My Children, My Children (ms)

It was commonly called a cat-o-nine tails but could have passed for a tiger with an attitude. It was a leather strap cut into strips, about a foot long with a handle on it that allowed for a better swing if the operator chose. My parents had one, so too did the parents of every kid I knew; it’s only purpose in life was to teach a lesson to a kid, the hard way.

It was the go-to device when simple orders would no longer work, when disobedience hit screaming levels, when chore work or school work fell below standards established at the parental level. It was used across a butt, not very hard as I recall but one didn’t need to swing very hard to make a kid swear he would never forget to do whatever again. It generally worked.

It was called corporal punishment and before you hasten to chastise the adults of the era remember that they came from rough backgrounds. They worked hard, lived with little and made just enough to get by. Their parents before them had even less to show. There was no psychologist on staff at the school, no books on child rearing, no hand-holding by a family physician; punishment was quick and sharp but never considered cruel nor offered in a cruel manner. One or two hits was enough to get any kids attention. Though I suppose I will get some argument about this, I don’t honestly think it hurt me beyond the immediate point but it did teach me valuable lessons that I have tried to follow.

Such things have gone out of use, at least as far as most of us know. Do something like that today and you’ll get a police officer to your door. So we don’t do it but that is not to say children get off with a free pass through kidhood. No, some of us have developed new and ingenious ways to harm them.

The methods can be flagrantly violent, intended to kill or maim a child, a child who won’t sleep, who soils his diaper, is simply a burden, but more likely they are insidious, the perpetrator hiding behind a cloak of respectability, trust and good natured appearances. Those are the ones a kid really needs to fear.

Those are the ones who prey on children, who get kids to do or submit to sexual acts then convince the children they should keep it a little secret between them. It’s a mind game where the perpetrator holds all the cards and thus makes up all the rules. The kid? He/she won’t say anything and besides who would believe them if they did. That kid’s from a rough background, troublesome parents, history of petty crime — who would take his word against some fine upstanding pillar of the community church going family raising home owning guy?


So the kid shuts up and takes it and eventually the predator disguised as a god-fearing man of the community moves on to new challenges leaving behind someone with a ruined childhood and a scar in the back of his/her mind that will never heal. By those standards, corporal punishment is a walk in the park.

As I write this my sorrow runs deep for those young people who have and will likely have forever only the brutal, violent memories of sexual abuse in the back of their minds instead of the good things most kids have. We as a society all too often treat our children with anger, disrespect and indecency the likes of which we would not bring down upon any other animal on earth.

Even more unforgivable is knowing it’s happening, suspecting it’s happening and doing little or nothing to stop it. God help us should our society sink that low and then consider such a thing okay.

–Mike Stevens

~ by admin on November 9, 2011.

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