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.
Two things I hate hearing the most are: “Why are you getting spanked?” and of course “I got spanked as a kid and I turned out fine!”
We four siblings rode our bikes to a park, and we were supposed to be home by 5pm. I was 11 and didn’t look at my watch. When it was 5:30pm and we were still on the swings, terror gripped me. I didn’t want to go home, then. We had to, and every delaying moment would make it worse.
We returned home eventually. Mom lined us up. My little sister, the youngest, got the paddle first, sprawled on a bed. The correct technique is bare-bottom paddling until the child is gasping with sobs. She was too little for it, and I tensed with rage. She kicked and screamed and fell off the bed.
Mom moved on to my brothers. You spank boys harder. They need to be responsible. Soon she grabbed my arm and yanked me across the bed. She pulled my shorts and underwear off and put her elbow into my back to keep me from escaping.
The paddle was thick but slightly smaller than average—she could swing it quickly. No set number of licks. Just bruised and deeply red bottom and thighs. The thighs hurt the worst. I thought: I’m going to run away. Call the police. No, wait, the HSLDA radio show said they will take my siblings away from each other.
“Why are you getting spanked?” You must answer correctly. You have to have “real repentance.” It sometimes takes multiple paddlings to get it. You sit funny that day.
“Are you sorry?” I am whatever it takes, Mom.
I am required to hug her and can’t withdraw too fast. Real repentance.
I want to kill her. Or myself. A few years later, I try to kill myself, but I can’t get anything right.
How this kind of thing happens, I understand. She was a frustrated woman, angry with how her life was turning out at age 34. Her husband was distant. She did not feel she could control much. It was past 5pm, where were her children? They need to learn better to obey—obey the first time always, no questions ever.
She and her friends subconsciously (at times openly) judged each other based on their kids’ behavior. And believe me, I know kids can be deeply frustrating—my coworkers today complain about their kids all the time. It all makes sense.
Today’s culture tells me that we never hit women, we can hit children as punishment (“I turned out fine!”), and we can hit men whenever.
How about just not hitting anyone?
I have 10 siblings, so anytime an infraction had been committed that warranted spanking, but the exact perpetrator was unclear (“who tracked mud on the carpet?”), my mother would grab a belt or wooden spoon and have us all line up at her bedroom door for sometimes hours at a time as we all received the punishment one by one.
This means I have been spanked for literally nothing countless times. But trying to beg off and sobbing out “I didn’t do it!” only resulted in more spanks and a cold “I’m sure you’ve done Something that I missed.”
Occasionally, my siblings and I would be able to convince one of our own to take the blame for the ambiguous crime so that only one of us had to be punished. We had a system where we took turns volunteering if the option was given. But even when it wasn’t my turn, hearing the belt thwacks on my brothers’ legs would make me violently ill, and just thinking about it today is upsetting my stomach.
From as early as I can remember, a spanking has never made me feel “sorry”. Only angry, sick, and determined to never again let this happen to me (even though I was just as helpless to stop it the next time). I have never ever felt as angry as I did after getting spanked.
As an adult, I avoid speaking to my mother, as just seeing her upsets my stomach, and I struggle with any situation that could lead to confrontation. I used to work under an aggressive boss that I disagreed with frequently, but any time I even thought of confronting him on the smallest issue, my knees would get weak, my stomach would flip, and my hands would begin to sweat and shake uncontrollably. That same reaction can happen to me anytime I consider any confrontation; once it happened when my room mate ate my yogurt and the thought crossed my mind that I might speak to her about it.
It’s exactly the reaction my body would have through my childhood when I knew with certainty that I had a spanking coming my way.