When I was a little boy, probably around nine-years-old or
so, my neighbor, Gary Newton, and I thought it would be great
fun to see how high we could let the flames get on one of
two large, dried out palm trees that stood in the front yard
of my house. We settled ourselves at the base of one of the
tall trees, busted out our stolen lighters and began setting
it ablaze as best we could. I did not have a measuring stick
available that afternoon to determine the actual height reached,
but it is very safe to say that the final result was well
out of our arms length. My mother came racing out of
the house when she saw what we were up to, then hurriedly
turned on the garden hose and promptly put the fire out. Gary
was sent home immediately. My penalty was a tad more severe.
I was sent to my room where I waited anything but patiently,
knowing that I had messed up big time and that my punishment
would not be pleasant. She let me wait. And sweat. Eventually,
mom walked back into the room, coat hanger in hand and calmly
asked me if I understood why I was being punished.
No. Not really. To this day Im a horrible
Maybe this will help to figure it out, she said
in her Peruvian accented English, then spun me around and
began to whack my ass with the cold metal that used to snugly
hug a blouse in her closet.
Yes, my a** was red after that not bleeding, but red.
Yes, I cried for hours and vowed that I would never tell my
mother that I loved her again. Yes, I made plans to move out
of the house, packing my belongings into a pillowcase and
heading out the door. My mother stood by and watched as I
made my dramatic exodus. She just smiled at me and wished
me well. I made it to Gary Newtons house before I realized
that I had nowhere to go and felt a bit homesick. And there
was another reason that, even fifteen seconds after leaving,
I looked forward to coming home.
A mothers love.
Todays more conventional wisdom and up-to-date, non-archaic
thinking would rule this sort of behavior out unimaginable!
The story painted above would cause many of todays time-out
proponents to lash out at my mother and beg me to file assault
charges against her, which to my great dismay I read about
more and more often. They would argue that there is always
a better solution than physically hurting a child. They might
argue that those types of occurrences would perhaps damage
my self-esteem and lead me eventually to cruel and devious
acts during my adulthood. They may even, perhaps, be right.
But then again
I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that when Winston Churchill
or Franklin Delano Roosevelt were young boys and did any of
those mischievous things that young boys will do, they were
punished by severe means. Is it not safe to assume that when
Martin Luther King, Jr. was a young lad, back in the days
before sitting in a corner facing a wall was deemed punishment,
he often felt the painful sting of the leather hide after
pulling one too many times on his sisters ponytail?
This is all pure conjecture, but these great men belonged
to a time when standards were strict. Up until the last fifteen
to twenty years, bad children, or better said, children who
had done bad things, were punished by their parents or caretakers
as they deemed necessary, with no one to interfere. Yet, strangely
enough, even back then with our great ignorance of the fragile
childs psychology and the harmful effects that such
dire punishments would lead to, great men and
women still managed to contribute greatly to history in spite
of or is it because of discipline.
Obviously many adults have mistreated children and taken
punishment too far; any child who shows up to class black
and blue or bleeding has certainly got a gripe. There is most
certainly a difference between a spanking and a beating. What
concerns me is the fact that children have wised up to our
politically correct society-at-large and have learned to take
matters into their own hands by turning their parents in at
their slightest inconvenience. Social Services seems to be
spending more time slapping parents on the wrist than finding
wayward children good homes to move into. These parents end
up having to take unnecessary anger management courses because
they yelled at their teenager after forgetting to turn off
after making quesadillas at 3:00am
Were creating our own monsters.
When I walk around town nowadays and see kids with their
parents, Im amazed at how damn hard every adult seems
to be trying to appease the little brats.
No? You dont like that one? How about the blue
one? Would you like the blue one? No? How about the green
one? Is that one okay? No? And she was looking for a
new SUV (please dont get me started on moms with four-parking-spaces-needed-since-Ive-got-one-child-but-still-cant-see-over-the-steering-wheel
Maybe its just coincidence, but it sure seems to me
that things have gotten a lot rougher out there in elementary
and high schools since I was a teenager. Columbine set the
wheels in motion. Since then, high schools employ security
personnel and the football team which used to run triumphantly
through a huge paper banner that read Go Tigers!
to start the game, now slowly, one by one, marches through
metal detectors instead. I clearly remember two events from
the recent past that were particularly worrisome. The first
was a young man who, upon being scolded that he was driving
too recklessly by his neighbor, proceeded to shoot the man
and his wife, then go on a shooting rampage across two or
more counties in Oklahoma. The second headline was a student
at the University of Arizona who couldnt deal too well
with having failed a particular class in the nursing school,
then walked into a fully occupied classroom and shot his instructor,
fired a few rounds into the crowd, then turned the gun on
himself mercifully and dropped that class for good.
Were these wackos not spanked or shown the belt for using
dads old Fleetwood Mac vinyl collection as Frisbees?
I honestly have no idea. Thats not the point. The point
is that it seems like things are a heck of a lot weirder,
and more unsafe, out there for kids. My greatest fear in high
school was worrying that Kate Sikonia would catch me checking
out her legs sitting across from me in geometry. I never worried
that someone would show up with a shotgun instead of a forged
note from mom lying about why their homework wasnt finished.
I really cant imagine that a child spends that much
time during time-out thinking about what he or she has done
and making plans to improve themselves, so it wont happen
again. A more likely scenario is that theyre making
plans for a rematch on Nintedo with Billy from down the street
or wondering if its really true that your face will
stay like that forever if you keep making that face that mom
hates so much. And besides, eventually, wont one time-out
after the next just start to seem like sitting in a waiting
room, knowing that eventually youre going to get what
you want anyway? Im afraid that todays children
are doted upon far too much and, once they reach an age where
theyre forced to make some uncomfortable decisions or
run the adolescent gauntlet that faces any teenager today
without flawless skin and a cool car, they just arent
built to deal with it. Their whole lives theyve been
given in to by the very people who as adults should
have started to teach them that life isnt always going
to be exactly how they want it. Their egos, insufficiently
prepared for disappointment or adversity, are painted into
corners that leave them frustrated and angry. Some will learn
their lessons late. Others, unfortunately for the innocent
bystanders, will not.
I guess Im just afraid that this whole time-out thing
is a little over the kids heads. They just cant
possibly find it as memorable or as instructional as a paddle
to the bottom, can they? And eventually, once its over,
they just go back to doing what they were doing before because,
Hey! Whats the worst that could happen?
Wildly enough, I felt the same way after getting the belt.
When I got older, I realized that hitting me hurt my mom even
more than it did me she hated having to do it. But
I thank her for it now. I always thought twice before doing
the same evil again. The pain always subsided, but the lesson
never did. My mother was the perfect chemist. She gave out
an exorbitant amount of love when we were good, even when
we were average. She reminded us through all her sacrifices
that we couldnt even begin to appreciate back then just
how much she loved us. And she told us every day. She
raised five kids alone from the time she was thirty-one, a
feat which I challenge any of todays SUV moms to match
with as much bravado and class. My four brothers and my sister
are all very successful, very well adjusted and two of them
are wonderful parents. My mother, by being harsh the times
we really deserved it, insured our respect for authority,
adults and, most importantly, her.
From guest contributor Robert Burns