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 was never told the words, “This hurts me more than you.” But I did hear, “This grieves my soul, but more importantly, it grieves God,” “Spare the rod; spoil the child,” “This is for your own good,” or my personal favorite from Mom, “I’m yelling – that must mean I’m not spanking enough,” many times.
As the fifth of seven, my parents were set in their disciplining ways by the time I came along. The Pearls’ books were scattered throughout our house. While my parents did not take all of their recommendations, there were enough implemented. I was spanked from the time I was a year old until the age of 17; with a threat of spanking even after I started college at 18. “You know, you’re not too old to spank,” was said more times than I would like to admit during the summer I was home after my freshman year.
Needless to say, I did everything in my power to not spend another summer at home until I finished college.
Some of my earliest memories are of being spanked. We could distinguish the distinct squeal of the spoon drawer from the furthest parts of the house and we knew we had to scatter, or at least distance ourselves from the offender or risk being painted with that infamous “broad brush.” I was not a bad child. But I was a child. I was sometimes willful. I made mistakes. I was clumsy. I didn’t understand math. All of these things could earn you a trip to Mom and Dad’s bedroom or the laundry room.
They were always terrifyingly calm when they spanked us. They would wait the necessary 10 minutes to cool down (while making me wait cowering and scared shitless in the laundry room or their bedroom) so they weren’t “spanking out of anger.” They may not have been visibly angry, but they were seething inside. The force that was applied and the length of the spanking correlated, not with what we had done, but with how angry it made them.
There was one spanking Dad gave me when I was about 8 that went on for 87 swats – one for each answer I had gotten wrong as I was trying to memorize my times tables. I was required to count them out as they rained down on my bent-over backside. I was immensely grateful for the skirts I had to wear because I could hide the fact that I wasn’t locking my knees out and therefore could clench as I heard the rod whistling toward me. The pause between swats was the worst – the anticipation killed me, and I’m fairly certain his timing was inconsistent on purpose so I wouldn’t know when it was coming. This particular spanking was earned because I couldn’t understand math; because no one had the patience to actually explain it to me, and because a third grader should not be teaching herself any of her own subjects.
This was also during a three day period in which I was not allowed to eat for the same reason I was earning the nightly marathon spankings.
That was not the only time they took away food as a form of punishment. There were several occasions when I and usually two of my brothers would have food taken away while also being spanked repeatedly until one of us confessed to whatever heinous act our 12, 9, and 6 year old selves had done – like leaving a door open, or turning the heat up.
My parents used wooden spoons (that were constantly breaking) when we were small, but when we got to be about 5 or 6, we graduated to the rod. The rod was a wooden paddle that was about 2’ long, 3” wide, and about ¾” thick.
Mom had carved “in love” into it.
I still snort when I think of that.
That thing packed quite a wallop! The first few times it was used on me, I wasn’t prepared for how much power it had and it knocked me over. I learned to brace for it so I didn’t lose my balance. It must have made a satisfying sound as it smacked into our backsides… until my older brother took it into the back yard and broke it when he was about 14 and sick of everything. I remember hearing it from across the house as my older siblings were in the laundry room with the door shut. After that, we went through a series of objects, such as arrows with the tips taken off (those shattered too easily and weren’t cost-effective) until they settled on a fiberglass rod that one of my brothers found somewhere that was about 30” long and 1/2” in diameter. That thing stung so bad! As it started to splinter, it would leave tiny cuts on my hips and butt. Mom and Dad didn’t believe me until I showed one of my sisters the welts and scabs after one particularly long spanking when I was about 12. Dad apologized and said he would be more careful next time. Then he duct taped that end, started using it as the handle end, and didn’t hold back. It was much more ergonomic that way! The better grip must have made it easier to get a good back-swing.
Spankings became less frequent as I began to reach puberty, but then they picked up as I moved into adolescence because I started to have my own ideas. The shame I felt every time I was spanked over the age of 11 was terrible. I was very proud of the fact that it had been weeks since I was last deserving of a spanking, but then something would happen and I would have a visit to the laundry room with Mom or Dad and my world and self-worth would come crashing down.
I am not a proponent of spanking.
I am fine in spite of my spankings; not because of them.