Unable to forgive my parents for constant smacking when I was a child

(123 Posts)
MrsMcColl Sat 22-Mar-14 22:16:00

Reading another thread today on strangers advising parents to smack their children made me think - again - about my own childhood. I think about it a lot, even though I'm in my 40s and have a life of my own that's separate to my parents. I just can't let it go.

They were very brutal. My dad used his leather belt on my brother and me. My mum used a wooden spoon. It happened often. I don't think our behaviour was unusually terrible, but they were clearly disgusted and disappointed with us. Every smacking was preceded and followed with the words, 'this is the only language you understand'. They truly believed in the rightness of it. They are very religious (evangelical protestant), and saw it as necessary to instil righteousness into us.

If they said they were sorry and were open to discussing why they did it, I might forgive them. But as it is, I just can't. We have a very distant relationship now, and both my brother and I have anger issues that we struggle to resolve. I have always struggled with low self-esteem.

Am I being unreasonable not to just put it in the past and focus on my life now with DH and DCs? I find it so hard not to dwell on it and I think I hate my parents. How to let it go?

NeedsAsockamnesty Mon 24-Mar-14 00:14:17

The pulling down knickers thing was often (at least in my case) intentionally done to ramp up the humiliation factor and was usually done when they knew you had got to the point where nothing physical they could do would work (from a satisfaction point not a punishment point) so they had to do something worse.

And making you remove clothes adds another layer of hurt, it was routinely something that happened to me in public. It goes a bit like this

1.physical hurt until after a few years of this you get to the point when you just don't care and they know you don't care often because you start saying stuff like "is that the best you can do?"

2. Clothing removed in private and whacked then that stops working the

3.trousers and pants pulled down in public and whacked.

I've also had the face rubbed in shit thing and was made to wear a nappy made out of a towel for several hours (age 13).and I dont think I will ever forget being forced to eat mouldy food that had been repeatedly served up to me because I had refused it and children couldn't be allowed to dislike meals.

I disclosed plenty of times back then to school, to the doctors,I even on at least 10 occasions walked into social services (with visible injuries) and spoke to social workers and have since obtained copies of the records made during those visits.i kept an extensive diary and the details of adult witnesses. As a child I was bright articulate and most certainly not nervous or shy not one person disbelieved me or thought I was exaggerating at least 3 reputable adults were willing to confirm things they had seen.it was not considered to be serious abuse as it would be today.

A social worker witnessed me being beaten with a belt and a shoe on more than one occasion (sounds odd but on reflection I know it to have been a display of apsolute power by my mother) and did not even raise her eyebrows.

In the last 15 years I took everything I had into a police station and talked to a duty inspector many weeks later I had a visit to be informed that they could do nothing because nothing that happened to me was an actual criminal offence at the time of the incidents.

My recollection of the time from talking to friends and things i saw as well as my own experances was not that it was normal but that it was not unusual whilst many people wouldn't do it or even think of it plenty of people did and thought it was perfectly acceptable conduct,a child being beaten in the street was not something that caused shocked looks or even much of a debate about acceptability,seeing something like that was more likely to make you think the child was out of control as opposed to the adult.

My dad never hit me but he stood and watched as his girlfriend who was 5 years older than me (i was 15) tried to smack me. Wtf!

If i wasn't going to tolerate that off my own mother then i certainly wasn't going to with some tart my dad was with. I snotted that bitch too.

I am not a violent person but i won't be attacked. I will always fight back. I spent many years being leathered and a person can only rake so much.

slappedtoohard Mon 24-Mar-14 00:36:14

Strange that I found this thread as something that happened recently has triggered this for me again. So sad to read that so many people had such horrific childhoods. My earliest memory is one of fear. Both of my parents were violent but like others on the thread it was hidden behind 'respectability' and 'religion' as they were respectable business people in a small community & sat in the top pew at mass. I've had yrs of counselling but still can have bad days. They have changed now in they are nicer & are good enough to their grandchildren but I don't think I will ever recover fully from my experiences as a child.

I was beaten up to leaving home at 18 for anything really & usually for something that had nothing to do with me. I was dragged about by the hair, kicked, blows to the head, called a whore etc. At the age of about 15 I didn't think I'd be able to stick it till 18 & had a few suicide attempts that went unnoticed. I remember on one occasion my brother had welts all over his body from being beaten with an iron bar for something minor. He never recovered & committed suicide a few yrs later. History has been rewritten with my mother the victim who's son died & anyone who knows my mother now thinks she is lovely and feels sorry for her. I know my father struggles with the guilt of it all but I doubt they will ever really be able to acknowledge what they did. How could they I guess.

