Wednesday, February 8, 2012

CORPORAL PUNISHMENT (Series intermission, sorry)

Once again I started out to make a brief comment on someone else's post, and wrote so much that it seemed nicer and more courteous to make my own post.  Not that I have anything too profound to say.  Just a couple of stories.

Christie posted on hands.....and really, about how our children perceive our hands.  She was thinking about parents who strike their children out of anger or frustration, or those who believe in physical punishment. It brought to mind a guy I once dated in college and how he used to flinch whenever I'd make an unexpected gesture.  For some reason, the first time I noticed it, I immediately understood why and asked him about it.  I was stunned to imagine any parent hitting a child in the face.

My mother was no slouch in the discipline department, but I suppose I was a basically cooperative child.  I recall only three spankings in my entire childhood and I think I recall them because that is all there were!  The first was when I was in kindergarten.  I had witnessed a little maneuver on the playground called "sticking out your bottom" when you turn and thrust that body part in the direction of the person you are cross with.  I am surprised, frankly, that this had apparently intrigued me and I tried it out on my mom one afternoon.  She was rightly appalled and responded by giving me a quick smack on that offending bottom.  

Not too long after that I got my second spanking.  The nature of this spanking was altogether different.  I had dilly-dallied around on the way home from school.  Why, I do not know.  I only remember [amazing to contemplate in this day and age] that as a kindergartner I walked probably a half-mile or more home by myself at the end of my morning kindergarten class.  On one notable occasion, when cutting across a field I got stuck in a big roll of barbed wire, which had become partially unrolled and hidden by snow.  It must have caught on my clothing or shoes and trapped me; I remember the panic of not being able to free myself, getting caught by other barbs, and I was scratched rather badly. I remember the red Mercurochrome being applied over the many gashes in my poor little legs. Possibly because of this unfortunate incident, I was instructed to walk directly home.  And, this day, I hadn't.  My mother had, by now, obviously done some reading on "How to Discipline Your Child". She'd apparently been instructed by the "expert" to talk to me and explain the spanking prior to giving it.  And she did.  The main thing I remember about that is the cold-bloodedness of it.   It made absolute sense to me to be spanked suddenly in response to egregious behavior - but it made no sense at all to hit someone with a complete lack of emotion. Furthermore, the expert must have said not to use your hands, but to employ something else for the spanking, and in our case a ruler was called into service.  I don't recall the spanking (not much of one, and not very painful, I suppose - probably three smacks on a bottom well covered with panties, slip and skirt) and I don't recall what she said about my crime.  But my mother - associated with an unfeeling, cool intention to inflict pain with a weapon (!) - that I remember vividly!  I don't think it felt right to her, either.  The last spanking occurred much later - on my 7th or 8th birthday, when she had decided to give a birthday party for me - with friends.  Not a usual event.  I must have been over-excited, and she must have been stressed out, because she told me to stay outside playing, and I came in anyway - and got a quick spank on the rear with her hand.  Hate to say that is the only thing I remember about that party!  But, again, I do not recall feeling hardly used, or abused or anything else.  I think I completely understood the dynamic, on some level.

That ruler did maintain its role as "The Enforcer".  Perhaps they used it on my brother, but honestly I think its primary purpose was as deterrent, "Do you want me to get the ruler?!"    No.  We didn't!

My physical discipline of Aidan and Lydia was similar (minus the spanking with malice aforethought). I should ask them if they remember any spankings!  We did have an upgrade for the ruler; we had (still have somewhere, I think) a red paddle.  One of those little paddles which originally had a ball attached by an elastic string.  This was kept in dad's bedside table.  Presumably it must have been used on some occasion or other, but I only remember it being used as a threat......until!   I think I'd given Craig a bedside table without a drawer in some re-arrangement of furniture, so he'd put the red paddle between the mattress and the box springs.  Well, let's just say we kept that mattress and box springs far too long.  The springs had begun to free themselves from the covering, and when Craig reached under there to retrieve the paddle to sign that he meant business (!) he got a huge cut from the end of a mattress spring.  I recall that the miscreants were so horrified that all rowdy behavior ceased forthwith.  But, there were a few snickers after that whenever the words "red paddle" were mentioned.

Lydia at 12 - doesn't look like she
could be naughty, does she?
The only spanking I remember giving had a funny and unfortunate after-effect.  Lydia was probably eleven or so, and we had gone to Toronto.  This was a big deal for us, a special trip!  I wanted the children to see the architecture, the important sights - experience a big city!  Yet, all Lydia could think of was buying some new shoes and since she is horribly difficult to fit, we traipsed from store to store and didn't find any.  But, she would not let go of it - the whole afternoon which should have been dedicated (in my mind) to "valuable" stuff, had been wasted on a useless quest for shoes with a high enough instep to fit her.  And she would continue to go on querulously, complaining and whining.  She was disappointed, surely, and I was frustrated, particularly after we finally walked to a museum, only to find it had just closed!  So, we are walking down the street and she is still complaining about shoes.  We got to an intersection and I said, "Watch out, stand back!"  Still in mid-complaint she tried to emphasize her point by stepping in front of me and facing me.  Whether the curb was uneven or what, I don't know, but she lost balance and began to fall backward right as a car swung around the corner!  I grabbed her, pulling her back onto the sidewalk, and in one fell swoop gave her a whap on the rear and exclaimed something along the lines of, "Listen to me before you get killed!"    

