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 don’t remember anything about my young life before I was 5. They always told me I was a happy, quiet child.
The first memories I have of my childhood are extreme bouts of corporal punishment. As to whether the corporal punishment or the home education came first is as fine of a question as the chicken and the egg.
When I misbehaved as a young child my mother had the belief that “If you spare the rod, you spoil the child” in regards to punishment. In fact that’s what she told me before the belt came out.
For the uninitiated a real leather belt taken off of a shelf can be a colossal terror for a small child. I suspect it was a 36″ model, the same size I wear now and that my father would have worn in his 30s.
My mother had a philosophy, that I assume was if I didn’t scream the neighbors would be less likely to intervene. Her exact words “Take it like a man”. Usually the beatings would be 10 at a time unless I cried or screamed, if a murmur came from my tiny mouth the count would be reset.
I cried a lot.
The beatings would continue until I was 13 and larger than her, at which point I took the belt from her by force and never allowed her to strike me again.
As my young life continued I did not proceed to go to school with my friends across the street (we played their Atari and I found shelter in their house). Instead I found myself at home 24/7 with an abusive mother who decided that school wasn’t for her son. In my later years I found out that this was for religious reasons and to keep me from worldly things.
My childhood coursework consisted of whatever books she chose for me. I excelled in subjects I had interest in which led to much bragging among friends and family by mother about my proper education. Reading, biblical courses, basic math, American history (redux in a christian slant, obviously) and spelling were my highlights.
When I was in my teens I hit a glass ceiling in my education. The coursework – Algebra, Trig, advanced courses were all above my aptitude levels at that time. What’s the problem? a person might ask. You have a teacher right? Unfortunately this is where my truth and many of others comes out.
I was alone, in my room, studying without a teacher.
This was my home education. I was taught core basics in my early years, in my teenage years I taught myself as I had the basic skills needed to learn from a book. For me – it was a personal shelter and I was able to avoid most verbal abuse by keeping my head inside of a book and not admitting that I didn’t know what I was doing. This continued until I was 18 years old, I failed multiple courses of advanced subject matter and at the end my mother simply stated that I wasn’t good enough.
My mother attempted to kill my father and myself when I was 16 years old because “God told her to do it”. Somehow she avoided jail time, instead going for mental evaluation. My education did not advance past that point. PTSD took over my teenage brain and I lived my next two years in fear.
I removed myself from my parents home at 18 years of age after acquiring a GED (this was my way to graduation according to my mother and her home school group). My father filed for divorce from my mother less than a week after I left. He is a good man. He stuck around to make sure I was able to get out.
I didn’t know anything about the world and I didn’t have any experiences to fall back on. I immediately joined the wrong crowd, drinking and smoking at 18, smuggling large quantities of weed when I was 19 until I was ripped off, drunken driving in my 20s. I never went to jail and I deserved to so many times. The thing about homeschooling is that you just don’t fucking know what to do because you have no experiences and no peers. My family lived in the country for almost all of my childhood and had contact with others at church and small home school gatherings only.
I never grew to learn what not to do or the consequences of my actions.
Today I’m in my mid 30s. I am married to a beautiful woman who showed me true love. I have alcoholic, abusive tendencies that have gained me some trouble in my 30s along with depression and PTSD. Fortunately I am stable and with the help of my loved ones I am conquering my past.
If anyone is reading this story feeling alone in their struggle I encourage them to find peers that have been down the same road. We need each other.
One last thing — regarding “spoiling the child.” I am a strong atheist who has had no need for any gods and have been since my 20s. The rod will always fail you.
~ Robert, class of 1996