I forgive them as they have paid the ultimate price for their actions but it has been a very long road. For me the legacy they left me meant that I married a violent man and spent yrs trying to make that relationship work. On the plus side I broke the pattern with my own kids and everyone who knows me would tell you what a great mum I am to my kids. If I do nothing else worthwhile with my life other than continue to do the best I can as a mother then for me it will be a life well lived. Feeling very sad now reading all the stories & sending love & best wishes to all who did not get the childhoods they deserved. X

slappedtoohard Mon 24-Mar-14 00:43:49

NeedsAsockamnesty I feel sick reading your post. I hope you have managed to build a good life for yourself in spite of the horrendous start you had.

NeedsAsockamnesty Mon 24-Mar-14 02:29:43

Slapped indeed I have, my life is fantastic I have a wonderful family, great friends,work I love and really believe in and no regrets.

It took a lot of work on an emotional level and I struggled at first but I think that living well is the best way to put things behind you.

I used to dwell on it but I haven't now for many years brilliant support through my doctors helped lots as has using my work to campaign for better safeguarding of vulnerable people and parenting support and doing what I can to raise awareness between violence towards children and future domestic abuse (lots of children who had violence used on them grow up to accept DV against themselves).

As each month goes by using any type of physical violence against children becomes less and less acceptable and socially frowned apon, this pleases me lots, if physical chastisement was not legal most of what happened to me would not have happened.

londonkiwi Mon 24-Mar-14 07:32:09

These stories are horrendous. Needsasock that is amazing, you're an inspiration!

In New Zealand smacking is now illegal and I think the reason it's so important is that it (slowly) leads to a culture change whereby hitting children (on any level) is unacceptable.

MrsMcColl Mon 24-Mar-14 08:43:59

Needsasock you are so right - living well is the best way to move on. And I do, pretty much. That's why I just want to find a way of 'shaking off' my childhood experiences - so I can live better and more peacefully. I know those experiences have shaped who I am - but I want it to stop dragging me down. I am v inspired by your story - thank you for sharing it.

thedrunkenduck Mon 24-Mar-14 08:50:45

I wouldn't have anything to do with them- period.

I don't think a little tap every now and again does a child any harm- but that is abuse surely?

Thistledew Mon 24-Mar-14 09:22:46

MrsMcColl - have you tried any sort of mindfulness meditation on what has happened? What might help you is to recognise that no matter what you feel about what happened to you, there is no way you can go back and change it. The only thing is to be able to change how you feel about it now.

For a period of a week, allow yourself 30 mins per day to think and reflect on your feelings about what happened. Let yourself feel whatever you want to feel - sadness, anger, bewilderment, grief. Acknowledge them as they come up and let them be there. If you get those feelings at any other time than your scheduled 30 minutes, tell yourself that you will not think about them now, but will come to them later.

Then after that week is up, tell yourself that you are not going to dwell on it any more. If you find yourself thinking about the way you were treated, distract yourself with a happy thought about something current in your life. It is incredibly hard to do so to start with, and you will feel that you have to force it and be strict with yourself. Going over the old familiar feelings of upset is comforting in the way that picking a scab is. You know you shouldn't do it, but it holds a real fascination for you. But after time it does become easier, and soon enough you will realise that you have not thought about it for a few days, or a week, or more.

You might think that a week is not long enough to start with, and you can be a bit flexible, but it is important to give yourself a deadline, and not to let it drag out too long.

I'm not a psychologist, but this technique has helped me get over similar feelings in relation to an abusive relationship. It will never be forgotten or wholly insignificant, but it is something that no longer takes up my headspace, and I don't waste energy or thought dwelling on it on a day to day basis.

MrsM I found understanding more about my dad's background helped me - ironically it was only at his funeral that I spoke to my aunt about it. They had a violent dad who spent long periods away in the RAF. Their mum had what I assume we would now call post natal depression and spent most of my dad's childhood in various mental institutions having electric shock treatment. They were looked after by an elderly aunt and lived in Victorian levels of poverty in the 1950s as their dad sent a pittance home and spent the rest. I'm not saying that this background made it ok, but it would have been something of a miracle if he'd survived that without being an extremely disturbed person.

But living well is definitely the way forward. I didn't feel I had any parenting models to copy when I had my own children, but I had a pretty strong sense of what I wasn't going to do. I'm not perfect as a parent, but violence is not part of my children's upbringing.

