Monday, August 27, 2012

Probably Not

Do you remember when I couldn’t breathe? Probably not. But I do.

 I remember the sensation of weight on my chest, weight on my eyelids, weight on my heart. Expectations were heavy, Responsibilities were unrealistic, Burdens were unbearable. You thought I was strong, you thought I was fine. But it’s only because you never asked. Were you too caught up in your own pain to see mine? Was your baggage so binding that you did notice the bags you strapped to my back every day?

When I think about that life, about those days in the big brick house, I feel the air slip out of my lungs. My chest tightens, and I feel heavy. I know there were so many good times. So many hugs and smiles. Christmas cookies, and back scratches. I wish those memories were sharper, and clearer, and brighter. But when I look back, everything is covered in fog. Heavy fog.

Do you remember when I hated myself? Probably not. I never told you.

 Sometimes I wonder if you noticed the blood through my sleeve and chose not to speak up. It’s easier to believe you never saw. Was your pain so raw that you never noticed me crying myself to sleep? Would you have been surprised to find me dead at last, my arm submerged in a bathtub full of blood, just like I fantasized a thousand times?
You try to tell me how beautiful I am now. But the part of me that needed to hear that grew up and moved out a long time ago.

Do you remember the day I learned I was evil? Probably not. But I do.

 I remember your words, immortalized in the pages of my diary, came to life and stood before my eyes like living demons. Liar, untrustworthy, lazy, selfish. You taught me to ask God for forgiveness. You promised me that He would make me perfect. But he didn’t, and that’s when I knew I was evil, wrong, bad, lost. Were you proud of me? Of all the time I spent on my knees hating my own guts? Did you mistake my self-deprecation for humility? Or was this your desired result?

I already forgave you for the things you did, on accident or otherwise. I have taken responsibility for my life and my feelings. But the marks remain, like sunspots from the glare of your unrelenting righteousness.  I don’t want to blame you for the depression, for the years I spent swimming against the current, trying to break away from the darkness. I don’t want to hate you for the anxiety I’ve experienced over every small decision.

 But some day I’d like to hear you admit that you were wrong, and mean it. If that’s selfish of me, I’m sorry.

You remember the laughter and the warmth. You remember your ups and downs. Maybe you even have regrets. But do you remember my daily struggle to be perfect for you? Do you remember how I felt when I failed every single day? Probably not. But I do, and I wish with all my heart that I could forget.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Still Crying: Spanking (LAST POST)

This is (so far) the last post in the Still Crying Series. It comes from a reader named Chelsea Rose Wendt. Chelsea blogs at

 Thank you so much to Chelsea and to everyone else who shared thier stories with me. You have made a difference. Not only in my life, but in the lives of the parents and former victims who will read your brave and powerful words.

Years later he told me that spanking “worked” on me; it created the desired behavior change. He couldn’t deal with spanking my sister, however, as she would hold it against him for weeks. I just gave in. Or appeared to.

What he didn’t know is that I gave in because I was unsure of his love. Deep inside I could see that he harbored contempt for me; I was afraid he might send me to military school, or something of that sort.

Another thing he didn’t know is that his efforts to control me caused me to develop a very sneaky and secretive side. I knew how and when to sneak things into the house, and where to hide them, and I learned how to say one thing and do another. I learned to tell myself that the things I did weren’t bad, but I should not get caught, should not reveal myself.

I used to hide comics against my belly, under the shirt, held in place by an arm that was carrying something else to attract any attention. Up in my room I found a place to stash them that went undiscovered for years. It was natural for me to apply these same tricks to pornography when that became interesting to me.

For me, a culture of control and punishment led to a culture of concealment. My relationship with my parents, while in many important ways very warm, still lacks the depths of utter trust, revelation, and unconditional love.

For my child, on the other hand, there was no need to hide. The worst that would happen was that we would appeal to his own moral sense, and he would have to understand that he had caused harm. Now that he’s grown, he and I talk about any and every thing, and I believe he feels my love in every part of his soul. He is amazingly happy.

