Introduction to the birch

I grew up in the 60s on the south coast of Norway, a part of the country which is sometimes called the Bible Belt.

My mother was in charge of discipline in our family and she was in favour of corporal punishment. However, she didn’t use it very often – only when I really deserved it.

Usually, she would take me up to my room, sit down on a chair and put me over her lap for a bare bottom smacking. I don’t recall these as very hard spankings and afterwards she would hug me and comfort me. But when I was around eight a stricter regime was to be enforced.

It was a Saturday and I remember I had been in fight with a boy who lived nearby, and when his mother showed up, I shouted some new words I had just learned at her..

A little later, I went home to see the English soccer game they were showed on Norwegian TV on Saturdays. When I was almost home my heart sank. The woman I had been shouting at was just leaving our house.

I walked the rest of the way with slow steps and when my mother met me in the door, it was obvious that there was going to be no football for me. She just pointed up the stairs to my room and gave me a swat on my behind when I ran past her.

Once in my room, I waited for her to come up the stairs and give me the spanking I knew I was going to get. After a while, I took a look out the window and got the second shock of that afternoon.

Out in the garden, my mother was standing by the large birch tree and cutting off twigs that she put down in a basket. I remember it was late in November and there were no leaves on the tree. When she was satisfied with her work, she took the basket and went inside. For some reason, I ran away from the window when she glanced up.

After a few, long minutes, I heard her calling my name and when I opened the door, she told me to come down in the kitchen. It was a rather scared boy who went downstairs.

The birch rod was the traditional way of punishing children in Norway but in the 60s it was starting to go out of fashion, when there was an increasing opinion against corporal punishment.

When I came into the kitchen, I saw the birch lying on the table. It was made of 10 to 12 pretty thin twigs, bundled together with a rubber band.

My mother wasted few words – she said she had never been so ashamed in her whole life and from now on, there were going to be stricter rules in this house. She then ordered me to pull down my trousers. I was too stunned to offer any protest. She then took the birch and told me to bend over.

She pulled down my briefs and let me stand there for a moment in nervous anticipation.

The first blow left a burning sensation all over my bottom – but I remember thinking that this wasn’t going to be much worse than a spanking. By the fifth stroke, I realised I was wrong – my buttocks already felt like they were on fire, and my eyes were filling with tears.

I don’t remember how many strokes I got that time, but based on later experiences, I guess it must have been between 25 and 40.

By the time she was finished, I was bawling like a five-year-old. Mother then placed the birch on top of the cupboard and told me to go straight to bed.

I yanked my trousers halfway up and ran to my room. When I looked in the mirror, I saw my entire bottom was covered by a criss-cross of deep red stripes.

When I came down for breakfast the next morning, I immediately went over to her and apologised for my behaviour. She then hugged me and told me it was for my own good that she had to punish me. She also said that she wouldn’t hesitate to repeat the treatment whenever I behaved badly.

She smiled a little when she saw the expression on my face when I sat down, and even more when I shot a furtive glance up on the cupboard and saw a few birch twigs sticking out on top of it.

From then on, and almost to my 13th birthday, there was a birch rod placed on that cupboard. Usually the knowledge that it was there was enough to keep me in line but every now and then I did something that made her take it down – or go out into the garden and pick a fresh one.

Contributor: Kristian

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