Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Dear Diary: Body Images

I was browsing through my childhood diary again this week and I came across this gem. I drew this when  I was 11 years old. It is clear from the picture that my perception of beauty was already twisted. 
The red head with curly hair and a curvy frame was deemed "ugly" and the extremely thin girl with straight hair and giant lips is "almost prity." Imagine my horror as I grew up into a body similar to that of my "ugly" redheaded drawing.

Fundimentalist doctrine teaches that a woman's body is somthing to be ashamed of and hidden. It teaches that womanhood is synonymous with frailty and china-doll perfection. I believe that fundamentalist doctrine devastates a girl's ability to love and respect her body. 

I also found it ironic that the "ugly" one is wearing an apron. I mean if she's not attractive enough to get a man with her looks, she'd better be able to cook or she's basically worthless. Ugh.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Afraid of the dark

 A year ago, I wrote a post about how as a kid I was convinced that I was possessed by the devil. I talked about the very first moment that I became afraid.

One of my earliest memories is of playing hide-and-seek at Grandma and Grandpa’s trailer. I was lying in the dark under the bed with my face pressed down into the red shag carpet. Waiting. There were dusty shoe boxes and plastic-wrapped blankets stacked all around me. I felt like they were waiting too, for the sunlight, for someone to open them again. Like most children, I was patient only when it came to hiding games, and I was willing to lie there all night, if need be, for someone to find me. I put my hands over my eyes and pushed down on my eye balls. When I lifted the pressure, the space in front of me exploded with imaginary fireworks. I pressed down harder, and harder, until suddenly I thought that maybe I could see a set of eyes. They were big and round and silver and stared right back at me unblinking, like an owl. Completely forgetting the game, I wriggled out from under the bed and went charging down the hall into the kitchen.

“Gramma! When I hide under the bed, I can see an owl’s eyes looking at me!”
Grandma looked up from the dishes with concern on her face. Grandpa, who was sitting at the kitchen table while Grandma cleaned, ordered me to come and stand before him.

 “What did you see?”

“Owl Eyes!” I laughed. “Big round silver ones! Under the bed when I close my eyes!”
I don’t remember what he said next, but I remember my excitement went suddenly cold. Grandpa was not happy. He asked me lots of questions, and before long, Grandma dried off her hands and came to sit with us at the table. They laid their hands on my head and prayed. Grandpa rebuked Satan in the name of Jesus and Grandma whispered “yes Lord” under her breath again and again.

I used to look back on that day as the moment when Satan entered my body.
I am sometimes afraid that if I ever become a parent I wont know how to address situations like this. When someone talks about seeing things in the dark, my automatic thought is that it MUST be demons. (Which is ridiculous since I don’t believe in demons.)  But I get uncomfortable and nervous none the less. I was wondering what I would do if my hypothetical child came to me about seeing things in the dark. As I browsed the comments, I came across one from Shadowspring that brought a huge smile to my face.

Horrifying. You poor princess. I just want to pick up that little girl that saw owl eyes and go rewrite that whole story.

Would I be smart enough to figure out exactly what you had experienced? Probably not, but we could've put treats out for the owl, gone to library for owl books (including Winnie the Pooh), made up a series of owl adventures and/or even had a field trip to the raptor center. That's the kind of grandma I want to be.

I bet your grandparents would cry if they knew that religious freak-out was the beginning of so much pain for you. At least, I hope they would.

Hugs, SS”
 As an agnostic, I no longer believe in dark, powerful demons that can harm and hurt you at will. I have no reason to be afraid for myself or my hypothetical children. Thanks, SS for the sweet comment. I know someday I'll think of you when my children come to me afraid of the dark. I know i will honestly be able to say "there is nothing to fear."

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Dear Diary: Losing My Pure Heart

Context: When I was thirteen I fell really hard for the only boy I'd ever spent any time with. He was a friend of the family. We held hands twice before the adults caught on and shut it all down. I wrote this is my diary shortly after that incident.