But there’s more: I feel his total love as well, in every part of my soul.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Still Crying: Hands

This post is from an anonymous reader.

I can remember quite vividly my father sitting me down and explaining to me that he would no longer be spanking me with his hands because "hands are for loving." The first thought that crossed my mind as a child was that if "hands were for loving" then he must hate me, especially if I do something wrong. Later, it dawned on me that if hands are for exclusively for  loving, then why aren't wooden spoons for cooking? or belts for holding up pants? As an adult, I am almost offended that he didn't think a child was smart enough to associate him with the object he was hitting me with at the time.

In short, if you have to tell your kids that hands are for loving, you need to think about what love really is. Kids who are loved know it without being told in a twisted, sadistic way. Hands have many purposes, but you don't love with your hands, you love with your whole self. What you do with your hands is only an outward display of who you truly are as a person.

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Still Crying: Why I Don't Spank

This post is from a reader named Elizabeth.

I was spanked as a child and it taught me a lot. I remember one particular incident very vividly, even now, more than thirty years later. I remember screaming and running in fear from my mother, who was chasing me through the house with a wooden spoon. I remember weighing up whether I was more afraid of the dark, more afraid of running outside without permission, more afraid of running onto the road – but I was most afraid of my mother. I remember that she grabbed me around the wrist and I fell to my knees in terror. I remember saying that I was sorry, that I would never do it again. I remember that she brought down the wooden spoon on the back of my legs hard enough to break it. I remember screaming and crying until my throat was sore.

What I do NOT remember is why. I do not remember what the lesson was, what the reason for the spanking was, or what it was that I was promising never to do again. Whatever the reason, it was lost in the overwhelming fear, stress and pain of the moment.

I do not want them to have these memories, or to learn to flee in fear from me. I want to teach them, not terrify them. Most of all, I want them to know WHY. Not just to look both ways before crossing the street because I will spank them if they don’t. I want to feed their natural empathy with others, not whip them into mannered automatons.

I remember very clearly being spanked. I remember what I learned from it. This is why I choose not to spank my own children.

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Still Crying: Dear Young Parents

This post is from an anoymous reader. Please remember to show your support in the comments section!

Dear Young Parents:

Because of my own experiences, I would encourage to try hard to avoid spanking your children.

My own experiences with spanking I believe are responsible for a sexual fetish that I wish I did not have.  It is important for everyone to realize that young children develop sexuality at an earlier age than we probably realize.  The butt is very close to genitals.  Force or pressure directed to one area is generally felt in the other.  Without meaning to do so, I believe many well-meaning parents accidentally cause or promote such a fetish. 

My parents did nothing that even today I believe would be classified as abuse.  They were well-meaning and the discipline I got was probably less than they received as children.  However, between ages 4 and 12, I was spanked maybe one to two dozen times.  It was not often and my parents preferred other methods of discipline.  They did use spanking though when they felt behavior called for it.

Perhaps, the ritual involved in my punishment accounted for what happened.  I don't know.  I will say that when I was spanked for some wrongdoing it was usually done in a specific way.  I would be called to the living room and my father and mother would talk to me and my two siblings (brother and sister) about what I had done wrong.  My father would than explain the consequences which would include getting a spanking.  My pants were usually pulled down.  Although, I was never spanked on my bare butt. Instead, I was spanked in my underwear.  My father would make me bend over his knee and would spank me until I cried. Sometimes it was with his hand.  I remember a couple of spankings with a very thin paddle. I don't think even today anyone looking at the paddle would have called what he did abuse.  However, the whole experience was very shaming.  To this day, I remember my mother sitting there with a look of satisfaction on her face while I got spanked in my jockey shorts.  Also, having my brother and sister there to watch this was hugely embarrassing for me.

Please don't do this to your children.  Find other ways to discipline them.

