Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sparing the rod, belt and switch

There are all sorts of fits you can have... hissy, conniption and walleyed. You can raise a ruckus, throw a tantrum or kick up a fuss.  We were admonished to straighten up and fly right or suffer the consequences.  Today's kids, not so much.

When I was a kid, there was no time out chair.  Two words - corporal punishment.  It wasn't truly meant to hurt us, but rather as a means of getting our attention and forcing us back into line with the adult in charge's way of thinking.  My parents and granny employed different, yet highly effective methods to obtain obedience.  My mother was the softy of the bunch, grabbing you by the fleshy part of your arm right above the elbow and giving it a good squeeze so that her dragon lady fingernails would dig into your arm while she used a soft voice that carried a wealth of threat.  My granny's favorites were a switch from her own tree out in the backyard or a fly swatter, the plastic sort that would leave checks on your legs.  Nowadays this would no doubt warrant a call to CPS.  I guess she figured a coat hanger a la Joan Crawford was going just a bit too far.  She always kept them on the top of the refrigerator and it was a conveniently handy location that had us minding our P's and Q's.

My father was really old school because that's the way he was raised, with a parent that enjoyed beating the crap out of him in the '50s.  I was a child in the mid to late '70s, in the days of "Urban Cowboy".  That's right, folks, the movie which popularized those thick leather western style belts with your name emblazoned on the back.  My father had one just like that and all he had to do was pat it and ask if he needed to take it off.  We knew that once it was off, we were destined for a butt-busting, so we always did a vigorous head shake that it wasn't necessary to remove this item from the loops of his starched Wrangler jeans.  Remember that bunch of horse hockey your parents would tell you... it's gonna hurt me more than it hurts you.  I dare you to find a kid that ever believed it.

I don't know if it's a British thing or indicative of all parents around the globe that they're more likely to put up with naughty behavior.  Just today in the grocery store I had to maneuver my shopping cart around this little black-headed spawn of Satan blocking the entrance to the store with his tantrum.  The gist of the fit seemed to be that he wanted something in another store they had passed and mom wouldn't let him have it.  So he's having a meltdown right there in front of the automatic doors.  Open door, loud tantrum sounds, closed door, muffled tantrum sounds.  His mom was down on her knees, trying to reason with the little devil and he was having none of it, preferring to wail and stomp his feet in the hopes of getting his way.  Or maybe she was pondering stuffing her scarf in the kid's mouth to shut him up.  She could have been contemplating a bribe, the last resort of all harried parents.  Just let mommy get a bottle of tequila with a 6-pack of beer to chase it in order to escape this insanity, and then I'll let you have whatever you want.  About the time I turned the corner into the dairy aisle, the wails got louder and I looked back to see the kid trying to drag mom back to the other store.  The only place I would have taken him was right back to the car.  There was bound to be a liquor store somewhere along the route home.

Seriously, what's the harm with a bit of an arm pinch or smack on the bottom?  Surely I don't need to break out the wooden spoon.  I'm doing this for your own good.

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