Since your sister moved here, she and I have become close friends. I began to share some of my personal secrets with her and now shared your letter with me. When I tell you a bit about myself, I think you’ll understand why and hopefully will write back.
My name is Janet and I am fifteen. My father left us when I was just a little girl and I live with my mother and twelve year old sister, Cathy. When Daddy left, Momma had to go back to work full time. Her job was far away and so for the first few years Mom patched together enough babysitters, early dropoffs and late pickups to get by. But as the costs of child care went up, and Mom’s job required her to work even later, she was forced to rely more and more upon me. So at age nine, Cathy and I became latchkey children.
I might also add that we had very little money and so lived in a rough part of town. In the interest of protecting us, Mom required that we come straight home from school and lock ourselves in our tiny house. On work days, Mom usually did not get home until close to 7PM so I was in charge. Unable to personally supervise us, Mom was forced to impose very strict rules and back it up with certain and painful punishment for violation. Of course, that depended on whether we got caught or not. She employed the assistance of a nosy neighbor to help her keep tabs on us. Mrs. Maloney seldom left her house and seated by her kitchen window could readily see when we came and went. A believer in firm discipline, she was pleased to assist our mother in this way. Even more pleasurable to her, I believe, was catching and reporting us, and then keeping her window wide open to hear, if not see, the fruits of her diligence.
I was, by nature, a quieter and more compliant girl than Cathy. Generally when rules were pushed it was she who pushed them. So Mom decided that the best way to deal with this was to hold me responsible for enforcing the rules in her absence. The rules, of course, covered behavioral issues but even more so dealt with chores and schoolwork. As soon as Mom would return home from work, I would be required to give her a full report on our compliance with family rules. She might then personally check to see that the house was tidy enough and examine our tests and sometimes even our homework. Then, and these were always nervous moments for me, she’d announce whether or not there would be “a need” to administer spankings. I use the word spankings because if Cathy broke a rule, she’d get spanked for breaking the rule. Then, not infrequently, I’d also get a spanking for not “properly supervising her.”
Lizzie thought I could be a source of advice for you on how to deal with being a teenager in a family where spankings are a normal routine. I have this funny feeling that with you being fourteen and your “sisters” being seven and eight, you may need to prepare for the fact that, on occasion, your “Aunt” Ruth won’t assign you to supervise them.
At any rate, now that you know a bit about me, let me know if you’d like to be my pen pal.