Dear Diary,                                            August 18
Oh I feel so horrible! How could I do this? I've preached to my friends but I'm just a hypocrite. I'm so confused and ashamed. If I can't say "he's my first love" on my wedding day, why does it even matter how many there have been. I'm a used napkin now. I know God used this to teach me, but why did he have to steal the gift of a pure heart? Why did I let this happen? It's not fair. My life is a mess. I wish I had a different life. I wish God put me somewhere else. I wish i could stop wishing! I don't want to be a worldy girl. I hate them. I hate how they gossip. I hate thier flirty clothes. I hate thier cakey makeup and nail polish. I hate how they always seem so happy... I hate that I want to be one of them, and I hate how it shows.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dear Diary: Fundamentalism Through the Eyes of a Child

I don't know about you, but sometimes I feel guilty for leaving fundamentalism  It's not logical obviously, but somewhere deep down I still have this built in self-doubt. "It wasn't that bad," I tell myself, "you're exaggerating " I think about the things I've written on my blog and wonder if maybe I've somehow made them all up. Maybe my memories are flawed, maybe I'm victimizing myself.

In one of these moments of self-doubt, I turned to my childhood journal for affirmation. What I found startled me even more than my memories. Every page is swimming with self-hatred. Half the journal entries read like a suicide note. It's horrifying.

Fundamentalism teaches children that they are sinners. It teaches them to deny themselves, despise their needs, sterilize their personality, and strangle their sexuality. It teaches girls that they are stupid, insignificant, and purposeless without a man. The things you believe about yourself during your formative years shape the way you think, feel, and behave for the rest of your life. Nothing can be more crippling than self-hatred.

To illustrate how deeply fundamentalism destroys a child's self-worth, I am considering publishing some of the entries from my childhood/teenage journals. This will not be a commentary on my family or the things that happened in my home. It will be a glimpse into the mind and heart of a little girl who believed she did not deserve to live. My hope would be that people will see the dangers of fundamentalist Christianity and think twice about the things they teach (or allow to be thought) to their children.

Would anyone find this helpful or interesting? Would you be interested in sharing bits from your childhood journal to add to the illustration?

UPDATE: Many people experienced similar self-hatred stemming from psychological abuse that was not necessarily religious in nature. I welcome journal entries from those children as well as they offer a clear example of how religious fundamentalism is a form of psychological abuse.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Anti-Birth Control or Anti-Women?

During my engagement, my fiancĂ© and I received a call from another young couple we knew. They had been married for about 5 years and already had 4 small children. I had mentioned in a previous conversation that I was considering some kind of IUD to prevent pregnancy for our first year of marriage, so I was not surprised when they revealed that they wanted to talk to us about birth control. “Any birth control besides a barrier method is basically an abortion” they told us. “We will come visit you tonight (it was a 15 hour drive) if you’re really serious about using BC, we feel that strongly about it.”

I took their passionate response as a sign from God: birth control is murder. They gave me the same argument I grew up hearing, but in more detail. If you haven’t heard the argument, it goes something like this: Birth control pills work by thinning the lining of the uterus. If your birth control fails to prevent ovulation (this happens in 2-10% of cases) and an egg becomes fertilized, the uterus will reject the egg, thus causing the “baby” to die and be expelled from the body. The argument continues by saying that millions of babies are murdered by birth control every year.

Some of you may have seen this video circulating on the Internet. It’s the one that claims birth control is responsible for adultery, homosexuality, divorce, murder, and a slew of other “evils.” I won’t even begin to address the dozens of lies and misleading statistics in the video. I just want to address the issue at the core of the anti-birth control. Namely, that birth control is murder.
Now, this whole position is ridiculous if you don’t believe that a zygote is a baby. Most people hear the anti-birth control argument and shrug it off. There are some, however, that believe life begins at conception. For those people, hormonal birth control seems to be completely out of the question. However, the anti-birth control crowd leaves out one very important fact: a woman’s body naturally rejects at least 18% of fertilized eggs. This means that if you have unprotected sex that leads to the fertilization of an egg (30% chance or successful fertilization), the resulting zygote has an 18% chance of being rejected by the uterus. The human body naturally performs “abortions” almost 20% of the time. So does taking birth control actually increase the chances of zygote abortion, or does birth control actually reduce the chances of this occurring? Let’s do the math.

