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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?

tallulah Sat 22-Mar-14 23:10:38

I was smacked regularly, but only with hands. All my friends were also smacked because that was the norm back in the 1960s. (There were probably families who didn't, but this was my experience). When I had my children in the 1980s we smacked them, and again, most of my friends at the time did the same.

Yours sounds a lot more extreme, but my parents would no more have said sorry than flown to the moon. That just wasn't the way parents interacted with children at that time. My father certainly ruled by fear, and my mother by criticism.

You can't change what happened and you can't make them change their minds. All you can do is make a choice to not focus on it now, and to do better by your own children. Perhaps get counselling to work through it.

We have a 7 yo as well as adult children and we don't smack her, because times have changed. Neither is she frightened of us.

NeedsAsockamnesty Sat 22-Mar-14 23:16:20

Why would you forgiving help you put it out of your mind?

Have you ever told them how you feel or that you believe they were wrong?

MrsMcColl Sat 22-Mar-14 23:17:56

Have tried, Needsasock, on various occasions. I think their response is known as gas-lighting...

DisgraceToTheYChromosome Sat 22-Mar-14 23:19:17

Unmumsnetty hug OP.

With us it was PMT rage. I came to realise (we all did) quite early that for 3 days a month DM was what mountaineers call an "objective danger" like rockfall, storm or avalanche.

I only realised my true feelings for her when she rang with her diagnosis and after making soothing noises, I put the phone down with no emotion whatever.

bunchoffives Sat 22-Mar-14 23:26:24

I struggle too with a lot of memories of violence and neglect. I don't know how you get stop remembering or even if you can.

But it does come and go in phases. Harder to bear if you are otherwise stressed or down.

I think the only thing you can do, as MavisG says, is to just let the feelings come, acknowledge them, and the fact they are valid, then let them go as you are ready to do so. Externalising them and validating them I think helps - by talking to a trusted friend or counsellor preferably. And remember that you are not alone. I think in the 70s it was very very different. There were still some Victorian ideas of discipline left over, plus parents had lived through, or been brought up in, the war and life was just a lot tougher then.

I suppose we should feel proud in a way to survive less than perfect childhoods and come out the other side. I wish I could say it had made me a better parent by contrast, but I don't think it did.

IndieNile Sat 22-Mar-14 23:53:29

I was regularly slapped as a child, even though I wasn't a naughty one - if my mother didn't like my tone of voice she would hit me. Often it was across my bare legs, but sometimes across my face. She used to hit me hard enough to leave red marks, and would even say things like " that was a good one, I can see all my fingers". When I cried she would say "that hurt me more than it hurt you" but I never understood what she meant.

Her whole concept of child-rearing was "spare the rod and spoil the child" and " children should be seen and not heard".

She still chuckles about how she used to give me a "straightener" every morning because I tended to whinge as I hated getting dressed (1960's clothes had loads of small buttons, which I found difficult aged 4/5) so she used to "give me something to cry for". I had a smack before breakfast every morning during my first year at school.

I still resent the smacking. I know it was considered acceptable in the sixties, but I was a well-behaved child who was smacked into submission for imaginary misdemeanors. I still have issues of low self-esteem.

PatrickStarisabadbellend Sat 22-Mar-14 23:57:38

My parents were the same. My mum used to smack me all the time until I turned 15. I couldn't take one more, the last time she did it I am ashamed to admit that I knocked the shit out of her.

Nobody will ever hit me again.

EeeIcouldCrushAGrape Sat 22-Mar-14 23:58:40

Just going by the OP. I don't personally smack, but there's a world of difference between a smack, and a leather belt along with a wooden spoon! shock
Iron out those disparities for a start,

ThatBloodyWoman Sun 23-Mar-14 00:02:29

Me and all my mates used to get smacked in the 70's, but it's quite different to get the belt etc.

Someone I know used to get hit regularly with a belt at home, and also caned at school, but it was the treatment at home that has had a lasting impact.