 - A concerned parent.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Still Crying: Why I Will Never Spank My Child(ren)

This post is from Scottie M. He blogs over at The Dranther's Lair. This is one of the most complete, concise, and convincing arguments I have heard against spanking. Thank you Scottie!
One person can smoke a single cigarette once and develop lung cancer. Another person can smoke a pack a day for fifty years and never suffer from the slightest tumor. Everybody is built differently. This does not mean that smoking is harmless or should be encouraged, and to argue otherwise is to prove oneself either stupidly ignorant or willfully biased in favor of a disproven and groundless claim.
I was spanked as a child and well into my teens. A “spanking” in my family was a number of swats with a cloth belt on clothed buttocks equal to the number of years in the child’s age. Spankings were typically only administered for causing physical harm or for direct disobedience. I’m pretty sure I turned out just fine. No PTSD or psychological issues that I can correlate with being spanked. Yet I am 100% against spanking — not because I think every single child who is spanked is thereby permanently damaged, but because the very nature of spanking is an abuse of the parent-child relationship teaching through punishment and fear instead of love and mutual respect.
The first time I ever told a lie (that I or my parents can remember) was when I accidentally tipped over an heirloom rocking chair after rocking it as hard as I could, despite the fact that I knew I wasn’t supposed to play with it.  I told my mom that it had fallen over by itself.  Then I told her that one of my brothers had come in from playing outside, knocked it over, and gone back out.  I lied because I was afraid of being spanked.  (Of course, Mom saw through my lies and spanked me anyway.)
The reason a spanking appears to work so well is that it is entirely based on fear. It is punishing your children by making them afraid of you. It is threatening them with physical pain for failing to obey (regardless of the specific circumstances you might use to justify it). Only a cowardly leader asserts power through fear. We recognize this universally when looking at political figures — but then turn around and threaten our vulnerable, dependent children with physical pain at the hand of those we ask them to trust above any other? How utterly sick is that?
And hold off on that exhausted and pitiful refrain of “I only spank when nothing else works”. There is always something else. Anyone who resorts to spanking has given up too quickly. How do you even determine what “works” and what doesn’t?  An instant cessation of that “bad habit”?  Immediate, first-time obedience?  If they break the same rule a year from now, does that mean the spanking didn’t “work” after all?  Kids are kids, and they will make mistakes.  Even adults make mistakes.
And hey, if spanking “doesn’t work”, then what? Spank them more? Harder? Burn them? Cut them? Starve them? Lock them outdoors? When you cross the line and decide that intentionally causing your child physical pain is acceptable at all, where do you stop? I’ve heard dozens of personal stories of children who were so stubborn or strong-willed — or were perceived as such — that they were literally willing to let their parents kill them before “submitting”. It’s not common, but it happens, especially when parents would rather be “right” or “win” or teach “respect” than try to approach the situation from a different angle, compromise, pick their battles, and above all keep their fucking violent hands off their kids. I’m glad my parents were not like that. I’m glad most parents are not like that. But causing physical pain to children in any way is nothing short of barbaric, and opens wide the door for “that didn’t work, so we’ll have to make it worse next time”. Because in too many parents’ minds, obedience, respect, and being understood are far more important than loving, respecting, and understanding your own child.
I am as adamantly against striking children (whether it’s a “tap” or a “spanking” or a “beating”, it all involves intentionally inflicting physical pain on your children and thus all falls under the same category in my view) as I am against spousal abuse, domestic violence, physical assault, and rape. It’s inflicting physical pain on the defenseless and vulnerable, it’s cruel, it undermines trust, it establishes power through fear, and is absolutely and irrevocably wrong. I don’t care how many people who were spanked as children grew to be well-adjusted adults (and as I said previously, I am one of them!) — the “no lasting harm” argument is NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER a justifiable defense for abuse. And causing physical pain to your children — however “gentle” or “non-marking” it may be — or threatening your children with physical pain is abuse.
It’s not about how hard you hit or how clearly defined the “spankable offenses” category may be. It’s the fact that they know when they break the rules, Mommy (or Daddy) will hurt them. Their body is not their own. They have no boundaries. They are not safe.
And that is why I will never spank my children.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Still Crying: Thoughts on spanking

This post is from Gloria Froese. It's a little long, but every one of her words is worth reading. Thank you Gloria!


