Dreams of Defiance

I can hear them in the next room. Dad yanks at his arm, yelling at him and threatening to spank him if he doesn’t do… something? I’m not even sure what he’s in trouble for this time. I cower in the next room, wanting to do something, wanting to save him. I hear the slaps, he starts to cry, Dad shoves him away. Holding my breath, hoping and praying for it to end, maybe if I squeeze myself small enough into this dark corner behind the bookcase… I could just disappear.
I stuff more dirty clothes into the wash machine, refusing to look out the window at the dreary sunless day. My sister comes in, long hair pulled back in a pony tail, wearing a long tan skirt and her favourite blue collared polo shirt. She looks tired. “We need to get to that family room before Dad gets home” she says. I nod, turning the knobs on the washer. “I have to start dinner, do you think you can get a sister to help you?” She shrugs, “I think so, she’s been super emotional today, but I’ll try.” Part of me wishes Mom was up to handle this, but she’s been in bed for days now.
“Get over here, you have to be spanked for talking to me like that.” My stomach tightens. I can’t do it, not again. I run into the bathroom and lock the door. I look at the bathroom sink and remember how many times I’ve leaned over that sink, skirts lifted, thighs clenched, waiting for my mom to land the blows on my leg, willing myself not to make a sound.
 I hate this room.

“If you don’t come out of there it’s just going to be worse for you later” her voice comes through the door. There is a roaring in my ears. I fight the urge to yell that I’m sorry, and undo the lock and just get it over with. It doesn’t matter how many times I submit, how hard I try, this is only going  to continue, day in-day out. How can I live like this?
This needs to end. I have to get out of here. This time, I’m not going to roll over and play dead. This time, I’m going to do something about this. This time, I’m going to tell someone.
I head to the window, I know how to remove the screen, maybe I can get to a neighbours and use their phone… To call someone. Call who? I don’t know… the police? My grandparents? I move to the window and fumble with the latch, I can hardly believe I’m doing this.
And then I woke up, drenched in sweat, heart beating wildly. It took my several minutes longer to realize that my lover is sleeping peacefully on one side of the bed, my youngest baby on the other, 
and I’m in the middle, safe.
 I haven’t lived with my parents for years. But since I moved away, I’ve lived some of those old memories in dreams again and again. Sometimes I am a young child in my dream, sometimes a teen. Sometimes I am an adult somehow transported back in time and living in my parents home as the child I no longer am.
 The one common factor in all of these dreams, is that I never stand up. I let them hurt me, I watch them hurt my siblings, or (in the worst of my dreams) I watch them spank or belittle my own children, 
and I never do anything.
Inside, I am always screaming, shrieking, raging, but on the outside I am calm, and submissive. I always feel completely helpless in these nightmares. As if I can do nothing to stop whatever is happening.  Despite confronting my parents as an adult in real life, and beginning to experience some healing, 
I am always powerless in my dreams.
I had this dream early last December, but it took me a few weeks to realize what was different about it.
This marks the first time a dream involving my parents included anything but my complete obedience to them. I didn’t quite stand up to them in my dream, but I was leaving the situation with plans to make it change. 
I know it’s just a dream, but it feels like a huge step for me. 

  • Anonymous

    I am so sorry you were treated this way. I am so sorry anyone is treated this way. Your journey that you have bravely shared over the past few years on this blog has been a huge part of the reason why I turned away from spanking my children when they were as young as 18 months up to 3 years. I can now see where a young parents' good intentions could escalate to scenes like you described. Never again. God bless you and yours!!! -Traci, Mom to 4 children under 5 :)

  • Laura Mogus

    Your healing is happening. May you free yourself. We are all cheering you on. Submission is a normal and wise defense when something is inescapable but you have escaped through your own courage and it's time for your whole being to realize that it doesn't have to go into those patterns of collapse anymore, it can reclaim it's flight and fight defenses as well without risking your life. You are taking it all back, your life force. It is rising up again so you can have the full life that is your birthright.

  • rain ::

    darling, this made me cry.
    so glad you have your sweet lover and your babies and your courage. look at this: cou(rage).


  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10329947206142706470 Peter and Nancy

    I remember someone asking my French professor when he knew he had become truly fluent — he said it was when he began dreaming in French. I think you are also becoming fluent, but in a different way of thinking . . . and now it's going all the way down into your marrow, into your subconscious. God bless you as you continue along your journey!

  • http://www.janetoberholtzer.com Janet Oberholtzer

    I'm not a big hugger, but this makes me want to hug you!

    I'm sorry for the pain you've had… and I'm thrilled for the victory that happened in your dream.
    Keep moving forward… one step at a time.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11557037093560947882 QuicksilverQueen

    For a long time I would do whatever my parents wanted in my dreams too…then it went to me just not doing it, to now I talk back and tell them how wrong it was.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02864411704311623606 Mama

    My father spanked my son once. In the minds of most people it was completely justifiable. He walked off into the main thoroughfare of a parking lot. I LOST it on him. I told him that in no circumstances was he to lay a finger on my child except in love. He's respected that wish.

    I don't dream about the abuse anymore. I did for years, but it's been a good four or five years since I had a dream but I know what you felt.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00616238682696645579 Erin

    I want to hug you, Melissa! I am praying right now for you continued healing.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05659143242634568450 Me

    I've typed many things, and hit delete on all of them. This resonated with me so deeply. The sound of a slap or flesh against flesh, or even a playful cry brings back memories in a flood. And then I relive it all. I am sorry that you are reliving this in your dreams, but I am thankful that even in your dreams, you are finding a voice.

