Is that a rather flip title for a post dealing with child abuse? Probably, but stupid humor is one of the ways I deal with uncomfortable subjects. And, to be sure, this is an uncomfortable subject for me. In fact, writing this post has been very difficult because I have dealt with more than my share of extreme “spankings”. Generally, I do my best to avoid the subject. But that’s not really an option these days, what with the news of Adrian Peterson beating the hell out of his son all over the damn place (sorry, but I’m not providing a link to that news. Mostly, because I don’t want to look at it).
One would think that, in the year 2014, people wouldn’t need to be told that beating their children until they draw blood and leave welts is unacceptable. Sadly, one would be wrong. Because, people beat the shit out of their kids every day. And, the sad part is, they see nothing wrong with it.
Whenever the subject of corporal punishment comes up, people are quick to cite the good it does. Usually, they justify it by saying “I got spanked as kid and I turned out okay”. They’re right, you know; there are tons of people who were spanked as a child and grew up to become productive, contributing adults. And, it’s likely that the discipline they received contributed to them turning out as well as they did. But, believe me, the occasional swat on the butt with an open palm or a switching from your granny is a far cry from what Peterson did to his son. I know because I was on the receiving end of more than a few beatings of this sort when I was growing up.
The standard whipping in my house from the time I was around 10 to the age of 14 or so was generally with a belt or a switch, applied to my bare legs and it was severe. As I got older, it became an open-handed smack to the face ( a punch on one occasion). It could be for almost any offense, but usually it was for “talking back” (whether I actually did or not) or “being lazy” (i. e. problems with school work related to ADD and learning disorders diagnosed as an adult). The ones with a switch drew blood, those with a belt left some wicked bruises. Did they hurt? Hell yes, they hurt like a motherfucker. But, worse than the physical pain was the embarrassment. Many of these “spankings” occurred when I was junior high (part of what the youngsters call middle school nowadays) and physical education was a required course in grades 7-9. Imagine P.E. in those short shorts we used to wear back in the 70’s when your legs are scarred/scabbed/bruised from a beating. It was humiliating.
Just as bad (if not worse) was the knowledge that all this anguish was inflicted on me by my father, the person who was supposed to protect me from such things. The relationship between a teen-aged boy and his father is strained enough as it is; adding a wrinkle like this to the mix can poison it. For quite a few years, our relationship was very rocky and didn’t begin to heal until sometime in the 90’s when he apologized for all that happened in those days. It still had its moments and only reached a place of stability when we both had cancer. That it took something as awful as cancer to make us whole again attests to the rift between us.
Were the beatings I got effective in moderating my behavior? No, all they really did is make me work harder at not getting caught. While they weren’t very effective at moderating behavior, they did some really great work other places. Like, creating that rift between my father and I; undermining what little self-respect/self-esteem I might have had; causing me great embarrassment in school, etc. Any benefit that might have accrued from those whippings was more than offset by the psychological damage they did.
So, why did this happen? Why did a good, Christian man with a huge heart, a man who loved his son more than anything inflict such punishment on that son? That’s a question I’ve wrestled with a lot over the years and every answer I come up with sucks. Probably because there is no excuse for abusing the person God has charged you with protecting. And, if my father was here, he’d agree with that 100 percent.