My Regret: Phoenix’s Story

siblings

HA note: Phoenix blogs at The Eighth and Final Square.

Content warning: descriptions of infant spanking.

Two years old. Rebellious. Self-willed. Wicked. Too young to like or dislike anything. Too young to have opinions.

Wait…what?!?

Uhh yeah, that’s my parents for you.

They don’t believe in the “terrible twos”…they believe in “terrible hearts”.

You know, the verse in Proverbs that says foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child but the rod of correction will drive it from him. And the verse that the heart is wicked and who can know it. So the first problem is, they don’t come to parenting with the view that these are people. They come to parenting with the view that these are wicked little sinners who need a radical change, whose thoughts and feelings and opinions and likes and dislikes don’t matter because it is all selfish willfulness.

Cue the dinner table. There’s a very small child in the high chair, whom dad is feeding. This child is a baby, really…crawling, maybe walking; can’t even say real words yet.

“Open up!” dad says, moving the spoon towards her.

She accepts that bite, but doesn’t like the food, and spits it back out.

“No, you eat it,” dad says, scooping it back up and attempting to give it to her again.

She makes a disgusted face and turns her head. We all laugh at the cute little shudder she makes.

“Don’t laugh, it encourages her,” dad says, still trying to force the bite with the slightly more stern command “Open”. He presses the spoon against her soft mouth, trying to force it open.

When she continues resisting, he moves her head to face him and commands sternly, “Open.”

She may open her mouth at that point, or she may not; in which case he takes the tray off the chair and gives her a few loud swats, sets her back down, and resumes with the “open” stuff.

Meanwhile the rest of us try to ignore it and eat our dinners.

If she still doesn’t open her mouth, again with the swats, and she sits there crying, looking at him with terror in her eyes, her nose running all over the place. If her mouth is open from crying, he shoves it in. If she tries to spit it out, he doesn’t let her, and she accepts that she has to keep it in her mouth.

Then comes the battle to get her to swallow.

What one-year-old do you know who knows the meaning of the word “swallow”, let alone “open”? Most one-year-olds are lucky to know the word “no”.

I’m sitting there, dying inside, longing to take her in my arms, wipe her tears, blow her nose, and cuddle her safe in my arms.

Nobody, not even mom, was allowed to give her any comfort. Not even dad did, until she did whatever he wanted. And if he got tired of spanking her, he sent her to bed…and when she got up she had to eat the same thing she disliked. Because her likes and dislikes didn’t matter. Nothing mattered except that she obeyed the first time, every time.

My only regret is that I didn’t stick up for her, for them, every time it happened with I don’t know how many of them, probably all, at one time or another.

The last time it happened when I was there, I was so close to exploding that had he spanked her one more time, I would have done something. I just wish I had…that I had stood up long before.

And that is my regret.

5 comments

  • “Because her likes and dislikes didn’t matter. Nothing mattered except that she obeyed the first time, every time.”
    UGH. My dad was like that with the force feeding, too. <.< It was disgusting.

  • Your regret echoes my own. I have no idea how many times i’ve looked back wishing I had spoke up instead of watching my sister’s abuse. Its not a feeling that goes away even though we were only children ourselves and couldn’t have been expected to be heros.

  • This is one of the saddest stories I have ever read. Ever. I have heard that babies are physically abused under the guise of ” parenting ” but have not read a first hand account until now. It is devastating that your sister was tortured while all of you had to watch. A grown woman wasn’t even stopping it , so surely no child could have. I am so sorry. May you continue to reclaim your voice through writing, or anyway you need to – and I hope your sister will too.

  • Hi, Phoenix is there any way to files abuse charges against your father for what he did to all of you ?

  • Oh lovey … my heart’s in a vice .. i’m in awe that you’ve found a way to voice these particular memories. i still can’t tell these stories – i can’t. i feel like if i ever talked about it i would birth something horrible into the world. It’s dumb, i know, but it feels too filthy coming out of my mouth. i am not so brave. i had to tell my sister what happened to her and i’m pretty sure it took a few years off my life. What was worse is she patted my back while i tried not to vomit. Maybe someday, but i don’t know… i’ve tried – i can only get out single words and then i start shaking and my throat tightens up. My only way to deal is to send my love back to my precious babies, the ones i was unable to save more times than i was able to, and to my poor wretched self. I survived and … whether they did or not is debatable still, but they’re alive and out of there so where there’s life there’s hope. For those who do wish that they had tried to stop the abuse, let me tell you, there’s nothing that CAN be better in a situation like that. My siblings bear the pain today of my screams and have asked me in tears why i got in trouble for them. When i realized that my attempts to save them only made them bear the WORST of what i bear today (their abuse) i very nearly wasn’t ok. The point is … there wasn’t any way to stop it. We were helpless. My very heart and the depths of all the love we never knew to you all … to us all

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