When I was 8 years old, my mother married the “other man” mentioned in previous posts. I gained 3 stepsisters and a stepbrother and our blended family began. From now on, I will refer to my stepfather as my Dad.
My Dad was probably the most influential person in my life. He was a kind, patient, hardworking man who loved us. He was also a new Christian and our life together included attending church and church activities, seeing my Dad reading the Bible at the kitchen table every morning and hearing my mom sing along to gospel records while cooking supper. But, even back then while living the picture perfect family life, there were some cracks, some obvious signs that things are not always as they appear.
A constant battle of wills sums up my entire relationship with my mother from day one to present.
I was not a problem child but on occasion, my mother did use spanking to punish me for some childhood wrong. I don’t resent it.
But, I also recall my mother making me lean over a piece of furniture and my butt getting several lashes with a belt, which is abuse. Cutting a switch from a tree and whipping me with it for a long, long time is abuse. And, the verbal abuse cut the deepest. I believe my mother was and is mentally ill because she is still proud of those times where she took control and made me bend. The times she won and I lost. That surely is mental illness.
My dad took the opposite approach. He would take me into my bedroom and sit beside me and “talk”. Just talk about my behavior, about his expectations and he was so kind and calm. I would break inside because I did not want to be a disappointment to him. He never laid a hand on me. He never raised his voice. With him, it was never about control but about understanding. Our talk always ended with a plan of discipline (grounding or whatever), a hug and affirmation of love. My dad showed me a better way. My dad was my saving grace.
These stark differences in parenting made an impact on me. If just one person reads this and it stops them from picking up a belt, then my story has a purpose. Just stop for one second and ask this question. Is it about controlling a child or is it about shaping a child? Is it discipline or is it punishment? Is it anger based or reconciliation based? Just stop, put the belt down and breathe. There is a better way.