My Life by Paul Tiderman

Now I wish I had begun writing this account a long, long time ago. Ten years ago, my memory was a steel trap. I can remember thinking I was able to recall at least 95% of my experiences from the age of five! From about five and earlier, the percentage decreases until the age of two and a half years. Prior to that is a complete blank. Now, however, I estimate that my ability to recall is about half of what it was. But I’m hoping that, in the process of writing this memoir, some of the lost recollections will be restored to me. The following few paragraphs consist mainly of second-hand information from my parents and other relatives. I should start with some family background, since it certainly has had a profound effect on who I am today.

My father, Sanford Oscar Tiderman, Jr., was born in Reading, PA in 1938 or 39. He was the 3rd child born to Sanford Oscar Tiderman and Fern Elenor (Davis) Tiderman. But he was the 1st male child. He wound up having 3 sisters and 2 brothers. His family life was plagued by dysfunction, violence and uncertainty. This was due primarily to his father’s rampant drinking binges and infidelity. His emotional needs, or those of his siblings, were not even recognized by his parents. I suppose this was typical for the times. I have reason to believe his older sisters probably did their best to help him get through a very difficult childhood. But my father was physically abused and damaged mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. Consequently, he produced children who were also abused and damaged in these areas.

As a small child, I had no idea what life was “supposed” to be like. I guess I believed being scared to death of your own father was normal…and being severely beaten with a hand-carved, custom made with a strategically placed knothole, wooden board was the norm. My first indication that it was not normal was when I returned to school from lunch one day (I actually lived so close to my school that I walked home everyday to eat lunch) with a big red welt across my face. It was so obvious that my teacher took me to the principal’s office, and I think I remember being sent to the nurse’s office. They drilled me about the cause of the injury and I told them the truth: My mother got mad at me and smacked me across the face with a wet dishrag. I soon realized that these people were not sympathetic towards my mother. I began to defend her. I didn’t want her to get into trouble. Then the family secrets began.

My brothers and I tried to stay out of my father’s way as best as we could. But, eventually there would come a day when that was no longer possible. Probably the most dreaded situation I faced as a child, was my father learning that I misbehaved in some way that deserved a beating. Actually, the absolute worse scenario was when one of the neighbors called with some complaint. In these cases, my father had a hard and fast policy: Beat them all hard and fast, then find out what happened…or not. Other than this particular instance, my father was completely unpredictable. If he had been drinking…just the right amount…he might laugh about it. Or, if he was stressed out about something at the time, he might give my mother $20 and instruct her to “Go to bingo,” line us up, make us drop our drawers, and beat the living daylights out of us. We just never knew what to expect.

Now, I’m not claiming that we didn’t deserve what we got at times. And I’m not saying that we didn’t actually NEED a spanking quite regularly…because we did. And I’m not one of those people that thinks spanking is unacceptable. On the contrary, I strongly believe it is a valuable tool for effective parenting. But, I do believe it should not be the first resort of discipline. In fact, it should be closer to the last. Also, each child is different. Some children only need a stern look to be reached. Others only require an, “I’m dissappointed in you” talk. But some need corporal punishment to get through to them. I know this from experience. However, although I am confident in these views, the MOST IMPORTANT THING for raising respectful, loving children is to LOVE THEM! My parents didn’t offer ANY demonstrable love or affection to counter-balance the severe discipline. That was the primary reason my parent’s attempts at discipline failed. So, without love and affection, I began to focus my efforts on simply surviving.