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Corporal Punishment

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I have told a few stories now about my father. But I felt like I really wasn’t painting a complete picture here because my mother was also involved in a lot of these stories. So here is another one:

My parents were both big believers in corporal punishment. Unfortunately, I just read a whole wiki article on child abuse that I probably shouldn’t have. But I wanted to get the terminology right.

I don’t want to get too political here and I know I don’t have children, but I don’t support the idea of causing physical pain to a child intentionally. And even if I did, I don’t know where the line is drawn between punishment and abuse.

Neither one of my parents particularly cared about responding to an offense in an appropriate or rational way. I certainly misbehaved on occasion, though not often. The punishment was always too severe to be worth it for me.

My mother was generally the one that ‘punished’ us. It just occurred to me that she may have been protecting us from my father’s wrath in doing so. But her punishments always crossed the boundary.

She would slap us in the face, even from a very young age, if we said something she didn’t like. Especially if we hurt her feelings. She would force our heads under running water and wash our mouths out with soap if we said something offensive. She was vicious and inconsistent in these areas. One day she didn’t care if I cursed and the next she was dragging me by my hair into the bathroom.

She was big on hitting us with things. Her hand was only satisfying if she was hitting our face. And not always even then. I think she wanted more leverage than her arm could give her.

At dinner she would hit the backs of our hands with wooden spoons for something like playing with our food. Or not wanting to eat something (which with my pickiness was all the time). When we didn’t want to take a bath she would hit us with a yardstick. I actually remember she had to replace several old wooden ones that she had broken on us. The new ones had a metal spine that would cut our bare skin.

Once we got a little bit older, she stopped hitting us with things and starting throwing things at us. I can’t tell you how many glass coffee pots my siblings and I have had broken over us. Dozens.

She would get so angry at us. Or in general. That she would pick the nearest object and throw it as us. Or hit us with it. Sometimes, if I was quick, I could avoid it. But other times, she would catch me off guard. Or my back would be turned.

She suffers from severe depression and that probably actually helped us. Some days she was too depressed to get out of bed. Or care what we were saying or doing. Or hurt us.

There was never any real rhyme or reason to her violence. That was one of the scary things about it. My father was almost always angry, always volatile. But my mother would seemingly choose random things to lash out at us.

There was always a catalyst. A minor argument, saying the wrong word, laughing at the wrong time. I think she always intended to be violent and abusive, she just like to have an excuse. And if we hadn’t done anything wrong lately, she would find an excuse.

I think this casual, ongoing violence in my home is one of the reasons why I have touch issues. Even to this day, if I am arguing with someone and they move their hands or move towards me, I flinch. I am mentally and emotionally preparing for them to hit me, or find something to hit me with. I don’t know if those instincts will ever disappear.


6 responses »

  1. hellokalykitty

    I understand this My parents were big on corporal punishment. I have touch issues. I never put that particular two and two together but it makes sense.

    • I also have touch issues because of sexual abuse. But I do think that being hurt by your parents, when they are supposed to protect you and keep you safe, is so damaging. Especially if they are physically abusive and not ‘just’ punishing you. I would love to see a study on corporal punishment and intimacy/touch issues in life.

  2. good writing. I always think it is the inconsistency and anticipation that were most difficult to deal with.

  3. hellokalykitty

    Just wanted to let you know I nominated you for the liebster award. The details can be found on my latest post 🙂


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