I horrify people when they find out when my last spanking was- I was 18. I was furious- when I was close to my 18th birthday, I decided that I wasn't going to get any spankings- I was going to behave perfectly and obey everything-I would be the best, most sin-free person that ever existed- anything to avoid the lash on my body. It was a matter of pride for me- I wanted spankings to be over with at 17.

I’m not sure what happened- I don't even think it was something I did wrong-I think my dad wrongly accused me of something, and took my denial as lying, and I got spanked. The humiliation, rage and violation that I felt still is a vivid memory. I vaguely remember having a very strong discussion with my parents after that, informing them that there were to be no more spankings after that one- I was now an adult, and they would have to come up with a different method of punishment.

Spanking into the adult years is extremely common in these religious circles. Children belong to their parents until they get married, and personal space or dignity is non-existent.

I personally don't think spanking is effective at all. Yes, it gets the result that the parent is looking for- the child is terrified of the pain, and will do anything to avoid having the parent catch them at that again. It's not really a discipline that teaches anything of real value, though. It so easily devolves into an outlet for a parent's frustration- they may claim to only do it once they’ve “cooled down”, but a child knows when it’s being done in rage and frustration.

And really, all that I remember of being spanked is feeling rage, resentment and fear. I'm a methodically honest person and hate lying, but I certainly became good at it- I learned that it was the only way to save my skin. (heh - pun intended!) I learned to suppress my honesty, and would tell my parents what they wanted to hear. (although it usually took several rounds- I was also a very strong, independent child, and was enraged at the injustice of being spanked. I soon learned that sticking up for myself was futile.) I lost count of the times that I hyperventilated from the pain, begging and pleading my parents to please stop-I couldn’t bear it any longer! They laughed and kept on going. If I squirmed, the belt merely traveled up my back...down my legs...wherever it hit.

So, what I learned was that if I didn't do things exactly the way my parents wanted, my backside would suffer. (and by that, I mean any territory from my upper back to knees) I didn't ever actually learn to do something out of free will- it was all terror.

When I look back at those years, it’s not even the physical pain that so much stands out to me. Yes, it was horrible and nearly unbearable, and I sometimes wonder if there wasn’t permanent physical damage done just from the actual blows.

What was the most traumatic was the emotional effect. The terror of knowing that even the slightest transgression- real or imagined- would result in a spanking left me constantly on guard- there was never any time that I could truly be at ease. If I dared to act up or speak out of place while around others, a death glare from one of my parents would let me know what was to come when we got home. The anticipation was nerve wracking and awful- there were many times that I begged them to please just do it and get it over- I couldn’t stand the wait. (they never did- I always had to wait until later.) I didn’t even need to know that what I was doing was bad- if my parents deemed it to be bad, I was punished, in spite of my complete innocence.

The worst, though, was knowing that I would never be believed- ever. My parents believed that I was inherently evil, and always had malicious intent. People in the church loved complaining to my parents about me, but my side was never listened to- I was punished according to what those evil busybodies had said. When I tried to tell my side of the story, I was told that I was lying, and they knew my true intentions. (this has taken me years to get over- I have accepted people’s “truths” about me well into adulthood- if someone else says it, they obviously know better than me, and are right.)

One story that stands out in humiliating experiences is the one trip my family took with the cult leader of the new church we had joined. It was a brutally hot summer day in Arizona, and we stopped at a gas station. I saw a bubblegum machine, and really wanted one- they were only 25 cents! I asked my dad, and he said no. I reasoned with him, and came to the understanding that he had relented, and that I was allowed to go get one. I happily was chewing on my gum when dad came back to the van, and all hell broke loose- I had deliberately disobeyed- how dare I? I was devastated- I was sure he had agreed that I could get one, after all, and I tearfully pleaded my case. No- there was no budging- I had been evil and disobedient, and would get a spanking when we arrived at our destination- the home of another family in the church. Those hours of anticipation were some of the worst of my life- not only had I been humiliated in front of the church leader, but I would also be humiliated by getting a spanking in a stranger’s home. I begged to get the spanking now- in the van- I didn’t care anymore- I just wanted it over. Nope. It was going to wait.