NearTheWindymill Mon 24-Mar-14 09:46:18

These stories are so very sad and I'm so very sorry. There is a world of difference between a smack and what has happened to many of you. I got the odd smack as a child and would put my hand on my heart and say it did me no harm (60's). I remember at primary school the head had a slipper for the boys but I don't think it was every used and I remember no cruelty at school.

My own children have had the odd smack, never pre-meditated and always regretted - perhaps twice each. DD still remembers the shock of it and talks about it - she was probably 6; she's nearly 16 now. They have never lived in fear.

We are also practicing Christians - please believe me whether you have truck with God or not, physical abuse of any living creature has nothing to do with christianity. There are tracts in the "old testament" that imply it but they are written in a context appropriate in a different culture thousands of years ago. No liberal christian would interpret them or apply them literally and to do so is very very wrong and opposed to every tenet of christianity that I know and I am ashamed of being a christian if any other person calls themselves the same and claims the bible justifies abuse. It does not.

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that neither the times nor God justified what happened. In my experience what happened was entirely abnormal and should not have happened.

From the bottom of my heart I am truly sorry for what some of you have suffered and hope that you might be able to reconcile what happened in the past with what you can influence in the future.

MrsMcColl Mon 24-Mar-14 10:09:36

Thank you all. I really appreciate the time you have taken to reply. Some very thoughtful advice here that I will try to act on.

WindyMill, I totally hear you about Christianity. I knew as a child that what was happening was wrong. But my parents are horrified at the very notion of 'liberal Christians' - they see any kind of liberalism as a travesty of Truth!

BlessedAssurance Mon 24-Mar-14 10:13:49

Totally agree Windy. To abuse children in the name of christianity is just wrong. My family is christian, the whole lot but not once did my parents ever bring christianity or God into the picture when disciplining us. If you got a smack you would have done something horrible and always knew that you had really crossed our boundaries. The reason i remember the number of smacks i got from my mum was because they were so rare and not painful at all. Me and my twin brothers were rascals growing up ,those smacks were just laughed off. However my big brother really upped his game in the abuse department, recruiting cousins giving them belts to hit me for having been seen walking with my male classmate. I was 16.

I got my own back when i left home, did well in school[he quit]. Got financially secure, he is not. Married one of the loveliest men alive[he has deep problems in every area of his life]. Then when all was well with me, i confronted him. He did not say a word. He just listened. I told him i did not need his apologies because it was too late. I told him what i thought of him and his "discipline" . When i was done i told him that i would never forget. Funny enough being in front of him seeing his pathetic self made me stronger and i just felt sorry for him. I just felt all the anger and pain going away after that confrontation. He later told mum that he was scared of megrin. Lovely. A few years later i could forgive, not forget, no. I did it for my own peace of mind, not for him. He was just a bully,,we are now close but i see and am glad that he never lays a hand on his kids. If he ever does then he has me to answer to..

MrsmcColl i hope one day you will find it in your heart to release it all out of your system, not easy, and not for them, but for you. These people hurt you and continue like nothing happened and it sucks, while for you the wound is as fresh as yesterday. Forgivving is not easy especially the abusive twats involved won't even acknowledge their guilt, however you can move on from this. Do not let what they did to you dictate how you are going to live the rest of your life. Set them free from your heart and use that space for other more giving and beneficial feelings for yourself and those you love. You will heal and once you do it is such a good place to be. Wishing you the best.

To everyone who has gone through such horrible abuse i am so sorry.

NearTheWindymill Mon 24-Mar-14 10:14:47

Funny how it's high church christians who tend to be the most liberal and where there is encouragement to read the passages from the bible and think about them and about what might have beenwritten ni another time (ie, beyond the words) rather than being told what they mean in a non negotiable commanding way.

I hope you find a better place.

harriet247 Mon 24-Mar-14 10:22:54

I think smacking does cauae you to be distant. Nobody wants to stay close to anyone who has caused them pain. My mum smacked her older children but not the younger. Very strange, my dad didnt agree with it and i have awful memories of my dad coming home from work and pulling my mum off my sister when she went to town on her with a pair of shoes sadsadsad i have a hard relatuonship with her and like other people have said she will never be looking after my dc alone.
I hope you can find some peace mrsmcoll

NeedsAsockamnesty Mon 24-Mar-14 11:30:34

In a none blame way so please don't read this as an attack.