    Your words have been such an inspiration for me and others. Your advocacy for children and words on gentle parenting has had far reaching effects. They have made me look at my own methods and become better.

    Many (((hugs))) to you. May you continue to find peace and healing.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Traci- Thank you! Comments like yours are why I keep writing about this journey into Gentle Parenting. Mine were around the same age as yours when I stopped spanking, and I have never regretted it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Laura- Such a powerful comment. Thank you.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Rain- I cried writing it. And that is so cool about the word cou(rage, rage was one of the first emotions I was able to feel, and it was the doorway I needed to be brave enough to change.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Nancy- I love that idea of becoming fluent! That's exactly what it feels like. This may never be my native tongue, but I feel like I am not fumbling in the dark anymore.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Janet- I am a hug person, so I would love that. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Quicksilver- Wow, good for you!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Mama- Oh! I would lose it too! So glad you stood up for your baby.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Erin- Thank you.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Me- Yes. Whenever one of my children gets hurt enough to cry very hard, I am flooded with memories of my own childhood.
    Thank you for traveling on this gentle parenting journey with me. I learn so much from other mom's experience.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15377583333000789903 Mrs. Anna T

    Sometimes things from our childhood just come back to haunt us. I grew up in a Russian speaking home, I love the Russian language, read books and write poetry and proze in Russian. Yet when I speak Russian to my young children, I immediately feel as though I am my mother; irritable, snappish, annoyed, impatient, pressured. I am overcome with dislike, and promptly stop speaking. I do hope I will be able to get rid of this feeling and still teach my children Russian, a beautiful language.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06374573594800663980 Kacie

    This just makes my heart ACHE, Melissa!
    I think that comparatively to most of the Christian world, my family spanked "well". They generally were gentle, intentional, it involved discussion, hugs, expressions of love. No threats.

    BUT STILL. Still, what I remember are the few times when my mom was so frustrated that she blew up and I was spanked knowing she was angry, and sometimes spanked for something she was convinced I did but I didn't actually do. I remember feeling the injustice and resentment. And that's only for a handful of cases like that.

    That's what makes me SO SO hesitant about spanking. Too bad I can't just make that decision alone, because the husband is not quite as convinced as I am! :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    What a wonderful post. It made me remember a dream I myself had a few months ago, but hadn't thought anything of. I dreamed my dad was yelling at me, reliving a painful scene that occurred shortly before I left home, but instead of taking it like I did in real life, in my dream I stood up and yelled back. I told him what I thought, how I felt, how I'd been hurt. I was confident, I was calm, I was in control. I have never had too many dreams at all about the things that happened between me and my parents, but this was the first time I'd had a dream like THIS.

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    I have been reading your blog but I've never posted. This time 'though it was so moving I wanted to be there to hug you, encourage you even if I'm a total stranger from the internet who has less life experience and years than you. I hope everything gets better for you and I'm sure it will.

  • http://articles.earthlingshandbook.org ‘Becca

    Wow! I am so glad you are healing in your unconscious as well as conscious mind!

    I gave you a Liebster Award! I hope it will bring new readers to share your journey.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Yes, some things from childhood haunt, and even some good things are hard to redeem. I hope that you can find new ways to experience the things you wish to pass on to your children.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    I took me a few years to realize that I didn't want to spank anymore, and even then, I'm not sure I would have had the guts to stick with it without my husbands encouragement, it's hard to change an entire mindset of childrearing. There are some really great books out there that could possibly change your husbands mind, and the wonderful thing about the internet is the wealth of up to date information available now. I hope it comes together for you, the descision to be a gentle parent changed my life for the better.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Libby- Empowering! Thank you for sharing that. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Thank you Paula, the support and encouragement of people like you has meant so much to me on this journey, thanks for commenting.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Thank you 'Becca!

  • Another Melissa

    From one Melissa to another, Peace be with you.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11909365697912327583 Lisa Kroulik

    This reminded me so much about something I wrote on the same topic. I am now 44 years old, in a healthy marriage after an unhealthy one, but I still deal with the dreams of an abusive childhood. I started my own story like this:

    It's been over 30 years, and I still don't sleep well at night. The dreams start in on me right away. I'm usually running away from an unknown force who is trying to hurt me. Tossing and turning and mumbling “no” in my sleep, I sometimes fight back, flailing my arms in a desperate attempt to keep the terrifying monster at bay. When my dreams bring me back to the present, I realize that I am safe and fall asleep peacefully. The slightest noise, however, jars me back awake and the process starts all over again.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Melissa,
    It's hard to comment on this but I feel compelled. Big people hitting little ones who aren't allowed to defend themselves is so repulsive to me. I also suffered from child abuse but didn't even realize it till I was in my 30's and very depressed, almost dropping out of residency after medical school. My older sister told me we were abused, but I said, "No, we weren't, because Mom never hit us unless we did something wrong." Our father had died when I was 5, and raising 3 kids by herself wasn't pleasant. I didn't have kids till I was 39 bc I was afraid I would be a bad parent. Glad to say, my oldest is 12, and they are a delight. Hitting them was never an option. Being hit just makes you hate whoever is hurting you. If it is frequent, then it becomes soul-wrecking. When my mother was dying, my sister, 22 yrs old at the time, asked her why she hit us, and her reply was "if you hold on to that, you only hurt yourself". Probably true, but even then she couldn't say she was sorry? Hitting your kids is never justified, IMO. Maybe suffering that made me realize you have to take a zero tolerance attitude to it. No Hitting!