I still remember walking into the house, and seeing a bunch of young men sleeping on the floor in the living room. I was 10, and was already acutely aware of boys, so knowing that I would be whipped within their hearing distance was unbearably humiliating. My stomach hurt- I felt sick as I followed my dad into another room. The belt was pulled out, and the lashes fell. I tried so hard to be brave and bite back any sound, but a few cries escaped. To say that I was humiliated beyond belief doesn’t even begin to touch it. I couldn’t look anyone in the eye the next day- I was so embarrassed that they had heard me get whipped.

The long-reaching effects of this type of childhood were devastating for me. I developed chronic anxiety and stress. From the age of 10 until a year or two ago, I had non-stop back pain. My muscles were like iron knots- nothing could release them. I'd pretty much say that I was wound as tight as I could go. It was only during and after therapy that the unbearable tightness and pain began to release.

Knowing what I do about PCOS and Hypothyroidism and hormones now, I very strongly suspect that my condition was triggered and worsened by the chronic stress and anxiety. It’s taken years of gentle therapy, a loving husband and friends, an excellent therapist and being surrounded by wonderful people to finally bring me to a point where I am not in excruciating physical pain every day.

I was a very sensitive child- there was nothing I wanted more than to please everyone and make everyone happy. When I got spanked, I got stubborn and rebellious- it was a matter of principle- I was being treated unfairly, and I needed to stand up for justice. I know that I eventually presented as a very willful, defiant child, but all that was was my way of protesting the unfairness. Inside, I bled every time, and felt unbearable guilt and remorse for what I had done- I just couldn't admit to it when I was being violently forced to repent. I may not have had much respect, privacy, etc., but I did have my pride.

I stayed with my grandparents for a month when I was 2, going on 3. My grandma has reminded me of the fun we had, and how well we got along. I was an extremely bright, precocious child, and I loved to talk! She realized that if she wanted something with me, she needed to discuss and explain it- I responded very well to the common sense approach. She has reminded me of how I was crying one night because I missed my mom, who was in Germany. She came alongside me, and asked if she should also cry with me, because her mom was also in Germany- her mom and my mom were together. So, after that, whenever I missed my mommy, I would go to Grandma and suggest that we both cry about missing our mommies. :) Who said that 2 year olds aren't incredibly perceptive and smart? :)

I didn't need spankings. I needed an adult to sit down with me, reason with me, and explain what needed to be done, or discuss what I had done wrong. I didn't need violence- the spankings destroyed me. It's devastating to look back and think how different things could have been if my parents had taken a non-physical approach to discipline. If my parents had taken time to listen to me, to hear my viewpoint, to actually *care* about my feelings, things would have been so different.

I think that's largely why I'm against physical punishment- it doesn't accomplish much besides pain and fear. I honestly don't think that most children mean to be evil- some are more defiant and bratty than others, but I think deep down, most really want to please. It's a lot more work to actually find their "language" and discipline accordingly, but there are ways to do so more empathetically and lovingly. I never want my children to fear me because of physical pain.

And in case anyone is wondering, my parents and I now have a great relationship. We’ve talked and worked through the past, and they feel horrific shame and regret for what they did to us. They would give anything to go back and re-do the past, and raise us more humanely and lovingly. It’s very difficult and painful for them to remember what they did to us- I don’t write this to bash them- I’m telling my story in the hope that even one child can be spared the pain, humiliation and subsequent years of illness that I have had to live through.

And seriously, people wonder why children get violent and stab or shoot their parents. It's long built up rage and resentment, and retaliation against the violence... It’s the age old principle of sowing and reaping.

