Since Sarah put up my spanking post this week, I thought I would write a few words about my mother and our relationship. Because I don't want people to assume by default that I am one of those who still has a terrible relationship with my mother, or that she is one of the mothers who refuses to admit she did anything wrong.
Because I recently switched blogs, some of this will be redundant to my previous followers. But to recap:
Originally, I had always felt that making a child expose their bottom for a spanking was abusive and cruel. I believed that for as long as I can remember. So my first decision when I had children was that I would never do that. Also that I would never spank them with a belt, or a wooden rod. I believed that those instruments fell more into the category of "beating." And I remember a time when my mother felt that way, too, which is why she rarely used them until we were older. Past the point of showing our butts for a spanking.
Her argument was that you couldn't make enough of an impression through clothing, and I quickly discovered that to be true. So I was faced with a dilemma. Do I hit my children with a bigger stick, or find another form of punishment? Humiliating them sexually by removing their clothing was never an option for me, and the fact that punishment and discipline were not synonyms had not yet become clear to me.
Because of my husband's abusive past, and because I knew that the cycle often repeats, I was very nervous about introducing any significant weapon for hitting. With the boys still being toddlers, I just quit punishing them for a while. They weren't at an age where their acting out could really accomplish much anyway. I could afford to ignore their behavior, and I was overwhelmed with DH's drug issues anyway.
So my boys went largely neglected for a couple of years. It is my belief that the combination of neglect and tremendous household stress, NOT my lack of spanking, is the reason for their unmanageability today. My mother still disagrees. It doesn't help that my youngest brother, the least spanked out of all her children, is by far the most unmanageable and downright offensive in his behavior towards our mother. So of course, between him and my boys, my whole family feels we have just proved why spanking is so important. I continue to disagree. And I believe time will prove me right. I believe their mistake is looking for the quick fix, and not waiting for adulthood to call the results.
Still, my mother has apologized for many of her harsher punishments. She feels terribly guilty for many things, but that doesn't mean she always agrees with us on exactly where she was wrong. She was under a tremendous amount of stress from my MIL, and pressure from her cult leader, which she deserves a lot of credit for standing up under as much as she did. Had it been left to that person, our punishments would have been more severe, and far more often. More like the stories I hear from other children who came out of fundamentalist families.
When I interviewed with the counselors who are seeing my boys, they asked what parenting skills I felt I had learned from my mother. I always mention the fact that she encouraged reading and forbade TV, the fact that she was a very skilled teacher, very organized, and that she and my dad never argued in front of us. Also it occurred to me how valuable it was to me, as a mother, that she breastfed all of us and encouraged us to do the same. Her political involvement, and the fact that she was able to teach us music, were also valuable assets to her parenting. We don't easily fall for rhetoric and mob mentality.
I often feel that I learned more of what NOT to do than what TO do, but that is because my life has turned out in ways that bring out the things lacking in my upbringing. Had I not met DH, or his mother, and gone on to become either a single woman or married a man who believed much like they do (unlikely since I loathed men), I probably would still believe the same things I did when I first had children: Spanking is necessary, but humiliation is not. Having to question SOOOO much of what I was taught growing up has made me dig a lot deeper than I would otherwise have done.
You know those FaceBook posts that keep going around about spanking? Well I have one. I'm just not ready to put it out there yet. It goes like this:
FOR ALL THE SPANKING ADVOCATES OUT THERE:
"Yeah, I was molested as a child. It didn't destroy my life. I didn't grow up to be a prostitute, drug addict, or child molester myself. I never slept with - or even kissed - anyone but my spouse. I'm a fully functional human being and perfectly capable of raising my own kids. 'Like' this if you were molested as a child and turned out fine."
Except nobody would ever dare to like this. Why? Because, as any fool can see, the mere fact that something did not destroy you DOES NOT BY DEFAULT MAKE IT OKAY!!!!!
And lest I offend a victim of child sexual abuse, the above statement is actually true. Of me.