by Susan Thomas
For a very long time I thought my parents were going to break up. Well, it had happened to a lot of my friends right from infant school onwards, so why not me? It stressed my head out something rotten I can tell you. By the time I got into my teens it made me angry and I must have added to the problems by having regular strops and getting into trouble at school. I know my grandparents (I really love my grandma and granddad) were worried about me taking drugs or going off with some total loser. They needn't have done, because I have more sense, but that didn't mean I was still the sweet and lovely little girl I had once been.
Then one day when I'd just finished my GCSE exams my parents came to see me. They were together for once and not actually shouting at one another.
"Daisy, we need to talk you." I thought, this is it: they're getting a divorce. I said nothing but went and sat down at the dining room table with them. They sat one side and I sat on the other. My dad started.
"Daisy, you know that your mum and I have not been getting on very well for a long time."
"Yeah, I know. So, you're divorcing. Right?"
"No. No, we're not getting a divorce."
Well that shook me I can tell you. I gawped at them totally surprised by that. "OK. So, what's all this?"
"Well, we were going to get a divorce but fortunately a friend helped us. Made us talk to each other and we realised we still loved each other. We also realised that our behaviour wasn't just destroying us, it was destroying you. Your behaviour was deteriorating largely because we weren't there for you."
Now that was a shaker. They weren't having a go at me but having a go at themselves and taking responsibility for my bad behaviour.
"So, what's happening then?"
Now Dad looked at my mum and she went so red I thought she was about to explode. "Daisy," she said, "I have had to do a lot of self-reflection. We both have in fact, but I didn't like what I found in myself." I sat looking at Mum with my mouth open. This was so not her. "I have blamed your dad for always being away on business but I realised I was driving him away. He wasn't at peace in his own home and that was my fault."
"I was at fault too, Daisy. I kept running away from our problems not trying to deal with them. We were both to blame in different ways."
My mum reached out and they held hands! I found it hard to believe what I was seeing and hearing.
Mum carried on. "Anyway, I came to understand that what was happening was I wanted to be in charge all the time. It meant we were always at war. I was frustrated, either because your dad wouldn't let me boss him, or because, sometimes he'd just give in and let me boss him and then I was angry and unhappy about it. At the same time neither of us were being good parents to you. We were vying for your affection instead of setting you a good example and proper boundaries."
I couldn't help it. I responded with an acid, "Yeah, you got that right. So, what is going to happen?" I'd thought my mum red faced already, but she went an even darker shade of red, right from her neck up into the roots of her hair.
"Daisy, it has to start with me and then your dad has to do his job, but my bit must come first. I have accepted that your dad is the head of the family. He will be my leader and I will be in submission to him. We will discuss things, but he makes the final decision and I must accept it."
I laughed. That is truly what my grandma calls 'a leopard changing its spots'. Leopards can't change their spots and Mum is an arguer and fighter; it's in her blood, how would she change?
"OK Mum, so Dad tells you that something is going to happen, and you don't like it, so you take no fucking notice, as usual."
Mum looked embarrassed beyond bearing and I thought she was going to cry. Dad squeezed her hand and spoke in a most unlike Dad tone. "I don't like that swearing, Daisy. We're being civil to you so I expect the favour returned."
Now I was the one blushing so I said, "Yeah, sorry, but honestly Dad, Mum is not just going to do as you tell her. Come on now, just get real."
Now Dad started to blush. Honestly, the three of us were like tomatoes on the vine. However, he pulled himself upright and said firmly, "It is my job to make sure I lead the family properly. If your mum disobeys, or is disrespectful to my position in some way, or possibly does something else that is potentially damaging to the family, then I will deal with it."
I laughed. "Yeah? How are you going to do that Dad?"
"I shall have to punish your mother. I shan't like it, and neither will she, but we desperately need to change."
I was beyond stunned and felt I was not on Earth but on some world like Planet Zog. Punished! What on earth did that mean? I was going to say, 'What the fuck do you mean?' but managed to leave the 'F' word out.
Dad was squirming by now and Mum was simply looking hard at the table top and wouldn't catch my eye. "I shall spank her bottom hard."
