Monday, March 22, 2010

Raise up a child in a way that is right....

[Warning -- I wrote this at 3:00 am. I can't sleep. Don't ask why. But a self-pitying wallow follows. Read at your own risk.]

For those of you church-y types, especially if you have any familiarity at all with the Southern Baptist tradition, you know exactly what the title of this post refers to --

Proverbs 22:6 "Raise up a child in a way that is right, and when he is old, he shall not depart from it."

Ivey's corollary is "Raise up a child any fucking way you want and when they are old they won't depart from it; the couldn't if they tried."

See, I was raised to be the following: obedient (above all), subservient, and accommodating.

I was taught to never "talk back," never question, never doubt or challenge authority; never, ever, put my needs and certainly not my desires, over anyone else's, not fucking ever. I learned and learned well that what I think is wrong, that I cannot function properly without correction and that punishment does not need to be understood but rather withstood. I know that love is conditional and that it can be, and will be, withheld when I displease those that I am required to love and to obey. I learned, and learned well, that I do not, I do not ever, embarrass people with my words, my actions, or my thoughts. Not. Fucking. Ever.

Yes, indeed folks. I was raised up right. And those lessons were driven home with belts, brushes, paddles, slaps, humiliation, and ridicule. And I got the fucking message before I turned five. By the time I was ten, I stopped trying to figure out what I'd done wrong but instead was learning to avoid anything that might earn a correction. Unfortunately, I also learned that I wasn't very bright, because I failed at that a lot.

A short list:
  • An eye-roll would earn a slap along with "Roll your eyes at me, I'll roll your head back, young lady."
  • Disrespect in any form, but especially in public, would earn having my underpants jerked down, turned over a knee, and spanked with a hand or paddle. "Don't you EVER sass me!"
  • Disobedience, swearing, or lying was a belt-worthy offense; when little, over the knee worked, in the teen years, I would lay across the bed, as instructed, in undies only. "I don't want to do this but you WILL learn not to [fill in the blank here]."
And guilt or innocence was immaterial. Judgement was swift and punishment was sure.

Furthermore, this was a "village" kinda vibe. It wasn't just my own parents that didn't spare the rod to avoid the proverbial "child spoiling," relatives, neighbors, the church, hell, the school community, got to get their licks in too.

An interesting side note, at least to me, is that I had one teacher in middle school who was especially paddle-happy. One day I observed that I was always wearing a dress every time I did something that required me to go out in the hall, put my hands against the wall, spread my feet, and take my "whuppin." Weird. But I quit wearing dresses and that seemed to solve the problem, at least in Ag. Class.

In the church (and reinforced at home) I learned that not only was I responsible for my behavior but apparently for the behavior -- and even the thoughts! -- of every boy and grown man around. Once, we were coming back from a Youth Trip ("Jesus! '82" at Seaworld) late at night. I'd fallen asleep in the back of the church van. Suddenly, we pulled off the side of the road, waking everyone up, where I was informed that I had to go ride on the children's bus because I was "inspiring lust in the hearts of young men." This not per the young men, but according to the chaperone driving the van who should've been keeping his eyes of the fucking road and not on the sleeping 15 year old in the back row. By herself.

I made it to college and my 20s, virginity firmly in place, and discovered that I had, in fact, been raised up right. I never questioned the authority of my professors, even when they told me that I would never realize my dreams and utterly lacked talent. I never talked back or questioned the "brilliant" and "learned" minds that were there, but I anticipated what I needed to get the grade well enough and gave it to them, with little thought on my part and less understanding.

And when opportunities did come my way, a chance to study abroad or be cast in a very challenging role (that included.... shhhh.... nudity) I turned those disgusting opportunities down, and right fuckin' quick too, let me tell you. I didn't need to "think" about anything, weigh pros and cons, challenge myself. Hell no! I already KNEW the right path, because my parents and God and the pastors and the relatives made sure I did. And when the professional chance of a lifetime (for a serious young actress, at least) presented itself to me, I let that pass too. I mean, Mama and Daddy and Granny and Granddaddy and Ganny and Gramps and all my aunts and cousins and the preacher and well, shit, you get the idea. They would NEVER be okay with that. And you don't cross Mama and Daddy. Not if you know what's good for you.

"The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away! But Mama and Daddy are the hands of God."

I have no children and I never will.

And because I had no experience or understanding with "boys," other than the fact that good girls didn't put out, when my body's desires finally overcame my morals I fucked up in more ways than one -- from a disastrous and very regrettable "first time" to the first in a long line of bad choices.

I rationalized that it's okay though, if, ya know, they love you. And they did love me, right? I mean, I loved them. All of them. From the compulsive liar to the drug-abusing racist asshole. From the ones I don't remember to the ones I've tried and failed to forget. I loved them. I had to. And they just HAD to love me. A lot of them didn't though. And seriously, why would they? I was a dirty, sex-having whore.

