Wow. That’s a powerful statement. When I was young, I got hit all the time. Not in an abusive sort of way (at least back then) but disrespect, disobedience, and disagreements were usually met with a smack across the butt or whack across the head. While I didn’t like it, I have to say I grew up without hurting hurting small animals, having an eating disorder, going on drugs or having young, inappropriate sex (that’s not to say I didn’t have old, inappropriate sex, but that would be a different entry). Point being, I got spanked. So did my sister (who DID by the way, have an eating disorder, did drugs and probably did have young, inappropriate sex, but maybe spanking wasn’t the issue with her). Most of my friends got spanked–not that we had spanking confessionals back then–today it would be a reality TV show–but it’s just the way we were raised.
And then spanking went out of vogue. Right about the time that I had my first child. More than likely, this was purposely planned by my parents just to get even with me. All of the sudden, “time outs” were the ONLY acceptable punishment and only given with sugary sweet instructions, “Mommy doesn’t like it when you use your angry voice. I need you to sit in this chair for (1 minute for each year of child) so that you learn to speak to Mommy nicely. Can you do that for me please?” I never quite got the hang of this. While I did use time outs, they were issued with less political correctness: “You bit me and that is NOT acceptable. Sit.” There are just some things that shouldn’t be issued as a request. A punishment is one of them.
My husband and I did try spanking but, quite frankly, it didn’t work for us. The kids didn’t seem to care, and my husband and I usually felt worse than the children did. I also couldn’t reconcile the action: “You may not hit your sister with a hammer so I am going to hit you to teach you a lesson by spanking you.” I felt the only lesson it taught was that those who are bigger and older than kids can do things to kids that kids can’t do to each other.
Parents also got the conflicting message that, “if you must spank, never do it in anger.” So exactly when should I do it, while we’re cuddling on the couch watching TV?
I think I ONLY got this right one time. The children were misbehaving while I was at a meeting. I did give them several warnings that they needed to calm down and control themselves. Not the namby-pamby, “stop or I’ll say stop” warning, but the “you will control yourself or there will be consequences” warning. When it became obvious that they weren’t able to calm down, and that they were a distraction preventing me from focusing on the meeting, I very calmly excused myself and escorted them to the car. Once in the car, I calmly told them that they had been rude and disrespectful to both me, and the other people at the meeting and that the consequence would be that they each got spanked three times when they got home. The silence in that car was deafening. And, honestly, I don’t think they believed me. But I did remain calm and quiet–no ranting about their behavior (this whole “calm, not ranting” thing is NOT something I do easily).
When we got home, I sent each one to their room and I went in, re-explained that they were NOT allowed to behave the way they had, and swatted their bottoms three times. I guess that’s what they meant by not spanking in anger.
Which brings me half a decade later–to last night–to my pre-prepubescent daughter who may well cause me to drink. Or rather, drink more.
She has been challenging. To say the least. Ironically, not to label my children or put too much out there–there is always the potential that someone who knows me or my children personally may read this blog–but my son does have some behavior issues that are not “normal.” However, I’ve long since come to believe that “normal” is only a setting on my dishwasher. There is no “normal” for children. That being said, my “normal” child is making my “special needs” child appear, well, normal. And the only parenting advice I get is a scoff and a “wait until she’s 10 (11, 15).” Nice. Like that is helpful. Besides, I’ve really learned that the ONLY people who can give parenting advice are those who don’t have children. Anyone WITH children, knows better than to say, “If you’d only do XXXX, then you wouldn’t have that problem.”
So, after failed time outs, failed yelling, failed punishments, and failed bribes (see The Allowance), my daughter–the one I nursed for over a year, the one who taught me to love manicures and pedicures, the one who would kiss me on the lips and say, “wuve wu,” the one who I dreamed of chatting about boys, doing each other’s hair, comforting her when she cried about boys, THAT child, the one I was in labor with for a whole 4 hours (sorry), THAT child screamed at me, and threw pencils in my face.
And I hit her.
At midnight, I went in to her room and kissed her goodnight while she slept. I tried to remember all the kind, wonderful, fun, sweet things she does–how she lights up a room, how she sings to her baby sister, how she plays stupid games with her older brother, how she tries so hard at everything she does. But all I could see what her screaming at me and throwing the pencils in my face while I held her baby sister.
And in the morning, after a terrible night’s sleep full of angst-ridden dreams, I knocked on her bedroom door. I was expecting a tearful apology and was quite ready to issue my own (along with a waring that if she ever threw something or hit me again, that this last smack would look like a love-pat), only to be rewarded with a scream of, “DON’T COME IN!”
My son, who is 11 and pretty much doesn’t notice anything that isn’t electronic or comic book-based in nature, asked me if his sister was going crazy. I had to explain that it was likely just the onset of puberty.
Although insanity would probably be easier to handle.
I spent most of last night searching for parenting books at my library (GOD BLESS the online card catalog). I have to believe that my daughter’s behavior is my fault. Did I not hold her enough as a child? Is she feeling slighted in the house? Am I not speaking to her appropriately? Am I failing to teach her how to manager her feelings?
And WHY, in all of this, is my husband sitting there reading the political blogs?! Fathers don’t question their parenting style when they punish their children. They don’t look for some deeper meaning when they ground the kids or yell at them. They don’t worry about whether they are responsible for giving their children “bad” DNA that causes them to behave inappropriately. They also aren’t the ones who get the notes from the teachers, the stares from the moms at play groups, or the comments from the grandmothers about, “my son/daughter never spoke to me or his/her father that way.” Nope, the dads bark out punishments, go back to the TV or computer, and get rewarded by walking their daughter down the aisle and taking their son out for his first “legal” beer.
As for the spanking–I doubt I’ll do it again–it wasn’t worth the lack of sleep and guilt that I felt. And, like the previous few times that I “spanked in anger,” I really don’t think that it accomplished anything that was particularly beneficial to either one of us. However, that “sweet n sassy” gift card that she got for her birthday–she may not be seeing that thing ever again.