Dr. Spock or Mr. Spock?

Our mother loved to quote Dr. Spock, the child-rearing expert, when we were growing up. Often it was done to make fun of his advice and how totally stupid and incompetent he was. But sometimes, if she ever could glean one bit of information that matched up with her parenting style (or lack thereof) then she would repeat it until you wanted to tell her to shut the hell up!

One such message she loved was:

You know more than you think you know.

Alcoholic DrinkNow in Mother’s case, this was dangerous and wrong on so many levels. Remember the baby straitjacket, the child leash, and the harness that she used with such abandon that I got whiplash? Mother used this quote to ensure herself a good night’s sleep and also to humiliate me with that damned leash and harness. Yes, she abused this quote from Dr. Spock in the same way she abused booze, pills, food and her children.

Dr. Spock also encouraged parents to see their children as individuals, and not to apply a one size fits all philosophy to them. Well, you can see disaster written all over this idea. I can’t count how many times Mother would ask, scream, or yell at me:

Why can’t you be more like your sister Abby and sit still? Why won’t you sit quietly and give me some peace and quiet? Look at your sister. She is sitting (aka trembling) in her chair and you are running around here like a little maniac!

It usually ended with Mother screaming at the top of her lungs:

Knock this shit off or else!

The “or else” usually involved switches on bare legs or just a regular old smack-down with my poor sister still shaking and trembling in her chair.

Although I received more physical punishment, the emotional abuse was heavy-handed on both of us. I really didn’t pay much attention to the switches or the beatings. I knew Mother would tire out, especially if I fought her, so I would try my best to get away and run out the door. My plan usually worked and I was swept away once again into the magic world of child’s play.

Star Trek VI - The Undiscovered Country

As you no doubt are aware, Mr. Spock was a fictional character created for Star Trek fame. Since our Mother loved science fiction also, I think she often confused the two: Dr. Spock and Mr. Spock. Mr. Spock was known for his unemotional responses or total lack of emotion because he was of mixed heritage: part Vulcan, part human. He seemed to have trouble with relationships. Hmm…seeing a pattern?

When Mother saw the movie Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, she heard one particular response by Mr. Spock that she loved:

If I were human, I believe my response would be: ‘Go to Hell’.  If I were human.

Mother believed this gave her carte blanche to swear since she was a human.

Confusing the two Spocks was just another one of Mother’s many quirks that seemed to explain some of her idiosyncrasies, and some of her delusional, crazy behavior. Some of it.

I guess there are worse things. She didn’t confuse my sister and me as fictional characters or Vulcans with that horrible Vulcan nerve pinch. Find your blessings where you can!


  1. It breaks my heart that you and Abbey lived with so much emotional and physical abuse. It also upsets me to know that children live in these situations today also. I hope your writing helps you heel!

  2. Lindy Riverside says:

    Actually we are both OK. In fact, more than OK….we are fine! We both learned lots of valuable lessons that have served us well. Lesson 1 – We are closer than most sisters due to the story we share which has been a blessing beyond belief! Abby is the BEST sister anyone could possibly have and I am so fortunate! Lesson 2 – Our Dad was our everything and made all the difference. He taught us that the healthy person uses their experiences for good and that is what we have tried to do. Lesson 3 – Better to laugh than cry! And, boy do we do that!

    We have both been blessed in so many ways with great friends, strong faith and of course family. Who knows what might have been if we had Harriet Nelson for our mother? At least we can say our lives have been anything but boring!

  3. Joanne Wilson says:

    What a funny and yet poignant article. Confusing Mister Spock and Doctor Spock? Ha! Thanks for sharing this, I thought I was the only person in the world to grow up with a parent who used Benjamin Spock’s teachings so selectively.

  4. Lindy Riverside says:

    That was our mother’s name of the game for just about everything she did in regards to parenting – selective. Glad you were able to see the humor and poignancy in it as well.

Leave a Reply