My aunt (my father’s sister) quoted an old saying today. She stated she is a believer in ‘spare the rod, spoil the child.’ Interestingly enough, her father (ie. my grandfather) has the view of not using physical force in disciplining your child because of what he endured from his own father. As a consequence he has only laid his hands on her once while she was growing up. I wonder what my aunt is saying about herself then…? But that aside, I strongly oppose her opinion on this matter.
As a child, my father would smack me if, in his eyes, I did something to warrant punishment. It wouldn’t have been classified as physical abuse. Nonetheless, it affacted me in a detrimental way and it shames me to admit it. It’s not real trauma, I’ve never experienced the horrors of sexual abuse. Many children are smacked while growing up, and they’re none the worse for it. Perhaps part of the reason it affected me in such a way, I was already a quiet, timid, sensitive child. My father and his domineering ways hardly gave berth for a child of my nature to grow.
My family is hardly the hug and touch type. Which is fine I suppose, it’s most likely attributed to our Asian culture. Simultaneously, it’s also difficult to see my peers so accepting of hugs and the such, while I flinch away from touch because the only time I did receive the touch of my parents was when my father hit me.
Besides the physical punishment side of it all; words, shouting, yelling also hurt. Much of the time I lived in anxiety and fear that my father would get angry at me. Heck, even now when I think too deeply of this, my chest feels tight, it gets a bit more difficult to breathe and my throat constricts. The anticipation and the anxiety that came with it was sometimes worse than the actual blow up. Hearing my father talk in low voices to my mother, I would tense up with foreboding that my father was talking about yet another action or lack of that put me in the wrong.
When I’m asked by the ‘professionals’ when I started self harming, I will usually report at aged twelve because I found the transition from primary school to high school difficult. This is not entirely true. The first time I self harmed occured before this. The memory has stayed with me ’til now. My father was shouting at me for one thing or another that irked him and I was, of course, upset. Perhaps he had also shouted at me not to cry, I’m not sure about that instance, but certainly it happened on occasion. Being frustrated, angry, upset, and not knowing how to express these emotions, I dug my fingernails into the flesh of my arm. I remember the pain distracted me from my emotions and from my father’s anger. I remember my mum noticing, and telling me not to because ‘only crazy people do that.’ So I didn’t. Until I started cutting at aged twelve.
Thankfully as I’ve grown older, the situation has improved. He’s stopped hitting me as I’ve grown older. He doesn’t get unreasonably angry at me as much as he did in the past. Most days we don’t exchange words unless it’s necessary. “Does that bother you?” I’ve been asked by an ex-psychologist and psychiatrist. “Not really,” I reply. Because there’s an alternative that’s much worse.
A couple of months ago, my grandparents and aunties (ie. my father’s parents and two sisters) called me over to my grandparents house to stage some sort of an ‘intervention’ whereby they gave me a pep talk and offered me options regarding where I live. The reason being I’m eighteen (I’m nineteen now, but was eighteen in October) so my father can’t do anything to stop me. They told me that if the situation with my father is very bad, I could always move in with one of them. They say that they feel as though they’ve let me down by not standing up for me more when I was younger. Ten years ago I would’ve jumped at the chance. These days the situation at home is not so bad and, I suppose, bearable.
Anyway, this was a rather long post that could’ve simply been summed up by the title. This is my experience and this is why I am so against physical punishment. Perhaps it is simply due to my sensitive and timid nature, but it has left me mental scars. As much as I’d loathe to give someone who caused me anguish in the past so much power over me, I do wonder whether it has in part contributed to my mentalness. But part of me is telling myself that’s silly, being abused causes trauma, simply having a hard father does not.
Either way, if I do have children in the future, I hope this remains with me as a reminder of why I will spare the rod, because not doing so can also spoil the child- mentally.