series may include detailed descriptions of corporal punishment and physical abuse and violence towards children.
I knew that I could get spanked for things I wasn’t even involved in, like my 3 year old brother talking and shouting when we were all supposed to be asleep. If he didn’t confess, or if Mom just didn’t care who was talking, we all got spanked.
Mom didn’t stop spanking me until I was about 9 years old. Even then, I still had moments of Oh my God, is she going to hit me this time too? When she’d burst into the bedroom I shared with my siblings, I very quickly tried to tell her that I wasn’t the one talking, or I just pretended to be asleep. Sometimes that worked and my ass would be spared.
I don’t remember all of Mom’s punishments. My sister claims that we were sometimes whipped with switches from our forsythia bush. I remember plucking the switches to bring to my mom to whip my sister with, but I never remember being whipped with them. Probably because those memories were a lot more painful, physically and mentally.
I know I’ve blocked stuff out, because my memories from 6 to 9 years old are patchy and it just feels like there’s stuff missing.
But there are things I’ll always remember, like the plastic black spatula my mother used (and broke in a fit of rage one night when she walked in, slammed it up against the dresser, and yelled at us). I’ll always remember the rage etched on her face when she stormed into the room. I’ll always remember silently seething when she brought us in later, apologized, and hugged us. I’ll always remember hating her as a child, because she showed little patience for us.
Even as I transition in adulthood, I’ll still live with what she’s done to me. It’ll stay with me for the rest of my life, but at least it’ll teach me to never inflict violence on my own children, God willing I have some. Through the pain, there is a lesson for both my mother and I, and for me it is this:
Violence breeds respect based on fear, but true respect is born out of mutual love.
And that’s a mindset I hope to practice when I have my own kids. With my partner’s help, I’ll be gentle and kind towards our children and not hurt them like my mother hurt me.
My dad made “spankers” out of conveyer belt that he cut and sanded. He even put a hole in one end so you could hang it on a hook. We had two of them and my parents would warn us not to ever try to hide them. He gave some to my friends’ parents and I liked to make fun of my friends who were only hit with wooden spoons. Conveyer belt stings, but leaves no welts because of its surface area. It is blunt force but not as blunt as a baseball bat.
It is the perfect way to hit your children and leave no evidence.
My dad hated spanking me and so did my mom. And so, when I had a rebellious attitude, they usually told me they would “have mercy” on me, as Jesus had mercy on our souls, and that though I deserved a spanking, I wasn’t going to get one. But when I did get a spanking, they were very very angry with me. My dad has apologized, now that I am an adult, for only ever “spanking in anger.” He was the child of an alcoholic and was determined to do everything right, to be the best and most responsible dad there was. That makes him easier to forgive than other childrens’ parents, who spanked with cold detachment.
But I got older and stopped being spanked, and my parents did not understand why I cringed when they raised their voices. It was a reflex. My guts seemed to drop out and my legs turned to jelly when I knew they were angry at me. They got angry when I was secretive and moody and I flinched when they came up too suddenly behind me. That made them angrier. They weren’t abusive parents and I shouldn’t treat them like it.
I have forgiven them for spanking me, but not for hitting my little brother, who used a wheelchair because cancer paralyzed his legs.
He died when he was five.
I don’t know what he could possibly have done to merit a beating. I don’t want to ever ask them. I tread around the subject now, because I no longer live at home and want to keep the peace. The momentary act of hitting or being hit is small potatoes compared to the aftershock. I am afraid I will be cringing my whole life.
P.S. The relief I feel after writing this is huge.