Many many years ago, one evening, my mother decided that my father should help me with Maths. By that time, one of the relic my older sister owned was a steel ruler that was bend..after my father used it to hit my sister. My mother knew beyond any doubt that my father has no patience and how abusive he can be.. Still she asked him to teach me..
It was probably about 8 o clock at night. We hadn’t had our dinner yet. We used to have two cane chairs outside on the veranda. Appa was sitting outside and reading. The usual drill is, when Appa is home, you vanish..for your safety. So you can imagine the fear and trepidation I felt when my mother called me and told me to go to Appa and informed me that Appa will be teaching me from now on!!
Amma was even very kind..she lit a piece of amathiri (mosquito coil) and kept it by the side of the cane chair, so I won’t be bitten by the mosquitoes..As soon I reached the veranda, I saw the ominous presence of the dreaded rotan (cane) in my father’s hand. He asked me to pull the other cane chair in front of him and sit down and all I wanted was to run..I did try to keep the cane chair an arm length away from my father and he told me to bring the chair closer.
I knew without any doubt what is going to happen to me..It was not rocket science..and there was no one to help me or save me..it felt as though the noose was around my neck and I couldn’t escape.
Frantically I tried to remember the times table..
The first question my father asked me was what is 8 x 7..I knew the answer, still I said 42.
Did you know you can actually hear the cane hissing before it splits the skin? Did you know in order to give maximum impact, you need to lift the cane above your head,, swing it and bring it down with maximum force?
I wanted to grow up.. so I could kill my father..that is what I felt then..The anger.. the rage..the hatred..and the humiliation.
I also hated my mother..for betraying me. If you knew your husband is a violent man, what in the world makes you send your children to him ?? What is even more odd was the next scene.. My mother rushes out from the kitchen, screaming at my father..” I only told you to teach her, not hit her” and then they fought..and before going to bed, my mother accused me of being the catalyst for the fight she had with her husband..
Few years ago..when we were living in KL, my children’s father went to the Pasar ( market) on a sunday morning. He came back with a rotan, along with meat and vege.
I asked him what was the rotan for? and he replied it was only for “show” and he won’t use it.
He showed the children the rotan..threatened them that he will hit them if they don’t listen to his commands.. I remember seeing the fear I saw in their eyes. But because he said, he won’t be using it, I thought I won’t make a big deal. He kept the rotan on top of the fridge
Yaya was three and my son 7 months old. I am not sure what exactly happened..For some reason they fought..one pushed the other..the end result was there were milo on the floor and the couch..the next thing I know is the sudden appearance of the rotan..and then beatings..it wasn’t a one single hit..it was lashing. one after the other…I was warned not to interfere..and if I do, my children will be beaten even more..
when he finished beating them..the tip of the rotan was broken..Like the king who won the war, he marched back to the kitchen holding the rotan as a winners trophy..
I remember following him..when he kept the rotan back on top of the fridge, I took it.. broke it to a thousand pieces and told him..I will break every rotan you bring in to this house..
He bought a new rotan to replace the broken one the next sunday.. I broke it too..
My children’s father strongly believed the old adage.. spare and rod and spoil the child..and I remembered the anger and frustrations I felt when I was beaten. I couldn’t always protect my children from his beatings..but I taught them to not aggravate the situation ( if your father says the sun rises from the west, so be it. Just don’t argue about it and when he goes to work, we will talk about it!!! Yaya understood the message, but my son was a hard nut ..and I fought most wars with his father for him, that is another story)
Why must you hit your child because they spilled Milo or broke the plate? Have you never spilled anything or broken anything? Why terrorise them unnecessarily for spilling milo? All it takes is a dish cloth and some elbow grease to clean up the mess.
My children are not angels.. They fight, they argue, they talk back, they disobey..they do everything like every other child do..and trust me..there are times I am tempted to give them a tight slap..But I tell myself..just because they are small and can’t hit me back is the only reason I am tempted to hit them.. not because by hitting them, they will learn a lesson. If hitting someone teaches them a lesson, why don’t we hit our colleagues at work?
When we moved to Canada, my son was in Kindergarten and the first thing he was taught was about his rights !! He was taught that no one can hit him/hurt him and he can tell his teacher if he was hit/hurt at home..He was taught to call 911 if at any time he felt he was being threatened with violence..I remember the walk back from home after school and how empowered my son felt when he told me about his rights and the knowledge that no one can hurt him..
Home is the most safe and secure place for your children..and if they can’t be safe in their own home, where else should they go? Must you hit them to get a point across when you can explain to them. Children do have brain !!
When home is no longer a safe place, the child services kick in. That is what they are for. It may not always save the lives of children. ( Shafia Children were failed by the Canadian child services!)
The child services takes the children away when they are certain that emotional and physical well being of the child is threatened at their own home.
Ideally siblings should be kept together in foster homes. But it doesn’t work that way often because of few reasons. One, lack of appropriate foster parents..two, there are psychological reasons..parentified siblings, sibling rivalry etc.three, different levels of care needed for each child.
While the children are in foster care, the biological parents are given the reasons why their children are taken and what can be done to get them back. There are regular meetings with the child services staff and the biological parents to review the case and reports are filed.
The child services can not take the mother to a psychiatrist for treatment.
Child services can not force the mother to go for counselling.
Once the children are in foster care, the rules of the country applies to them irrespective of the children’s citizenship, especially when it comes to releasing the children to family members. ( remember, when you collect Child benefits and cash benefits for your children( immigrant or on work visa), it is a two way street..the govt that pays you the child tax has the legal rights to ensure that children are taken good care of, irrespective of the children’s nationality)
My point is..
Giving birth to your children doesn’t give you the right to abuse them. ( Emotional/physical/sexual)
Your children are a gift.. to love and cherish..
and most important, when you live outside India, follow the rules of the country..