Peeking Through the Darkness: The First Memory

“Tonight, we’re going to play Russian roulette,” she said in a proud, august voice as she paced between us. I and my two sisters were kneeling and trembling as we waited. I was only four years-old, but I knew what Russian roulette was. I also knew what kind of gun our mother owned, and that you couldn’t play Russian roulette with a 9mm. You could only play with the guns that had spinning bullets.

My knees dug into the brown wooden floor. It hurt so bad that I wanted to fall over. That would be a mistake, though. My hands had to stay behind my back. My eyes had to look straight ahead, too, but they couldn’t. They kept glancing over at my oldest sister, Dessa, to make sure I was doing what she was doing. She knew how to survive Mommy’s moods. I didn’t want to mess up and make Mommy shoot me. Dessa had tears running down her face, but she didn’t make a sound. Her eyes look straight in front of her. She never glanced at me or our other sister, Faith. Mommy liked to take things away from Dessa, things she cared about. Maybe Dessa was afraid to look at her sisters, in case Mommy tried to take one of us.

Faith was kneeling, too. She wasn’t crying, though. She had the slightest grin on her face. Mommy never scared Faith. I used to think Faith had so many abhorrent things happen to her that nothing would ever scare her again. At nine, Faith was just 2 years younger than Dessa, and they had been through so much more than me.

I honestly still don’t know why Mommy decided she was mad at me, too. I think it was because I was Dessa’s and Faith’s favorite little sister. They always played in my hair, and gave me baths, and helped me eat. I was sick a lot, and often couldn’t hold my own spoon, so someone always had to feed me. If I didn’t eat my food, it made Mommy very angry. My sisters didn’t think it was fair for Mommy to be mean to me, I was too weak to be a bad girl, but that never stopped her.

Mommy walked up behind me. “Are you ready to play, Lia?” I felt hard, cold, steel dig into the back of my head. I took in a ragged breath. To me, if I died it was okay, because then I wouldn’t be in pain anymore. My sickness would be gone and my sisters wouldn’t have to take care of me. The only thing that scared me were my babies. I was in charge of my baby brother Jackie who was 3, and our baby sister Asia who was only a few months. I was the only one who fed them, changed them, and sang to them. What would happen to my babies if I lost the game? They might be next.

Click!

“I guess you win, Lia,” Mommy said in a cheerful voice. “Stay there.” My heart beat fast as I listened to her walk over to Faith. In my chest felt like a dozen frenzied beats between each of quick, loud steps. From the corner of my eye, I saw her black dress sway. It was patterned with countless, tiny pink roses and it cinched at her small waist. It was beautiful, just like Mommy. Mommy stopped behind Faith. She bent down close to Faith’s ear and in a mean, throaty whisper she said, “I really hope you lose this round.” In a flash, the barrel was pressed into the back of Faith’s head and she grimaced, but remained silent.

Click!

Mommy sighed. “Dammit!” She slapped the back of Faith’s head. “I can’t believe I have to deal with you for another day. That only leaves Dessa, and there are no more chances.” She tsked. “Faith. Lia. Cover your ears. This is going to be loud,” Mommy said in a sing-song voice and quickly put the barrel of the gun close to Dessa’s temple.  I couldn’t help myself. I let out a sob as I plugged my ears with fingers. Faith just knelt there, her hands still behind her back.

Click!

No loud boom. No thump as Dessa’s body hit the floor. No sound of anything except the pitter-patter of my urine as it hit the floor beneath me. Mommy chuckled.

Mommy said in a teasing, but friendly manner, “Tricked you!” Then her voice turned cold again.  “I guess you all win. Now don’t piss me off again and clean up your fucking sister.”

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Spanking vs. Beating: Where is the line?

Most people my age and older came from a household where spanking was allowed. For me, the two-and-a-half years in foster care and the subsequent butt-kickings from boyfriends have me completely “pro-peace.” I am almost incapable of spanking. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve tried it out on Jermahl. When I was raising him with his pothead father (who Jermahl was named for so we’ll call him ‘Druggie’ from now on), Druggie said you’re supposed to beat your kids. How else are you going to teach them? Mind you I was 15 when I got pregnant, and I thought, perhaps, there might be a difference from what I experienced and what he was talking about.

So if Jermahl was acting bad, I would pop him on the hand or the butt. Just once. But Druggie would slap him in the face or kick him. And God forbid I protested, I would get the same in kind. Well, one day, I was out with a friend going to the market. Jermahl just broke out into a tantrum in front the Food Lion market it was sooo embarrassing and I was getting mad. I kept telling him to be quiet and he wouldn’t so I popped his mouth. But he fell over and he bust his lip. I bawled in front of that store telling my baby how sorry I was. I probably looked like a crazy person, hugging him and crying.  I will never know if my anger made that ‘pop’ a ‘slap’ or if he just didn’t have the balance (my friend tried to convince me it was the latter), but I refused to spank or pop him for a long time after that.