I do think the odd smack/tap what ever you want to call it does do damage,

Back when I was young to all the authorities that I tried to get to deal with me what happened was considered acceptable,my parents were not odd religious bods nor were they anything other than considered to be decent respectable even influential people.

Many aspects of What happened to me were widely accepted as being not unusual to the point that neighbours,teachers,local policemen any adult you came into contact with could wallop you around the head with impunity

Back then beating hell out of a child's backside in the street was a frequent sighting people would look and think bad of the child and the parent would often get sympathetic looks.

We now know that often what we view as bad behaviour is developmental and have not lived in the children being seen and not heard era for quite some time, we expect adults to be proactive in most other areas of life those who are reactive tend to be considered to be a bit chaotic and dramatic so why not when it comes to children?

All children occasionally misbehave its mostly a learning experience why incorporate an acceptance of violence into that message,why teach them that violence of any type is acceptable or normal in the context of a loving relationship.

These days a smack in the street is mostly going to lead to looks of shock and you being judged and viewed negatively and your child being sympathised with, if your punishing the child why open yourself up to that?

It's a very good indication that its getting less and less ok as are other places considered legislating against it and some who have,in 20/30 years when it's got to the point when physical chastisement is totally unacceptable or even unlawful and viewed as abuse would you want to run the risk of your children being on a thread like this talking about the occasional incidents of legally sanctioned abuse?

I know I wouldn't
I also know I don't want any of my children to think that hurting people is ok,because it is not.

NearTheWindymill Mon 24-Mar-14 11:40:00

I have never seen what you describe need. I think it's totally wrong to hurt a child. Mine have had a quick slap, probably twice each. If that has harmed them in any way then I am truly sorry for it. They are older teenagers now and I love them with the core of my soul.

I am sorry for what happened to you and that no-one listened. I recall a girl at school who was being abused and who confided in a teacher (about 1975) and she was helped. I believe her father had to leave the family home but I don't know all the details.

NeedsAsockamnesty Mon 24-Mar-14 11:46:47

I am glad you have never seen a child being physically chastised (with in the law of the time)in the street. Surprised but very very glad.

Pawprint Mon 24-Mar-14 16:25:14

The low church, evangelical Christian situation - I have seen the Bible being used to justify abuse. Of course, that is the minority and, in my opinion, these people are not Christians...

A cousin of mine was beaten by her parents when she was a child. They were members of a religious sect that condoned the physical punishment of children. She told that, when she was about 13 and had gone through puberty, her father made her bend over a bench and pulled her knickers down. Her lower body - genitals and bottom - were completely on show and he used to beat her whilst male elders of the sect watched. Appalling.

There used to be a religious show on Sunday mornings called The Heaven And Earth Show. I remember they did an item about corporal punishment of children. There was a young man on the show. He appeared with his daughter. He boasted openly of spanking her and said that the Bible condoned this. He was absolutely vile and it was obvious the little girl was terrified of him. Every time she tried to say how she felt, he spoke over her and got more and more irritated.

C3P0 Tue 25-Mar-14 02:29:43

Similar experiences to many on this thread. Angry religious parents using often brutal and ritualised physical discipline as a conduit for their own rage and miseries. Social services not interested due to articulate, affluent parents and lack of (visible) injuries. Similar psychological problems in later life, anger /depression /authority issues.

I'm not against a quick, contextual smack. I've argued with friends who are parents that for lack of a smack they let their toddlers run into the road.

I see my parents regularly and treat them as they now are, not how they were. But if my dad did it to anyone else now, I'd smash his fucking face in.

Perhaps the worst thing is I don't ever really trust myself round kids. I'm scared of the monster they put inside me. Never hurt anyone, but I see little bits of evil poking through at the edges sometimes. It's hard to shake off a childhood where oppression and violence are normalised.

bluebeanie Tue 25-Mar-14 03:24:01

My parents smacked my sister and I. There was one very bad incident when we were very young and scribbled our names on some cardboard/model houses he had made. He stripped us naked, put us over his knee and smacked us so hard we peed ourselves. I remember my mum sat watching. sad Sorry, it was only one occasion, but it was still unforgivable.

Your case op was cruel and I can completely see why you can't forgive. As long as you do right by your children by not doing the same then you are being a better person than either of them.

BlueFrenchHorn Wed 26-Mar-14 05:13:29

bluebeanie that's terrible! Did your father ever apologise?

TheRealAmandaClarke Wed 26-Mar-14 06:31:42

Sorry.
I don't think you need to forgive your parents.
But you might want some further or better counselling to help you with your feelings.

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