Because sex equals love, right? Because if it doesn't, then I was fucking lied to. See, I was told that sex is only okay if both the man and woman love each other and if they aren't married then they are going to be soon. Right? Oh, and it's dirty. And it's from the devil. And it's all Eve's fault anyway. And that's why it hurts to have babies. Because God made it so when he drove Adam and Even from the Garden of Eden. Because God was fucking pissed at stupid Eve. And that's why she's not as good as a man. Because she's stupid, and gullible, and weak, and well, dirty. Unless a man loves her, and that makes her okay. But not any smarter.

And as I entered my thirties and now my forties I am realizing, deeply and completely, just how "right" I was raised and how I want to, but don't seem to be able to, depart from it.

I have obligations to my family, and I owe them, because they made me who I am -- right? -- and eventually I will bankrupt myself and my husband to take care of them. Under their constant criticism, correction, and derision. I know that.

And when the day comes, and it will because it has before, when my brother needs me because he is even more fucked up than I, I will take care of him, too.

What other people want or need will always, always, always be placed above what I want or need. Always.

And now that I no longer believe in God -- or my parents for that matter -- I have to tell you I'm a little disappointed that my sacrifice won't even earn me a place in heaven. I'm kinda pissed off that failing to please others and not doing whatever it is that they didn't want me to do isn't going to give me at least some cosmic fucking payoff. Of course, I shouldn't be surprised. My vigilant dedication to not upsetting people has failed to make them happy, and it's sure as shit failed to make me happy.

I mean, I've not done it all. I "didn't do" the long list of don'ts.

I'm forty-fucking-three. If family history can be trusted and nothing else goes awry, then I'll probably live to be ninety and that's not a given, is it? I would really like, no REALLY LIKE, to do some of the don'ts and even some of the do's.

But I don't think I can.

That's not how I was raised.


  1. Forgive the brief comment for a such a long, thoughtful post, but I'm jet-lagged and all I can say is that I think people can change, that you can do that do's and don'ts! You're not restricted to a perhaps less-than-fulfilling life because of how you were raised.

    Oh yeah, one other thing. Your writing at 3am is better than mine at any time of the day...

  2. I wonder if any parent truly realizes the power they have when raising a child. How every word, every action makes an imprint on that child and will ultimately stick with them for the rest of their lives. It's a little scary and something that hubby and I think about pretty regularly. We just want to do right by our daughter and we don't want her to grow up with any of the hang ups that we've had. It's the reason we don't believe in corporal punishment (and have had many heated discussions with other parents who think we're crazy not to use spankings as discipline). It's the reason we do not go to church (we will not force beliefs on her, instead we will provide her with what spiritual guidance we can and encourage her to explore all avenues of spirituality when she can form opinions of her own).

    I'm sure this post wasn't easy to write, but I agree with Hubman and that it is never too late to do the things you want and always thought you couldn't. So I say, embrace the life you're leading now and don't let the past hold you back!

  3. I'm not religious. My mom wasn't either. Rather, my mom was a pretty free-thinking hippie. so I can't relate to the specifics here. Yet, I've spent the majority of my life not doing the 'don'ts' as well. I wasn't concerned about heaven, but I was concerned about being the 'good' kid, not a fuck-up like my sisters and cousins, the one who proved my mom wasn't a 'fuck-up' too. Life's a bitch that way. Live too much for yourself, you're an asshole. Live too much for other's. You're a sucker. I don't think happiness is the ultimate goal in life, at least not the way happiness is defined by most people. But I do think with some work there is a middle ground that allows for happiness and fulfillment. And a few hard thrusts into a willing vagina.

  4. I can absolutely relate to your angst. I was reared in an ultra fundamentalist environment driven by a hypocritical mother. (Boys fared better in that environment than girls. After all, we were men in the making.)

    It didn't take on me. I learned to keep my questions and challenges to myself to avoid "corrective measures" like having my back bloodied by the liberal application of a switch from a rose bush, my ass turned into a replica of a bruised, rotting peach with a paddle, and having my head shaved.

    The fear of hellfire and damnation was strong, even though I did question. At least it was strong until the day I realized that, if such a place existed, I'd rather be there for eternity rather than in the company of those that knew their mansion on the streets of gold were assured.

    All these years later I don't feel even the slightest tug from that crap - and I have had one helluva life.

    You hang in there, Ivey Lane.

  5. It is always hard to change the thinking of how we were raised. I think finding distance helps - both physically from them and mentally. Start small, but start to live at least certain things. Claim midlife crisis. But don't give up. You have plenty of life yet to live.

  6. This resonates with me. Thank you for sharing.