From time to time, you hear of outrageous stories about parents punishing their children for misbehaving.
I always thought these claims were outlandish.
Unfortunately, my little brother would tell you otherwise.
My name is Madison, and I want to share my brother’s experience.
My brother was six years old, and I was nine when we moved to the town where my paternal grandparents lived.
My father traveled a lot for work, and my mom was a homemaker.
My father’s reasoning for moving to this small town was so my grandparents could help Mom
babysit us when she didn’t feel well.
My mother suffered from anxiety, which years later, I found out it was depression.
Our father always threatened us if we didn’t behave.
Whenever Dad had a business trip, he made sure to remind us of his threat.
“You two had better behave,” he said in a menacing voice.
“If I find out you were up to no good…” he never finished his sentence.
But we knew what he meant because he would put his hand in his belt.
We had only been in our new house two weeks when Father had to go on a four-day business trip.
My brother and I were adjusting to our new school. “I hate it here,” he would tell me.
I had to remind him that we would make new friends soon.
While Father was away, the school principal called Mom to inform her that my little brother had gotten into a fight.
Mother came to school to speak with the principal. I think Mom didn’t want to deal with the whole incident
because she said, “My husband will take care of this. I promise.”
She brought us home and, of course, she scolded us. “I am so embarrassed! Wait until your father gets here.”
She always said that. I didn’t think it was fair, so I protested, “But, Mom, I didn’t do anything!”
She gave me a dirty look and said: “Both of you go to your room and stay there!”
I wasn’t afraid of Mom, but I knew she would tell Father.
I heard her on the phone with him. I became afraid then.
I knew he’d punish me too, even if I hadn’t done anything.
I wasn’t a rambunctious girl, so I hardly got into trouble.
My little brother, on the other hand, was mischievous.
“Joey, why did you get into a fight?” I asked him.
“This kid, Scott, called me stupid,” Joey pouted.
I love my little brother, so I felt bad for him. I didn’t want to scare him, telling him father would punish him.
So, I lied instead, “Don’t worry. Dad will probably forget by the time he gets back.”
Unfortunately, that was not the case. When Father returned from his business trip,
he called us into his studio. “Didn’t I tell you to behave? Your mom has had a migraine for two days.”
I tried to explain what had happened to Joey. “Be quiet, Madison! I didn’t ask you,” he shouted.
I knew then we were in trouble, especially Joey.
He was so scared that he wouldn’t even dare look at him.
That night, Father sent me to my room without having dinner.
But before he did so, he grabbed Joey by his arm and locked him up in the hallway closet.
Joey was banging the door and crying, “I’m sorry, daddy! I won’t do it again.”
That night neither of us had dinner. Mother was in her room;
she never came out to defend us. Sometimes I hated her for that.
I knew Joey was terrified by being in that tiny, dark space.
I wanted to open the door, but I didn’t have the key.
Joey screamed in vain and cried himself to sleep.
That was the first time Father locked up Joey in the closet to teach him a lesson.
It seemed that Joey couldn’t stay away from trouble.
Sometimes he would break things in the house, he wouldn’t do his homework, he didn’t obey Mom,
he talked back to his teacher, and he even talked back to grandma.
My grandparents would come to the house to babysit us when my mother had an anxiety attack.
Grandma would cook for us, and Grandpa would help us with homework.
When I told Grandma how her son punished Joey, she was baffled.
“I’ll talk to your dad,” she assured me. And she did, but it was useless.
Father denied it, telling her I had a wild imagination.
Since I was usually a good kid, he never punished me until that night.
“Why did you tell Grandma I punished Joey?”
I don’t know how I mustered the courage, and I said, “But it’s true. You lock up Joey in the closet for hours.
It’s not fair!”
He then grabbed me by the arm and brought me to the closet in the hallway.
“Get in there! I want you to think really hard what you’ve done,” he said, locking the door.
I was so angry that I didn’t cry or apologize. I sat on the floor and started humming a song.
I am not sure how long I stayed there, but Father opened the door and said, “I hope you learned your lesson.”
That was the only time he locked me up. Poor Joey became so used to being locked up
that he never cried or protested after the fourth time.
I even stopped counting the times he was locked up there.
Every time Joey misbehaved, he knew he was going to be locked up, so he always carried with him his Mp3 player.
He once told me that he didn’t mind anymore.
“I don’t have to help Mom with the dishes or take the garbage out,” he said, a sly smile crossed his face.
Joey and I became allies, so I always covered for him.
While our relationship as siblings got stronger, our relationship with our parents deteriorated.
We would be happy when father went away.
We spent most of our time at our grandparents’ house.
Grandma would bake cookies for us, and Grandpa would drive us to the mall.
It was our secret. Although we never talked about what went on at home, I think they knew.
When Joey started high school, he was diagnosed with Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
That’s when everything made sense to my parents.
Joey wasn’t a bad kid. He was just not diagnosed earlier, so he acted up.
In my eyes, he was a normal, loving kid.
When he started taking medication and going to therapy, his hyperactivity decreased, and his schoolwork improved.
Unfortunately, the relationship between Joey and our parents was never the same.
In fact, my relationship with them was also weak.
Not being diagnosed at an early age affected Joey and the whole family.
But if you ask me, I can tell you that at least one good thing came out of this bad experience:
Joey and I are best friends. He has also joined a group of kids, who also have ADHD,
and they help one another by sharing their experiences.