I was a child born in the early 60s, my father was in the military and my mum was very much a homemaker, although she did have a part-time job at various times during my childhood.
In our early years my upbringing was reasonably stable, with the odd move every few years – all within the UK – as my father’s military career took him to different postings.
With three sisters and no brothers, the rules of the house were straightforward – do as you are told, be on time, do not steal, do not backchat and our parents’ decisions were final.
All of this was supported by an unwritten principle that ‘actions have consequences’ – this meant a range of punishments including being sent early to bed, not being allowed out, as well as physical punishment of varying severity, which changed as we got older.
My sisters were always smacked by Mum – this was never as formal as my own punishment and usually resulted in them paying a visit over her knee or the side of the bed and receiving a spanking with her hand. Mum was not one for the ceremony and would punish almost immediately an offense had been committed or discovered, and my sisters knew that resisting would only make it worse.
Once into their teens mum switched from her hand to the slipper, but corporal punishment for all three of my sisters became less and less frequent – they seemed to learn quicker than me, but also knew how far to push and how to shift blame!
My own physical punishment was very much my father’s domain – very formal and his authority was never questioned by me. I accepted that life was about learning, and sometimes I would make the wrong choices which would result in a lesson that was painful and at times humiliating.
Physical punishment was always administered with the slipper or, once I was into my teens, the strap. If I was punished at school, as many children were back then, of course, I could expect similar retribution at home too. This was generally administered the evening after I had been whacked at school. This gave me 24 hours to reflect, and at times sweat, knowing what the following night was probably going to bring.
As I say, my own spankings were always very different from those of my sisters. At times, they would be present when I was having my bottom smacked – but they understood that they had to sit quietly throughout, or risk being next for a sore backside.
My parents divorced when I was 11 years old, and initially, I went to live with my mum, along with my sisters. This was a time when fathers got little in the way of access and as the divorce was a bitter affair, with both parents spending more time on their arguments than their children, I soon began to come off the rails at school, and as mum did not punish me, apart from the odd whack with the slipper.
Between 11 and 13, I got into lots of little spats, bits of shoplifting, and general naughtiness both in and out of school. School reacted with frequent use of the slipper (the plimsoll used on most English schoolchildren), damning report cards, and notes home to my mum. Despite these punishments, I paid no real heed, continuing to play the ‘Big I Am.
Just before my 13th birthday, mum gave up and I found myself back living with my dad. This was a huge shock but actually (though I didn’t appreciate it at the time) really what I needed.
In only my first couple of weeks, I got the slipper three times from Dad. I would be sent to have a bath, get changed into pajamas, then come back downstairs. I would then be instructed to touch my toes and listen as Dad gave me a short lecture on why I was in this position and what my fate would be.
This was usually followed by between four and six very solid whacks, plumb in the center of my bottom. It stung, of course, but I always found myself comparing the punishment to school, and to be honest, it didn’t really deter me. Don’t get me wrong – I didn’t enjoy it but I wanted to challenge authority and thought I could handle the consequences.
Then one evening I came home from school, and my father asked me to get out the homework from the previous day that had been marked by my teacher. I lied and said it was lost, but to my horror, Dad had a letter from the school to hand and had also made a phone call himself.
This was the day I got my first strapping and, believe me, it changed my attitude to corporal punishment almost instantly. I experienced pain that was nothing like the slipper and shed tears like a waterfall. At the time, Dad showed no emotion as he used the strap on me but I learned in later years that he had been genuinely upset at having to punish me like that.
Life continued to be difficult for our family. Dad and I moved about a fair bit, and as I turned 15, we fell on hard times and found ourselves living in a Bed & Breakfast establishment, which was really more like a hostel, as the rooms were shared.
I won’t go into detail, but the prospect of punishment disappeared and I started to slip back into old habits at school and life in general. Looking back, my life was disrupted, Mum had all but turned her back on me and I probably saw disruption as a way to deal with that, without recognizing where others were trying to help me.