Without Birth Control:
Out of 100 fertile women on birth control, 100 of them will ovulate in any given month.
Out of those 100 released eggs, 33 will become fertilized.
Out of those 33, 18% will be rejected by the uterus.
In a group of 100 women not on birth control: 6 zygotes will “die”

With Birth Control:
Out of 100 fertile women on birth control, around 6 of them will ovulate in any given month.
Out of those 6 released eggs, only 2 will become fertilized.
Out of those 2, 100% will be rejected by the uterus.
In a group of 100 women on birth control: 2 zygotes will “die”

So let’s get this straight, taking birth control makes a woman’s body LESS likely to dispel fertilized eggs. If you believe that life begins at conception, shouldn’t it be your moral duty to reduce the number of zygote “abortions?” If you believe that a zygote is a human, you actually kill more babies by refusing to take birth control.

How has such a massive flaw gone unnoticed all this time? Did anti-birth control advocates really just “miss” these obvious facts, or could it be that they like the result of this misconception? Denying women rights to their own reproduction is the oldest weapon in the war on women. Even if you believe that a zygote deserves the same rights as a full grown human, there is still no reason to oppose birth control other than to control women.

 I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough of the “personhood” smokescreen. Let’s call the anti-birth control message by its real name: anti-woman.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Confessions of a Bad Mother

This post is from a reader named Jane B. Thank you for your courage in sharing your story Jane!

 Let me just get it out of the way and say I was a BAD MOMMY who did not know any better. I yelled at her, brushed off her thoughts and feelings,called her all kinds of names, put hot sauce in her mouth, spanked her, and worst of all thought children should be told what to do and not really listened to.
 When my daughter was 10 years old I was putting away some of her clothes and saw her diary on top of the dresser  so I grabbed it and started crying at some of the stuff I read. In her diary she wrote stuff like I am scared of mom and dad, that she did not trust us, thought she was stupid, thought she was a Disappointment to the both of us,  thoughts that her feelings did not matter, thought she was a bad kid, and worst off all thought our love was conditional. 
 Later that day went to the bookstore and bought a book called P.E.T (Parent Effectiveness Training) by Dr Thomas Gordon and since then my little girl my baby has been more confident,happier,well behaved,loving, caring, compassionate, and best of all she shares her thoughts feeling fear and concerns problems with us because she know we are gonna try and teach/guide her and not punish/hurt her any more.

And to those who spank or who are considering it I ask of two humble requests. First please look at scientific research that shows all the negative effects of corpal punishment. And  second I ask that you please look at other more peaceful loving effective methods to raise your children. And to my hunni bunni( daughter childhood nick name) I know you have forgiven me and I have said it a bunch of time but I am sorry for all the pain I have caused you. I will always love you unconditionally no matter what you do.

Jane B

(Please show your support and leave comments for the authors if you can. Remember, this is an open ended series! Please consider writing something yourself, or sharing the project with your friends and followers. The guidelines are listed here, but feel free to write in whatever format is easiest for you)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Still Crying: Pieces of Pipe

This post is from a reader named Rae. It's not too late to submit your story as well!

I was spanked as a child. My parents tried to keep it a secret. They kept pieces of pipe hidden in the most obscure corners of our house, and were careful to find excuses for us to miss our swim lessons if we had a suspicious bruise. They warned us not to mention it, saying the government hated Christians and homeschoolers, that we would be taken away from them and put into homes where we would get abused if anyone found out.

Then, when I was twelve, my mom threatened to spank me for the last time.

I responded by threatening to call child and family services. I knew that it was illegal to spank foster children. I was waiting for her reaction, weighing the risks and rewards, ready to calculate whether my odds of not getting abused might not truly be better in foster care.

The pieces of pipe disappeared the next day. They're probably still out in those woods, somewhere.

My parents say that we "turned out fine". That we're "perfectly normal". Maybe my siblings are. I don't know. But I do know that I've been conditioned to expect violence from other people. Especially men.

Like the time that I was so scared at a guy suddenly touching my shoulder that I literally ran away, only to later discover that he had simply been trying to return the wallet that had fallen out of my purse.

