My mother was a teacher, and having a teacher as a mum meant I was expected to excel academically. Mother was demanding and enforced a rigid routine, with long study hours to ensure my academic success.
My mother regularly monitored my studies, checked my homework, helped review my lessons, gave me assignments and even quizzed and tested my progress at home. There was also a white board in my room where she would stand and frequently teach me new lessons, just like at school.
Like many Asian mums, mother believed in the dual purpose of discipline. She saw strict, consistent discipline as a tool to draw out both academic excellence and good behaviour.
From her point of view, the only reason I failed to meet her high expectations academically was because I lacked proper preparation, focus and diligence. That I tried my best was nothing but a lame excuse to her. Given how much she showered me with her teachings and how involved she was with my academic progress, mother demanded nothing less than perfect scores from me. Good behaviour and obedience were also basic prerequisites.
Being a teacher, my mother was no stranger to administering the ruler and cane. She used both implements at school to punish her students, and they were also used at home to discipline me.
As a mother, she was just as strict as she was a teacher. The ruler and cane were always within her reach during my long study hours and she frequently beat me for any mistakes in my work.
The ruler was administered on my palms, knuckles, buttocks, thighs and legs. The cane was given on the open hands, buttocks, back of thighs and legs. I was certainly no stranger to having red marks and even raised welts on my skin.
Mother’s discipline had another facet, which I feel was underestimated and sort of overshadowed by her use of ruler and cane. She used to pinch me. Pinching is a normal punishment in many parts of Asia and my mum was an expert at it. She always used pinching to complement her punishments with the ruler and cane.
For example, upon finding a mistake in my homework, mother would immediately give me a firm pinch. A few smacks with the ruler would then follow. If I failed to take my punishments properly and did not hold the position she wanted, Mum would sharply pinch my bum to get me to comply. Even during regular punishments, she would administer a couple squeezes to my smacked bottom or my inner thighs.
Another reason she used pinches was as a warning. When we were outside or around family and I stepped out of line, Mum would grab me, pull me close to her and reach to my bottom or thighs. She would then give me a firm pinch and its sting constantly reminded me of what would happen once we got back home. A pinch is quick and effective. It’s stealthy and leaves a nasty sting. All this made it the perfect choice for my mother to give me a quick reminder in public settings.
There were basically two ways my mother pinched. The most common way was grabbing a piece of my flesh between the face of her thumb and side of her index finger, then pulling the skin up and squeezing hard. She would even twist her hand to further intensify the sharp pain.
In the second method she sank her nails into my flesh, cupped her fingers and squeezed my flesh between her nails. Both methods were painful, but I feared the first more, especially when my mother twisted her hand, which hurt a lot.
During my younger years I got many pinches from my mum. At home, in grocery stores, at relatives’ homes, at parties, even on public transport. I was always fascinated by how efficient and effective a single pinch from my mother was. And almost always, when she pinched me she would make me look at her stern face. Her determined look, big eyes, pursed lips and flared nostrils only made the ordeal even more frightening for me.
I got rulered and caned frequently during my childhood, but these firm, sharp pinches added a unique touch to my strict mother’s discipline regime.