Later on, in that first year of Wednesday night meetings, I remember the child-training starting in earnest. My youngest brother at the time, J, was a year old, and I remember him being an exceptionally happy baby. He had reddish curls, and an infectious grin, and he laughed all the time! We have pictures of him playing in the grass, or being bounced by my sister or mom, and playing in the sand at the beach, and he was smiling in all of them. That all changed. Mr. LaQuiere decided it was time to teach his parents-in-training how to properly train obedience in children. The only way to get good obedience in was to get bad rebellion out, starting as young as possible (which in our case was already too far behind us, he said–if he had known us sooner he could have started training J when he was only a few months old, and still a fresh slate; but as J was already a year old, and set in his ways, we had better not lose any more time!) So the process was started of teaching a wiggly toddler to sit quietly and obediently on his parents’ laps. Refusing to sit still, whining, or worst of all, arching the back in protest, were all signs of rebelliousness in a baby (we were directed to the verses of how “foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child”, and assured that babies are born with this sinful rebellion that starts to show itself practically the moment they arrive home from the hospital). This rebellion needed to be corrected, because rebellion was the most serious and evil of all childish sins – “like unto the sin of witchcraft”, as the King James Bible says.
This correction was accomplished in various ways. Mostly it was through repeated swats and slaps on J’s leg or bare bottom, hard enough to sting, every time J tried to get down or refused to sit still. They worked with him on this for longer and longer periods of time, but instead of turning docile, he fought it harder and harder. He cried a lot, and these “training sessions” dragged on, and on, often into the wee hours of the morning. Mr. LaQuiere assured my parents that though J was clearly a very rebellious little boy, they could break his will and train it out of him, if they would be firm and not give up! So they kept at it, day after day. Little J would cry himself hoarse, but he wasn’t allowed to get down, or fall asleep, or even nurse, until he submitted and obeyed by sitting still and not crying.
Often times Mr. LaQuiere would insist that J had to be trained only by my dad, because it was clear he wanted his mommy, and he shouldn’t get his way because that would reinforce his rebellion. At least once, when they were fighting him (training him) all night, and couldn’t get him to stop crying, they took turns, at Mr. LaQuiere’s direction, holding him with his face stuffed into the sofa cushions until he stopped crying, when they’d let him up to breathe. Then he’d catch his breath, cry some more (“disobedient, rebellious cries”), and they would stuff his face back into the cushions. This was bewildering and terrifying to me as a young child. My world was suddenly confusing, and no longer safe. I was intensely distressed at my baby brother’s crying, and at how much he had to be punished. At the red marks on his legs. At Mr. LaQuiere’s insistence that they pull down his little diaper to spank him because it “didn’t hurt enough” being spanked through a thick diaper. Confusingly, my parents seemed all right with this, and assured me in whispers that everything was fine – this was for Baby J’s own good, and he was only crying because he didn’t want to be good. It was in his power to stop it and be obedient at any time. Over the course of the next few months, 1-year-old J eventually gave in and stopped fighting. He also stopped smiling. He became a sullen, withdrawn baby, and this change in temperament was permanent. He never went back to being the bouncing, bubbly baby I remembered. His sullenness was further evidence of his rebellious nature, we were told. His laughter wasn’t the only thing that was silenced: he didn’t speak his first word until he was nearly 4.
This was the beginning of the “secret” child-training methods that my parents were to learn from Mr. LaQuiere and use over the next eight years that we were a part of his group.