When he was about 3, Chris (sperm donor #2) and I moved to Houston together. Jermahl was out of control because he had been living with Druggie who doesn’t believe in teaching, just beating. So we tried to just show him love whenever he was acting out. Eventually, it got to be too much, and we decided maybe spanking should be part of his discipline. So we sat him down one evening and told him what would constitute a spanking (screaming, hitting, not listening for the umpteenth time, things like that). Well, Chris’ father used a belt, so he thought we should, too, and I figured, as long we didn’t hit him hard, or directly on his skin, just the idea of it would be effective. The belt terrified Jermahl, though, and it wasn’t teaching him anything but to be afraid of his parents. So we used it about three times and retired it.
I had to come up with more creative ways to punish him. We made him stand in the corner, took away his favorite toys until he earned them back. It all depended on the offense. We found something appropriate for his age that he would understand. But I never spanked him again. Recently, he’s been having trouble with lying. So every time he lies, we have him hold a phonebook up for a few minutes. Depending on the severity of the lie, and how many people he could have potentially hurt, determined the size of the phonebook he was holding up. And I explained to him the reason he was holding the phonebook up instead of being spanked, is that spanking doesn’t teach you anything, it just hurts; but, even though holding up the phonebook hurts, it also builds up his muscles and makes him stronger.

At his house, his dad just gets angry and beats him, punches him, hits with random objects (don’t wory, I’m working on getting him out of there). At school, the kids tell Jermahl he’s a weakling because he doesn’t like to fight. So I told Jermahl, and I truly apologize to anyone this offends, anyone who needs to hit or use violence to get their point across is stunted and stupid, and no one taught them how to use their brain to express themselves, so instead they have to use a fist or a belt or mean words.

Jermahl, who is now seven, remembers the 3 times I used a belt when he was three years old.

I choose to discipline with love and until recently, I’ve been under the firm impression that hitting your child is not love. However, a lot of my close friends use spanking as a punishment for their kids.

One of my girlfriends said, “The corner is all fine and dandy, but my kids will stand in the corner and make fun of me because the punishment means nothing to them. Spanking actually resonates with them and they realize they’ve actually done something wrong.”

Another friend said, “You don’t just start off beating the crap out of them. For my son, when he started crawling around 7 months, that’s when I took 2 fingers to pop his hands when he touched something he shouldn’t. Now that’s he’s almost 2, I pop his butt a few times when he does something he actually knows he shouldn’t. When he’s a teenager, I’m going to punch him the chest. I’m not going to actually punch him the chest, but the sight of my fist coming towards him is  going to hurt way more than when I actually touch him.”

My sister-in-law says that with her 1.5 year-old nephew (whom she’s raising for now), when he touches something he shouldn’t, she says no, pops his hand and moves him. And she does this over and over until he gets the idea.

So what do you do? How do you discipline your children? When do you start? If you spank, how do you know you’re spanking them to discipline and not just because you are angry? Obviously, a punishment needs to happen immediately for a child, but if you are angry at the same time, is the discipline as  effective? And how do you show your child you still love them after a punishment?

I’d REALLY like to hear everyone’s opinions on this this. What is the difference TO YOU between spanking and beating? And should it happen at all?

They All Fall Down

Jude rolled off the bed today while I was a sleep. It’s not the first time he rolled off the bed, but I almost missed it. I was dreaming I was a construction site, so when I heard him tumble…I assumed it was part of my dream for a second. Then I heard his little baby cry and popped up to see my sweet little Judas sprawled out next to the bed, screaming his head off, his pacifier a little ways off. I felt this huge wave of guilt. How could I not make sure he was secure before I fell back asleep?

Don’t worry. I didn’t drop him until the second day he was alive..JK

When Jude was first born, he mostly slept in bed with me. I know that a lot of people say that’s wrong, but even though I’m only 23, I raised A LOT of kids in my time. I know that having a baby and then immediately trying to make them independent is cruel and takes away the security they got from you. So, exhausting as it was, Jude and I spent a lot of time together in the beginning. When he got to be about…3 months, he decided he wanted to be independent on his own. He rolled over. It was cute and exciting. It happened so fast I pretty much missed it.  The second time he rolled over, he was laying on the bed atop a sleeping Jesse while Jermahl played with him and I was taking a much needed shower. That shower lasted all of 3 minutes until Jermahl burst into the bathroom, frantically inquiring about a bottle as Jude screamed his head off. Apparently, Jermahl tried to pick his brother up and…it didn’t go so well. I haven’t been able to relax while showering since.

Aren’t they adorable?

Anyway, Jude’s been rolling more and more now. He’s also been sleeping in his crib except for late night feedings. Last night, I had a nightmare about Jermahl. When I woke up (3:15am), it was time for Jude to eat. So he stayed in bed with me the rest of the night/morning (however you choose to look at it) because nursing makes me sleepy. Yeah, well, even though he was snug in my arm, he managed to turn over and make his way to the other end of the bed. And fell. Of course, I had to Google what to do when your baby falls (even though I already knew), and saw all of the scary signs to look for in print. So when he projectile vomited, something he does at least once a day because he’s trying to sit up, I lost my mind. I got dressed to go to the ER, sat on the bed and stared at his pupils for about 15minutes while I waited for Jess to get home. Then I realized I was an idiot and put on Barney for Jude so I could stare at myself in the mirror… That is why rolling over, crawling and walking weren’t on my list: those are terrifying things. He can roll to his death, crawl to electrical sockets, run through my house smearing my mascara on the walls (Jermahl has done this…twice).  Suffice to say, Jude is okay and Jesse is home from P.T. so he’s playing with his daddy now. That was my morning, though. How was yours?

Jude rolled over to watch T.V.

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