This is going to be hard to write because I know my mom reads these posts.
I was hit a lot as a child. My dad used his belt, folded in half. I can still remember the sound of him taking off his belt and the crack the belt made as it struck my skin. I would have welts on my butt and, when he missed, the backs of my legs. On more than one occasion, the backs of my knees received the blows. I would get anywhere from one blow to five or six or more…
I remember being about six years old and crying for hours prior to getting hit because I was so scared of the pain. I don’t remember what I had done, but I begged my butt to go away just for a few hours, until it was over. I begged a physical part of my body to go away…
Another random memory was a “joke” my dad played on my mom once. He brought me into their bedroom and locked the door, telling me to act like I was getting hit as he hit the bed with the belt. I screamed and cried, all acting, while my dad hit the bed and my mom rammed her body into the door, screaming at him to stop. What the fuck.
When my skin began to split open from the belt, he moved to a paddle. He made it in his shop…it was about 3/4 an inch thick and maybe five inches wide and probably nine inches long. Solid wood. My sister’s name was on one side and my name was on the other. When we would get hit, the date and offense would be written on our side. My sister was hit a few times, but she was the kind of child you could look at wrong and she would behave. It became a running joke in the family that hitting me was like a reset button…and my side of the paddle filled up. My dad would say “it’s about time to reset the kid.” The offenses varied…but the main thread was lying. I lied so much as a child…and I can’t help but think that I lied because I knew I was going to be hit even if I told the truth. I was also very strong-willed and that doesn’t go over well in a Southern “children should be seen and not heard” environment.
When I was ten or eleven, I ended up in the counselor’s office at school. The counselor asked if I had ever been hit. “Of course, all the time”. She was surprised and asked me more about it. I was surprised that she was surprised. Child Protective Services was called and my family was investigated. My dad was so angry at me that I was even more afraid. Before the investigator came to the house, I was told by my parents that I shouldn’t say anything because I would be taken away and I would be placed in a home where it would be much worse. I lied to the investigator.
A few months later, there was a newspaper article about three children down the road from us whose dad locked them in the trailer and set the trailer on fire. All three children died…and the newspaper said CPS had been called for the children but the investigator hadn’t been out yet. My dad cut out the picture of the children and put it on the fridge for over a year, telling me, “they were actually being abused and the investigator came here instead of there.”
I have lots of thoughts and reflections about these events and how they shaped me and how I choose to discipline my own child. I can’t write about them now. I still remember those children’s faces though.