Spare the Child

He popped into our lives like a bee sting on the foot while running barefoot in the park: sudden, unexpected, and painful.

His name was Richard, but Mum said to call him “Dad.”

I was only 5 at the time.

My first memories of him consist of me yelling, “You’re not me Dad,” over and over. Maybe this defiance started the beatings; I don’t remember.

Most of the times I got in trouble for being “cheeky.” I never really figured out what that meant. I do recall, however, one time that I was whipped for causing Coventry to lose by making too much noise in the room next to the television.

I distinctly remember him grinding his teeth like he had eaten some bad fish every time he dug into me. He said I screamed like a poofter. I didn’t know what a poofter was at the time. I screamed anything I thought he wanted me to say,”I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it.” Even though I didn’t always know what I was sorry for or what “it” was.

Mum used to just stand there with her arms crossed, all emotions drained from her icy face. My younger sister, Christine, never got hit, but she would run to her room crying every time she heard my cries.

dp writing challenge

Every Sunday, Mum would make us dress in our Sunday bests and go to church. She wanted us to look normal, as if nothing was wrong. What a bloody joke that was.

I hated church. Maybe it was because every time I got belted, Richard would yell, “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” He said that the Bible instructed him to do these beatings.

My teachers at primary school must have thought I was extremely clumsy because every time they asked me about a bruise, I would tell them that I tripped or bumped into something when I wasn’t looking.

My aunts and uncles, however, knew the truth, but they never intervened. Maybe they allowed the abuse because it was sanctioned by God.

In Uni, my ex-girlfriend said that I had some serious anger issues, but I will never do this to my own children. Never.

If it were up to me, I would burn this picture. I would burn everything about him down.

“Memories fade, but the scars still linger”–Tears for Fears

What events in your childhood shaped who you are today? How? Please share.

Thank you for reading, sharing, and/or empathizing.

This post is in response to the DP Weekly Writing Challenge: “This week’s challenge couldn’t be simpler: tell a story based on this picture.”

I was physically abused as a child. For years, I struggled with anger issues, resentment, and a lack of empathy from this abuse. Yet today, I can honestly say that I am grateful for my step-father because he revealed to me the power of forgiveness. This abuse also opened the door to my exploration into empathy. As a father of two boys today, I am blessed to have learned these lessons so I can raise my sons not just without corporal punishment, but also with empathy and forgiveness.

It is like a teenage driver’s first accident or DUI that makes them realize how precious and fragile the gift of life is. It changes not only their driving habits, but also their whole world view. For me, my physical abuse has been one of my most powerful everyday gurus.

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13 comments on “Spare the Child

  1. archemdis says:

    I was slapped on the hands with a ruler by my mom in grade one for getting average in a subject. It was only once and it did not hurt much, but it broke my heart. When I was in grade seven I was tied to my beds foot boar hands to the top and feet tied to the bottom and whipped with clothes line rope. The pain was so great and the adrenalin so intense that I broke free of my bonds. I was scarred physically, mentally and I was very angry. Many have paid for those abuses I was forced to endure, when I grew old enough and strong enough to be the bully and the abuser. Finally years later I found the strength to forgive and have been able to love again, trust again and become a good father and grandfather. No one has the right to hit another person, it just seems like a good idea at the time.

    • Kozo says:

      Archemdis,
      Thank you for your honest and heart-felt response. It means a lot to me.
      I agree that forgiveness is the key. I hurt a lot of people, mostly people I claimed to love, before I learned to forgive.
      In the story,I was trying to convey how this abusive behavior gets transferred to the abused even though they consciously think that they will never resort to violence. Your story and mine testify how this violence on children is a virus that spreads to the next generation. The cure to the virus is forgiveness.
      Thank you again for your powerful comment.

  2. I had the same thought when I saw the photo. It reminded me of my ex-husbands father (who I never met in person). Your words are poignant.

  3. Kozo says:

    Thank you for your kind words. I’m sorry you had to deal with the aftermath of physical abuse–I’m assuming some things about your ex-husband, forgive me if I am wrong. Thank God I learned to forgive and meditate or I’m sure I would be alone to this day.

  4. artmoscow says:

    That was a very sad story, albeit the one repeating itself in so many families across the globe, and leading so many people to disasters. I wish you all the happiness.

    • Kozo says:

      Thank you so much for the comment. I have found happiness in forgiveness and empathy. I actually was going to instigate corporal punishment with my kids until I learned about the damaging effects. I hope parents in my situation will resist from following the models set by their parents.

  5. eof737 says:

    Good job on the topic… I wrote a piece and chose not to publish it but might do so with a stock photo sometime… :-)

    • Kozo says:

      I would love to read your piece, Elizabeth. I want to thank you for consistently visiting this blog and commenting. I know how busy you are and how many other blogs you follow. I am trying to follow your example with the blogs I follow.. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  6. I really liked this story. I meant to post that as a comment earlier but never clicked “post.” Anyway, it’s very believable, and flows really well. If it was a book I would keep reading. =)

  7. [...] that I try to appreciate and be grateful for every moment, no matter how mundane, pedestrian, or painful. GIFs literally rob us of moments of tenderness, subtlety, and appreciation, leaving us with just [...]

  8. [...] who raised my brothers and I like we were his own children; all the likes and empathy for my Spare the Child post; my wife’s love and [...]

  9. Thank you for sharing so honestly about a challenging part of your past that helped sculpt you into the wise and caring man, writer, husband and father who you are today. I’m reminded of the old fable of two shoe salesmen being dropped off of the same plane in a remote village, where one laments ‘This is useless, these people don’t wear shoes’ while the other one cheers ‘This is fantastic! None of these people have shoes!’. I feel that way about my mother teaching me who I didn’t want to become. Her own hurtful childhood led to the woman I knew: hurtful, spite-filled, suspicious, resentful, racist, greedy, insulting… not a nice person yet I forgave her and know her memory has guided me in being everything she was not. Her emotional abuse helped me know as I grew (and ran away at 15) that I would rise above my childhood and raise my children with all the love and patience (and guidance from books and courses) that I possibly could to give them the very best groundwork for living a healthy and well-adjusted life. I am thankful for my own inner faith and strength, and that I saw ‘people needing shoes’ rather than joining in her way of life. Thanks for this honest post, and for allowing space for honest sharing :)
    With love and gratitude, your friend, Gina

    • Kozo says:

      {{{Hugs}}} Gina. I am thankful to your mother for creating such a wonderful gift to humanity. Thank you for sharing this personal story.
      You have a lot more courage than I do, Gina. I could never run away at 15. Too sheltered.
      I am so glad you were able to forgive your mother. I, too, wanted to raise my children completely opposite of how I was raised, but I found myself falling into old habits due to anger issues. Only when I forgave my step-father was I able to begin the healing that will allow me to be the father I always wanted to be.
      I am so grateful to have met you and shared scars and smiles with you, Gina. It is amazing what God puts in our lives when we walk the path of peace, forgiveness, and compassion. {{{Hugs}}} Kozo

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