NeedsAsockamnesty Sun 23-Mar-14 00:17:41

That sounds par for the course.let me guess your either rewriting history or you were such a dreadful child they had no choice?

If they gas light then they are not sorry they are also continuing the abusive behaviour.make peace with any lasting impact on you,forgive if you want to and you can but never never think you have to or you should or that its any fault of yours if you can't or won't.

systematic Sun 23-Mar-14 00:19:16

Lots of similarities. Parents extremely heavily involved and obsessed with evangelical church. Hit with a stick kept above a door. Father has no memory of using it interestingly but I strongly suspect he's quite selectively forgetful. The fact was they did use it and even when it wasn't in use, it was a constant threat as I could see it every time I came out of the kitchen. How I wished I'd called the police or given him a taste if his own medicine. I have very negative memories of my childhood and would never treat my kids that way.

NeedsAsockamnesty Sun 23-Mar-14 00:36:09


That's what happened the last time my mother ever hit me. I warned her first told her that if she was going to try and hurt me again she should make it really very hard because if I got up I would hit back,and I did.

I left home that night hid for a few days at a friends had my 16th birthday and never spent another night under her roof.

I now own that roof and will admit the day she phoned me telling me they couldn't afford to keep the house and would I help,inside I pissed myself laughing.

She only stopped screeching clutching her heart and saying I was about to hurt her in an attempt to get her husband to man handle me away about 15 years ago the day she tried it for the 10th time and he told her to shut up stop being so spiteful and dramatic that he wouldn't blame me if I did but any fool could see she was the violent one!

PatrickStarisabadbellend Sun 23-Mar-14 00:38:45

Needs I felt it was the only thing I could do to protect myself. We get on now but if anyone dare touch me I would batter them.

NeedsAsockamnesty Sun 23-Mar-14 00:47:44

Me to, I know violence is never ok but right then in that moment I knew it was the only way of taking back control over myself and stopping her. She had dragged me down the stairs whilst my face repeatedly hit into the bannister slats I couldn't see out of one eye and my tooth had gone right through my lip but I fought back.

After the things she put me through nobody no matter how big or tough they think they are could ever do worse with out actually killing no longer scared of anything.

systematic Sun 23-Mar-14 01:07:20

They claimed they didn't know better when as an adult i challenged. Mum says there were no books to help with parenting but who in their right mind uses fear and physical abuse to control a child? They were work obsessed and gave little attention to their kids. I think my parents had a dysfunctional upbringing though. Mum was partly bought up in a boarding school and dad lost his mum early. They act like butter wouldn't melt in their mouths now, they are very self righteous as many fanatical Christians are.

Having my own children raised a lot of issues as I couldn't understand why/how they parented the way they did. I have felt cross with my parents as an adult. These days I see very little of them and don't have a close relationship. Yes I love them but I feel they let me down hugely. I think what has helped me is that I have always challenged them about my childhood even as an adult. I've always just quizzed them, told them how I feel/felt. A few years ago Dad told me that things happen and it's pointless talking about it. He wanted me basically to be quiet and keep it all inside. I explained that maybe he deals with things by not talking about them but I do the opposite. It has worked for me too but has meant my parents have been scrutinised from time to time which they clearly don't enjoy.

Oddly enough my religious line towing brothers took everything unquestioningly (although my younger brothers didn't get beaten by the stick). I was used as the black sheep of the family despite not really really doing anything madly off the rails. I craved some parental attention/support but it was non existent and that made me very unhappy at the time. I had to deal with some very tricky things on my own with zero support (miscarriages, being burgled, being bullied at school). Over the years my parents have been very supportive of two my brothers though. My mother is generally quite cold and my dad can only discuss issues that relate to his interests and religion. We don't have much in common apart from my children.

Life is good for me now. I'm very fortunate. I make sure my own children are treated well, loved and respected.

sweepdoesntlikecrowds Sun 23-Mar-14 08:27:53

OP could you write them a letter saying exactly how you feel, maybe even don't post it if you don't want to, but perhaps writing it all down may help somehow.