Well, that close call had scared both of us, and we crossed the street shaky and almost giggly with relief.
We were totally in harmony again, and beginning to discuss our next move when - WOAH!  We were attacked - or, let's say, I was attacked by the verbal barrage of a woman who must have seen that whole event from quite a distance - at least the whap on the bottom part of it.  And, under full head of steam, she caught up with me to let me know that this sort of behavior from a parent was ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE!   She was so on her high horse that there was no way to let her know that I really agreed with her!  That spankings were not typical!  That there were some extenuating circumstances.....   Well!!!!!   She strode off, having done her civic duty, leaving Lydia and me totally shaken.  We'd just begun to come back from the adrenaline-rush of the falling-off-the-curb-in-the-path-of-a-car experience, only to have a sudden-verbal-attack-in-the-street experience!   We decided in unison to just get back to our hotel - and fast.  But Lydia was in such a rush to get there she was practically running! She only told me why later.  I was wearing a bright pink dress, and she had the idea that the child protection advocate was next going to call the police and have her taken away from me!   She was terrified.  My feet hurt after that afternoon of shopping, my breath was still unsteady from the two onslaughts of excitement - I remember that was quite a physically stressful run back to the hotel!

I've never spanked the Russians. It really is not my style.  And, it just isn't needed.  Or useful.  Or reasonable.  Or my level of patience has stretched so that I am never upset enough?  No, can't be that - I'm frequently upset enough to cry!  But, whatever the reason, it is really not due to the Toronto woman!


Mike and Christie said...

When our boys were little, we spanked on occasion. It was certainly not a first resort and beyond a last resort. We too had read that book about not using hands, so we had this small green spoon. One day, our youngest son dropped it in the trash can on his way to school. LOL

After that, we began to think very differently about how we parented...we had been on that journey for a long time and I am glad we changed our ways. I went from a background where we were struck often and not spanking.
I actually tried it again out of desperation.... but really, I am so weak in my arms and hands, it was like a pat on the butt and we looked at each other and started laughing...." that was dumb...."
I hate it that it even came to mind, but it did.
Human frailty.....stress....and frustration....and then, resolution to find a better way.

Mike and Christie said...

Oh, and you can comment on my blog anytime... no matter how long. LOL

Hevel Cohen said...

When I was a child I was spanked using a long, wooden shoehorn that was put to good use. Or at least was put to use often.

I have been known to slap a kid on the bottom or on the hands in dangerous situations, but I think the last time I used corporal punishment was before my 8-year-olds turned 3. So about 6 years ago. A slap on the hand of a toddle was deterrent enough that he didn't try to reach into the oven ever again. :)

Annie said...

Christie - it surely wasn't that long in your comment section - it grew. I must have been dreading getting to work!

steph said...

We don't spank, but I'm beginning to see why a certain little boy's teachers told us endlessly that he would need to be spanked...

Elizabeth said...

I certainly agree about the face! That was the worse, getting flicked in the ear or forehead.

Interesting about that book your mom read. From a humane point of view it sounds right. I know that people sometimes separate spanking and child abuse by defining spanking as a more cool, measured punishment and child abuse as a sudden reaction performed in the heat of the moment. So it's interesting to hear that the waiting time sort of defeated the purpose in your case.

I remember we sometimes had to wait in our rooms for our parents to come and give the sentencing-either a spanking or a serious, cool talking-to. Those were pretty scary and effective for me!

Elizabeth said...


Annie said...

Elizabeth - yes; that has always struck me funny too - how the advice seems right, but FELT so wrong. I imagine that waiting for a verdict - that might be best of all!

on our way today said...

first off in the 70s i walked to and from school as well for well, i was spanked maybe 3 times becuase i was the perfect child and i always felt like it was I am an anti-spanker as a parent but the problem is my husband has a much different viewpoint and we have discussed this over and over weather or not to go that route...

but i will say that some children never need to be spanked bcause they can reason (like myself as a child), some need to spanked sparingly when it comes to danger etc, and some are frankly brats that need a good spanking! Lol.

there is a danger in parenting children with special needs and spanking tho. since my boys have add/hd they do not learn from spankings and you could probably spank them a thousand times and they would never learn at all...we have said many times to ourselves that if our boys were raised in another family that spanked all the time they would be abused children. the parents would be spanking them nonstop all day long.

regardless-- my point is I have come to understand that those parenting advice/books/etc is useless since you have to parent each child specifically to their needs and you won't find that in the books. its not one size fits all. some parents spank and its ok for their child but for others its not ok at all and won't do that particular child any good.

how is that for long comments?

Annie said...

Ha! I LOVE long comments! And, I agree with you totally.

Cléo said...

'I remember we sometimes had to wait in our rooms for our parents to come and give the sentencing-either a spanking or a serious, cool talking-to. Those were pretty scary and effective for me!' - same here! We were spanked with a wooden spoon on our bottoms, not too hard (always expecting it to be harder next time!). But I remember my mom hitting me straight in the face once vividly, when I was about 13. We were disagreeing about something (a 13+ movie I had seen?), and I yelled 'you don't know anything about children!'. Hard slap. It was so humiliating, because, at the time, I really felt like she didn't (want to) understand me. I resented that slap for quite a while.

Annie said...

Oh, Cleo! I bet when you are a mother you will understand that slap even better. That comment must totally have hit a nerve.

Cléo said...

Oh yes, it did. We still can't have a normal (quiet) conversation about the motherhood/childhood topic. Whenever I tell her I have some ideas about our future/children, or some new undertanding about my own (or her) childhood, she utters 'and of course I raised you totally wrong!' Followed by my 'well, no, you are a great mom, I just wanted...' Followed by a firm resolution never to have such conversation again (until I have four teenaged children myself) :)