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here, but feel free to write in whatever format is easiest for you)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Still Crying: Destroyed Connections

This post is from Dara. She has been amazingly supportive of this series and it's message. Thank you for your powerful voice, Dara!

The paddle hung on the wall in the laundry room. It was rarely pulled down, but, I could likely print out a photo of it right down to the exact color and grains in the wood if I could hook a cable from my brain to a printer. That paddle just hung there and had no life in itself but looking at it made me feel fear. That paddle equaled pain.

When I messed up I always knew there was no getting around what was coming next. I understood that I'd done wrong. I was over their knee and then, "Whack! Whack! Whack!" Pain. I never knew how many times I'd get hit or how long it would last. So, I'd just scream and kick. Scream and kick. Then, a scowling disappointed face would tell me to, "never do it again" and walk away.

I didn't get hit with it much, and never anywhere except my bottom in a "controlled" manner. Nothing that would incite YouTube commenters to agree that I was "abused" but then why didn't I feel loved if I was not abused? Unlike David in the Psalms who looked at God and His "rod" and felt comfort…when I thought of my parents I only felt the same thing I felt when I looked at that paddle: fear.

Was I made into a "better person" by the paddle? I didn't commit the same particular offenses twice, but, I don't know that that made me a "better person". It made me clear on what I could and couldn't do without getting in trouble. It made me certain that getting caught doing wrong hurt. And, that knowledge made me craftier and trickier. But, did I feel loved by anyone? Did I feel safety in people? Did I feel accepted by others? Did I feel safe when I messed up? Did I see my parents as a source of refuge and wisdom to take my problems to? Did I feel connected to anyone? As a young person, I felt none of those things. And sadly, I would say that the way my parents "raised me up" has not departed far from me…

I never understood why I was so angry and alone as a teenager. But, how else could a child feel whose primary source of love are actually her primary sources of pain and judgment? Regardless of my parents' intent with spanking me…all I knew was what they did…not why. Just like the belief that a plain backpack is actually a parachute will not help you if you jump out of an airplane no matter how strongly you believe it…no matter what my parents believed they were instilling in me that's not what happened. I did not learn self-control, self-discipline, respect, and responsibility. I learned those somewhere else…I learned that making mistakes hurts and that the hurting comes from those who love you most. I learned not to trust anyone to be safe and not hurt me. I learned "love" hurts…which is one of the universe's biggest lies and is one sad thing to believe...

Anger…stereotypical "teenage rebellion" isn't something that is a "natural phase" for all teens to go through. It is not something we're born with and a normal developmental milestone like cooing, crawling, and taking our first step. Humans are hardwired for connection…not alienation. We are hardwired to love and to be bonded to others. Anger and loneliness was not something I was born with. It was put in me the first time I'd been held down by the people who were supposed to protect and love me and hurt for things I didn't quite understand…and sadly though I function and push my way through things in life I am uncomfortable with some level of success, what was born in me…the hardwiring for connection and love…has forever been re-wired. Those natural connections have been destroyed and the rest of my life since their destruction has been spent in trying to manage the mess…trying just to survive…when I was born to thrive…

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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Still Crying: What Spanking Really Taught Me

This powerful piece comes from Lisa Helms. She blogs over at Musings of a Fat Kid. Thanks for your contribution Lisa!

Dear Mom and Dad,

I've come to the realization, that I own my body.  You gave me this right-- of owning my body-- until it was taken away.  It was taken away every time you spanked me from the age of two until the age of ten, and the many times after that when I was threatened by the possibility.

Being spanked taught me that it's okay to be hit without consent.  It doesn't matter where on my body you "spanked" me.  The fact that I was hit without consent, carried into my adult life, when I was again, several times, hit without consent, and I thought it was okay.

It's not okay, and I'm taking my inherent right back.  You will never see your future grandchildren without my supervision, because I can't know for sure you'll respect their right to own their bodies.

Your Daughter

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