In my house growing up I remember arguments and shouting more than smacking. I think having my own children has made me think about this and realize that I don't want to parent the same way, as when things started to get tough with toddler behaviour I started to shout and I just don't want to, I tell myself to be firm but fair, sometimes i have to walk away, but i do not want my children to think daily shouting is normal and i don't want them to walk on egg shells around me.

My parents had their own issues and their own childhoods obviously shaped them, not for the better, i want to break the cycle.

londonkiwi Sun 23-Mar-14 08:44:20

OP I was also going to suggest writing a letter to them, being as clear as you can be about your view of what they did to you and the impact this had on you, and how clearly this links to your lack of contact with them now.

I suggest doing this for your sake more than theirs, so that you know that they know what your thoughts/feelings are, even if it doesn't change their view (and from the sounds of it I doubt it will).

Forgiveness is a tricky one, and totally up to you but again I would suggest that if you can (and it tends to be a long process not a one off thing anyway) it may help you let go of some of the pain and bitterness that you (rightfully) carry. It's not in any way to do with them or "letting them off the hook" so to speak (esp as they sound in no way sorry about what they did).

FunkyBoldRibena Sun 23-Mar-14 08:56:09

You weren't smacked sweetie - you were abused.

I'd definitely look into some counseling.

EmmaBemma Sun 23-Mar-14 08:56:49

My mum and dad were violent too - my dad more so. I have come to terms with it, though I went through a bad time when my first daughter was born - remembering everything, but this time as a parent myself and not understanding how someone could treat their child that way. My dad does acknowledge that it happened, but doesn't take full responsibility - for example, he rubbed my face in my piping-hot dinner when I was 5 because I didn't want to eat it. I got badly burned and ended up with a huge blister covering most of my forehead; I had to wear a burns dressing and stay off school for a couple of days. But he's told this story (minus the details about the injury) to my husband like it was some sort of humorously unfortunate incident like you might see on "Outnumbered".

My mum has just blanked out much of it. She broke a full cup of coffee over my head once and has absolutely no memory of it now, at all. However, now she has eventually split from my dad I know she feels a lot of guilt over her indirect role in not protecting us more from his rages even if she doesn't quite acknowledge other stuff.

I think the thing that has helped me forgive my parents is that I know they did/do love me. They just completely lost their shit every now and again. They were very young, had problems of their own, flawed people who did wrong things, but that bond is still there for me. It's not about condoning or minimising what happened, but ultimately I want them both in my life, though it's no coincidence that I now live hundreds of miles away from both of them! I speak to my mum maybe once a month and my dad much less than that. I did try going no contact with my dad a few years ago but I found it made me feel worse, not better - I was having traumatic dreams about him most nights, and he took up so much more headspace generally. This way - friendly, but occasional contact, feels right.

To return to your own OP, it's not a question of being unreasonable - you feel what you feel. I wish you luck in dealing with this in whatever way you can - I think it's important to try to come to terms, if only for your own wellbeing, as I know how this can eat you up.

StrawberryCheese Sun 23-Mar-14 09:01:46

My mum used a wooden spoon to smack me too. The last time she did it I was about 16 and it was punishment for saying the word 'shit'. I forgot myself and said it in conversation. There was/and still is no swearing in my mum's presence. That was only 12 years ago so I do remember it vividly. When I was 17 she slapped me across the face. She was ranting at me about my dad's behaviour (he was an alcoholic and by that point I hated him) so I told her to stop taking it out on me and get a divorce. She did get one a year later after 9 years of thinking about it.

I remember my dad being responsible for the smacking when I was younger, it was with his hand and would usually be across the back of the legs. I don't remember my younger brother being smacked.

