Harrowing childhood can inspire us all

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 November, 2011, 12:00am


A Child called 'It'
By Dave Pelzer
Published by Orion Books
ISBN 978-0752837505

If you ask the vast majority of people about their childhoods and whether they were happy, they will have only positive things to say. 'Oh, my parents - they're great!'; 'Mum and Dad love me so much'; or 'I've got many toys that I can't even remember how many there are'.

However, for American author Dave Pelzer, his experiences as the third of five boys are anything but positive.

His 1995 memoir, A Child Called 'It', recounts his harrowing upbringing.

His past was the kind of childhood that would give most of us nightmares. His mother suffered from a mental disorder and continually mistreated, abused and beat him. She thought what she was doing was like a game.

He tells how she starved him of food, stabbed him in the stomach, burnt his arm on the cooker and forced him to drink bleach.

Pelzer says that finally, when he was 12, his teachers intervened and he was placed in foster care.

He had been forced to learn how to survive life in his home - as if it was a constant battle. It must have been terrible to have every day filled with threats and aggression. He was shown no respect, given no freedom and so lacked any self-esteem.

Thank goodness he didn't give up, though, and had the strength to keep going. As a little boy, he would have been too weak to defend himself.

What would you do if you faced the same situation? People would think you were a troubled child if you were starved by your mum, and forced to spend all your time doing household chores.

Despite the subject matter, Pelzer's story is uplifting. Next time you complain about something your mum or dad does that upsets you, think about Pelzer. Think what he endured - and would have given for just a little of the love your parents show you.

Pelzer survived ... and his experiences inspired this wonderful book, and its sequels, The Lost Boy and A Man Named Dave.