My childhood was not a happy one. My mother was abusive and a hoarder and both parents were neglectful. CPS (Child Protective Services) became involved for a time in elementary school.
I’d like to say my mother woke up one day and realized what she had done to all of us. I’d like to say she apologized to someone for what she did, the bruises she gave out more than hugs were the only attentions I remember vividly from childhood.
The first time one of my parents said they loved me I was in high school.
Maybe they said it a lot when I was born. I can’t really say.
But lately, it’s come to my attention that my mother, among a host of horrors she lived through, helplessly or perhaps hopelessly gave us a different kind of pain to live through.
She only ever reacted, violently to anything she perceived as incorrect behavior. I remember standing in a corner far less than I remember being beaten for not understanding my math homework. I remember being thrown against that cabinet more than that one time in the Last Strike, which was based on true events.
So while PTSD is a very loaded word, I believe she had it. I believe she had it and because she never got help dealing with her demons all of us children have demons she helped create that effect us too.
It feels wrong admitting to the possibility, war heroes have PTSD. Victims of harrowing sexual assaults, robberies, murders; these courageous individuals have PTSD.
My mom beat me a lot. Woo. Most of us can relate. Which is just so… that’s just not what children should every have to go through.
I read this article about immigrants who escaped war ravaged countries with their parents who had suffered extreme situations to get here. In the article, the parents even though now safely in the United States, would react in an almost fight or flight type way when their children misbehaved. It was explosive, it was damaging and the anger just bubbled up and could not be prevented, just forced back down after a time. Which as we know, just explodes back out again, a never-ending cycle.
As I read this article (which I cannot find!), my mother flashed into my mind. The black eye she gave my brother, the explosive episodes of hitting and punching and just overwhelming…
It was her. She was in this article as clear as day.
Now I am not saying that the horrors these courageous people escaped have equal parallels with my childhood. That would be a gross misrepresentation on my part and disrespectful to the pain and experiences they had to live though. However, I do see some parallels.
My mother was continuously abused by a family member she could not escape for decades. While she ended up getting out of that house, she went into an abusive first marriage where that husband beat her senseless many times to the point a child was lost in the womb (I am a child of marriage 2). To make matters worse, as children we visited her original abuser and while that person never laid a hand on me, I cannot imagine visiting my abuser (I was sexually abused by a teenager) multiple times a year. No, this is not escaping war but its pretty screwed up and damaging.
The article says that parents pass these sort of responses down to their children and they too will have anxiety, explosive anger, and be assaulted with memories and fears from their own childhood (inflicted by their parents) that will be brought to the present. Usually in explosive ways.
There I was. I read this and I admit it; I get so angry. I get so damned angry and I don’t know why. I can’t make the anger stop. It makes no sense sometimes.
And the violence I house within my mind. I often want to strike people. Often. Often I see read and I clench my jaw and breathe and it takes every fibre of myself to say, “Wait darling, its okay.”
Then there is CDubs.
I walk a very thin line. My husband does not really discipline our son. He yells and threatens to take things away sometimes. But really it’s me.
I will get irrationally angry at him when he misbehaves. He’s at that point where he is testing all the boundaries. His boundaries have boundaries with limits and more limits to test. I’m talking the big misbehaviour like hitting me, refusing point black to do something and then being disrespectful or violent because he does not want to do something. That sort of thing.
So when he goes to far, I feel it. It’s like a little switch. Suddenly I am there, seeing red and I get so very angry.
Except, I feel that anger and that violence and I shut down. I cannot look at him. I cannot touch him, I cannot muster more than clipped words when I need to speak to him. I must rein it in.
The most physical thing I will do is three extremely measured swats on his behind. I will remove him from my person (lap, arms) gently and firmly place him at a distance. Then a breathe and I try to climb my way out of my anger. Naturally he cries and runs back to me wanting to be cuddled and comforted but I cannot in that moment do that. i have to continue to walk away, remove myself.
He doesn’t understand why mommy does this.
Mommy didn’t really get it either until about 30 minutes ago.
I look like her more every day but I cannot be her. I cannot.
I think whooping a child 3 or 4 times is okay. As long as you are careful to only make it sting a little. It’s a reminder. It’s effective. This is NOT my first punishment. This is NOT my go to punishment.
I’m afraid that unless there is a deterrent many children will not respect authority. The laws we have in place deter adults. Understanding consequences are a deterrent. Small children, young children do not understand jail time, for instance 35 years to life imprisonment. Sure, you can say it, but can they really understand how long that truly is? DO they understand that you are supposed to “Honor thy father and mother,” because God said so? What is God but a man we talk about in church and draw pictures about stories from his book? It’s too abstract.
However they do understand their butt stings if they choose the wrong path because mommy or daddy will let them know. (Yes this is not a popular idea and I know that at some point someone will most certainly disagree with me and let me know.) I do plenty of other things as well, privileges taken away, consequences enacted, and I even explain things to my three-year old. But sometimes he completely looses his shit and then I do too.
This is when it’s hard. That’s when it takes a lot of negative behaviors to cause me to resort to swatting. This is when it is all flashing lights and sirens in my brain. (metaphorically speaking)
This is what I do not want for my son. I want the cycle to end. I do not want him to have these instant flashes of violence. To be so overwhelmed with anger he cannot explain. I do not want him to be consumed because of my past. I do not want someone else’s abuse to ooze through onto his clean life. He shouldn’t have to live like that, worried about what could happen. Afraid of becoming a monster. Like I do.
I simply want him to love his mommy. I want him to be able to rely on me. I want him to grow up to be better than me. I want him to be free of that anger. It is not a legacy he needs to pass on to his children.
While my husband does not understand my childhood we do talk about discipline together. We often disagree, he is okay with the swats and he does know when I get overwhelmed and he does help me at these instances. It is just harder when he is not home, and I have to face it alone. When I originally wrote this post as a draft, I had experienced a rough night alone with CDubs. He trusts me and I trust myself to not go overboard. It is important to acknowledge these difficulties though, and work through them so that I can do better in the future. This is why I am so open about it with my husband. I felt the need to publish this because my reaction to that article was so swift and I felt it was a piece of the puzzle. If you also have feelings like this, you are not alone! We can get through this!