I giggled. No really, I did. I mean that is so... well, it is just weird. Right? I knew what spanking is even though I'd never been spanked. Suddenly I looked hard at Mum and asked, "Are you OK with this?"
She got my fear straight away. "Oh, yes, Daisy. In many ways, this is as much my idea as it is your dad's. We worked this out together. We've researched it and talked to people practising it and we believe... well, we know, it will work for us."
I didn't know what to say. I mean what do you say when your dad says if your mum steps out of line he will spank her bottom hard? Not your usual conversation now is it?
"Dad, you're away a lot. What happens if Mum doesn't obey you, or whatever you call it, and you're away?"
"That's another thing we need to tell you. I have a new job which means I can come home every evening. We'll have to move I'm afraid. I know it won't be nice for you to leave your friends..."
I went off into Thought Land. Leave here? Well school was ending now as my school only went up to sixteen. Not everyone was going to the college which anyway was a bit of a dump with not very good results. I'd already come to the conclusion some of my friends were bad news. Would it be so bad to go somewhere else and start again? If that was the price of my parents staying together then I was OK with that. When you're faced with your mum and dad splitting it is harder than you imagine and it had been really getting to me for a long time.
"Daisy, are you OK? You aren't saying anything?" Dad's voice brought me back from far away.
"No, that's OK. I don't mind moving. Where are we going?"
I could see the surprise on their faces. I think they had braced for a Daisy storm and weren't getting it. Dad got enthusiastic.
"My new job is up north. I met the owner when he was on business down here. He runs a family-owned saw mill and timber yard but started a joinery which is doing very well. However, it's all got a bit much for him to manage so I am to be in sole charge of the joinery, expand the business and improve efficiency. Right up my street. Less money but it's cheaper up north and I can come home every evening. Plus, there's a bonus. He lives a lifestyle much the same as the one your mum and I are embarking on. There is a whole community like that and we are going to move there. It's in a privately owned valley and only about four miles from where I'll be working. Would you like to see a flyer about it?"
I did of course but it wasn't very informative. This is what I was given.
Frugal Valley Community Trust
This brief background note is intended for those wishing to apply for membership.
Frugal Valley has been inhabited since Anglo-Saxon times. By the 1930s the valley consisted of a number of farms and, in the centre of the valley, the small village of Frugal served by a church, two pubs, a school and several shops. In 1939, at the outbreak of war, the War Office commandeered the whole valley for training purposes. The inhabitants were relocated elsewhere with the promise of returning when the war ended. That promise was not kept. In 1947 the land and village were purchased outright by the War Office using compulsory purchase orders. In 1995 the Ministry of Defence decided the valley was no longer required and sold the valley and all buildings to the Frugal Valley Community Trust.
Members of the Trust rebuilt or refurbished the neglected buildings and farming recommenced. The Trust does not intend to be self-sufficient. Members of the Trust include those who work outside the valley and commute. The average educational attainment and income of Trust members is higher than the national average. Trust members must be eighteen or over and may be of either sex. Children of Trust members may apply for membership on achieving their eighteenth birthday.
Although it is not a condition of membership the church is at the core of our community. Those not in sympathy with that would be advised to give careful thought to their application. Trust members have a traditional view of relationships. Marriage is valued highly and husbands are regarded as the head of their households. High standards of behaviour and community participation are expected. Moderate and proportional corporal correction is used in our homes at the discretion of the head of the household. Those not in sympathy with its use should not apply for membership.
I read it quickly and noticed that they called spanking "corporal correction" which sounds less worrying. So, Mum was going to get her bum spanked along with other wives. Well, if it worked that was OK with me. She seemed much happier and they kept holding hands and giving each other loving looks. Now that hadn't happened in quite a while. Dad told me that we were all going up for a visit to see our new house which was being decorated. Ours was going to be rented out and we were renting from this Frugal Valley Community Trust that ran the valley. I just agreed. I gave no thought to what my position would be and absolutely none to college. I mean there are colleges doing A-Levels everywhere so why would I worry?
Life in our house improved over the next two days. I felt like a great weight had been taken off my back so I was calm and Mum and Dad were like old times together. I'd find them cuddling or kissing like they used to do. Dad was much more assertive but in a nice way and Mum was just so ... well I can't think of a word for it; she just sort of looked up to Dad.
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