I have failed as a parent. It had been a long, terrible day and in the face of a blatant act of aggression I lost my cool. Grimly, filled with misplaced determination, I whacked my kid on the ass. She was stunned. I immediately felt like a jerk. She stormed off to pout and I cleaned up the bowl of food she’d thrown across the room. It was not my best moment.
The whole spanking thing doesn’t seem to get talked about as much as it used to. Maybe I’ve just aged out of those debates – now it’s all about whether to protect your kids from preventable diseases or don the tinfoil hat of pseudoscience. But then, I saw a meme pop up that basically equated getting spanked as a child with learning to respect others. Bullshit.
Spanking is a lose-lose proposition. The kid ends up with a sore backside and some justified outrage to spin in therapy later, and you look like the jerk who hits kids. Not sure there’s any long-term lesson learning there outside of “parents are flawed individuals with limited patience” which, I grant you, is an important lesson. I drive that one home pretty frequently in a lot of fun ways.
I remember getting spanked once. I don’t remember why (I’m guessing smart-assery), but I do remember the moral outrage. And I remember feeling like the point I’d been trying to make all day – all year even – was finally proved. My parents were jerks. Probably not the lesson dad was going for.
And I remember, once, mom trying to spank my brother but being too slow to catch him. He ran circles around her in the living room doing parkour across furniture and flips off of her exercise trampoline (real thing) until she finally collapsed on the couch, just laughing and over it.
There were no lessons learned…except maybe that speed saves lives? Again, probably the wrong lesson.
Which brings me to psychological torture, and also that great and terrible beast known as middle school. Whiskey was in eighth grade. You can’t spank an eighth grader. The ONE TIME my brother got invited to a party and stayed just a little too late, mom decided to go and fetch him. But because she’s our mother, this would be no simple snatch and grab. There was a lesson to be learned. Mom and I put on our strangest pajamas, stuck our hair in random curlers, smeared our faces with some flower scented cream, and walked the six blocks to his friend’s house to claim him. He may have been too fast to smack, but he was too slow to dodge the wrecking ball of embarrassment shuffling down Murphy Avenue in bunny slippers. He never saw it coming.
This may be why, the following year, Whiskey moved in with dad. Yet again, maybe not quite the lesson mom was going for, but certainly an effective way to make a point. He was never late coming home to mother’s house ever again. Because he lived somewhere else, mostly. But still.
And then there’s the Madness. Oh, my lovely, stubborn child.
After the whole thrown food incident, after I apologized for losing my cool and she apologized for everything that led up to it, I asked her what she’d prefer – a spanking or the usual punishment of time spent cleaning her room and folding laundry and generally earning her way back into my good graces. She thought about it for a long time. So long, that I figured she’d forgotten the question and was watching cartoons on the backs of her eyelids. Then, slow and serious, that dear child said, “I think it’d be better to have a spanking. It hurts for a second, but then it’s over. Cleaning my room takes FOREVER. And is super boring. And then it just gets messy again. So yeah, spanking.”
Trick question, babe – I think I’ll stick with forced labor from here on out. At least, until middle school.