Or that time my best friend tried to tickle me, and I couldn't prevent myself from fighting back hard enough to injure her.

Or every time that one of my male friends tried to give me a high-five, and I flinched away, and they just laughed. "What? Ohmigod, I'm not going to hit you, you don't have to duck." Like it's some sort of silly idiosyncrasy.

And I have to wonder if any of those people, any of my friends or classmates or roommates or dates, have ever realized that there's a part of me that's instinct by now that really does think they'll hit me.

(Please show your support and leave comments for the authors if you can. Remember, this is an open ended series! Please consider writing something yourself, or sharing the project with your friends and followers. The guidelines are listed here, but feel free to write in whatever format is easiest for you)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


I look nothing like this when i work out

Every morning I wake up at 5:45am. I go to the gym and work out for 30-45 minutes. Throughout the day I eat lots of healthy snacks like veggies, fruits, and nuts and drink lots of water. My meals are low in fats and sugars. I eat around 1200 calories a day and I’m never really hungry.  Basically, I do everything right.

But every time I get on the scale, I’m still the exact same weight. According to the internet, my BMI is like 26. I’m in the “overweight” category. I need to lose almost 10 pounds before I’ll be considered healthy.


You can literally see my abs. well, three of them at least.

Most people would say I have a slow metabolism. I prefer to think it is just madly efficient. It would keep me alive for months without hardly any food or water. My Irish genes are designed to withstand cold, starvation, and probably virus’s, which means I will be the one saving the world during the zombie apocalypse when the rest of you are enjoying brains for dinner. So really, I’m not chubby and awkward; I’m a super hero. Why didn’t I figure this out sooner?

I’m pretty sure superhero’s don’t change their bodies to fit into their clothes. Hell No. Super hero’s have clothes made especially to fit their super awesome bodies. I think it’s time I threw out my old size 8 pants and got myself some new 10’s and 11’s. I guess I’ll just always have giant, well-muscled thighs and broad shoulders. That’s not a bad thing.

I like Wonder Woman's hips. They're giant. Like mine
What does your body do that makes you special? Are your arms just the right size to reach through half closed car windows and unlock the door, thereby rescuing the person who locked their keys inside? I have news for you, you have a superhero body too. Are you super awesome at moving your hips, to the point where you rock every dance floor you stand on? Superhero. Are you so awesomely hairy that you could survive an Alaskan blizzard because of your extra warmth? Superhero. Does your extra layer of fat make treading water incredibly easy? Super. Hero.

Why do we spend so much time focusing on what our bodies look like, instead of what our bodies can do? Why do we think about our hips and double chins when we plan what to eat? Shouldn’t we be eating out of respect and love for our bodies instead of hatred and mistrust?

So, here’s some advice I should really take myself. Do you own a scale? I suggest that you go and throw it out. Or at least take out the batteries. Stop looking at charts and graphs that measure numbers instead of value. Our bodies are awesome machines that perform extremely complex and impressive tasks every day. Find some things about your body that rock, and celebrate them!

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.

(Please show your support and leave comments for the authors if you can. Remember, this is an open ended series! Please consider writing something yourself, or sharing the project with your friends and followers. The guidelines are listed here, but feel free to write in whatever format is easiest for you)

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.

(Please show your support and leave comments for the authors if you can. Remember, this is an open ended series! Please consider writing something yourself, or sharing the project with your friends and followers. The guidelines are listed here, but feel free to write in whatever format is easiest for you)

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.

(Please show your support and leave comments for the authors if you can. Remember, this is an open ended series! Please consider writing something yourself, or sharing the project with your friends and followers. The guidelines are listed here, but feel free to write in whatever format is easiest for you)

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.

(Please show your support and leave comments for the authors if you can. Remember, this is an open ended series! Please consider writing something yourself, or sharing the project with your friends and followers. The guidelines are listed here, but feel free to write in whatever format is easiest for you)

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.

(Please show your support and leave comments for the authors if you can. Remember, this is an open ended series! Please consider writing something yourself, or sharing the project with your friends and followers. The guidelines are listed
here, but feel free to write in whatever format is easiest for you)