I have some anger issues too and my relationship with my mum can be quite strained at times. I always panic as to what her reaction would be when I tell her things. Announcements that would usually be happy ones like 'I'm moving in with DP or DP has proposed' are faced with dread. I have to build myself up to it. She loves my now DH but she always puts a negative spin on things if I'm not doing something in the same way that she would. I stop myself from buying/doing things and think 'mum wouldn't approve, she'll have something to say'. I'm 28 years old and live 300 miles away from her and yet I'm still scared of her judging me and making me feel 2 inches tall. I don't tell her much about my life any more. She will call me and tell me all about her life and not really ask me what's going on up here anyway, so that does make it easier.

I don't think I can forgive my mum for smacking me, particularly the two occasions I mentioned earlier. I was late teens so could you even class it as 'smacking'. I'd say hitting is more appropriate. And I almost dread the day when I have children that she might try to enforce her outdated views and parenting onto me and my DC.

My mum is the reason why I am worried that I will not be a good mum.

flowers for you MrsMcColl

Pawprint Sun 23-Mar-14 09:07:34

That's awful, OP. I have a friend whose father was a psychopath minister in a Calvinist Scottish Protestant church. He regularly beat his children with a stair rod and bullied them mercilessly in every possible way.

Obviously, I am not saying that Calvinist Scottish Protestants beat their children, but this monstrous man (and his equally manipulative wife) used his 'faith' to intimidate and threaten his kids.

My mum and dad spanked me a few times when I was a child. They never used an instrument, though.

I'm not so hung up on the spankings, although I would never hit my own child, but I find it hard to forgive my mum for slapping me when I was a teen. She never apologised and seemed to think it was perfectly okay to cause me physical pain simply because I spilt something or disagreed with her etc.

I think you are perfectly entitled to feel the way you do about your parents - you shouldn't have been punished in such a vicious and humiliating manner.

Pawprint Sun 23-Mar-14 09:10:52

Emmabemma - how disgusting that your father caused you such injury.

I remember having a glass of water thrown over me during lunch one day - meals were a regular flash point with my parents.

Like your father, my mum has minimised some of her punishments with 'humour' - for example, she thinks it hilarious that she only stopped hitting my brother when he finally snapped and hit her back.

My dad spanked me when I was about sixteen - that was v v inappropriate in my opinion.

Pawprint Sun 23-Mar-14 09:15:05

I don't think it helped that the comics popular in the 70s and 80s, such as the Beano and Dandy, showed 'naughty' children like Dennis The Menace being spanked with slippers, sticks etc. That was very much part of the comedy in these books - normalised violence against children...

I grew up in Scotland and always got the Oor Wullie annual for Christmas. Wullie was always getting slippered / spanked by his dad and would usually end up sitting on a cushion to ease the pain.

Kaida Sun 23-Mar-14 09:48:36

I'm sorry to hear you had such a crap time OP, and the others who have told their stories in this thread. I was "only smacked", not that hard and not that frequently, but I still hate that it happened, and struggle to reconcile my love for my parents with the fact they did that. They have no idea, and I wonder how many parents who smack/ed blithely say their kids are fine and love them, don't resent it, etc, without knowing.

YANBU to not forgive, at all.

And those who hit back, good on you. Self-defence, perfectly justifiable.

PacificDogwood Sun 23-Mar-14 09:57:44

MrsMcColl thanks

As others have said, what you've experienced (an others on this thread thanks) was not 'smacking' but repeated beatings and therefore abuse sad.

If you want to find a way to not feel angry about it and 'let it go' (not forgive - it's unforgivable in my opinion), very seriously consider some kind of talking therapy. Therapeutic counselling often uses a Cognitive Behavioural approach which may not be suitable for this kind of a childhood problem and you may be better being referred to a psychologist or psychotherapist - I am not expert, but see your GP and ask to be referred.

I was only smacked very rarely and am not resentful of the few occasions when my mum clearly lost her rag, but on one occasion held her arm when she was about to slap by brother. She never hit us again.

I don't hit my kids, but certainly have come close - never because I felt I needed to install 'righteousness' in them hmm, but because I was losing control of the situation. Hitting is always the hitters fault, not the hittees IMO sad.

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