I think Freud, Jung, Dr. Phil, Dr. Spock, and Judge Judy would all agree we learn through example. I’m starting to feel like I could probably never parent except remotely while wearing an orange jumpsuit making a call from the yard.
My “example” was a walnut-stained, one-inch piece of plywood with a leather hang cord. Dad picked out the wood, and used his saws and sanders to handcraft the paddle. (You probably missed this special episode, “The Punisher,” on Yankee Workshop). This hand extension hung on a hook on the inside of the basement door. When my brother or I screwed up, we’d hear our name, our crime, and the squeak of the basement door opening. Dad, very stoically (being an executioner could have been a change of life career for him) would remind us again what we did wrong, we’d have to bend over and get our paddling. The experience was never traumatic. It was simple pre-teen humiliation – something to hold us over until he could bring out the big guns such as groundings, extra chores, etc… when we got too old for the paddle.
I don’t think I’m the only one to accidentally run across Super Nanny or Nanny 911 and watch with COPS-like enthusiasm hoping the misfit kids get their ass beat. I may be single, but it is kind of cool to see a deserving-kid getting it. On the few occasions I’ve been in Big Lots, I’ve witnessed two Hispanic mothers whale on their brats. Kids have always chosen the grocery store for their meltdowns, but black moms have no problem correcting that bad behavior quickly. We may be in an age of “spare the rod” and timeouts, but I smile and give the mother the visual high-five when they opt for the big can of public whoop ass.
Now I’m dating a guy with a three- and six-year old. Imagine the horror when I discovered he was one of those counting dads. You know this tactic. “Blah-blah, I’m going to count to three. If you don’t _____, I’m going to ______.” He would get to 2.75 when the six year old would finally concede defeat, for about three minutes, then the bad behavior would start again. Each time, I’d roll my eyes and try to keep my mouth shut by flashing back.
“What would my dad do?”
I can say, my dad, without hesitation, would give me the raised eyebrow you-are-going-to-get-your-ass-beat look. He’d would grab my arm, take me outside the restaurant, remind me again why I needed to behave and if I didn’t, I’d never get to come out to eat again. Eating out was fun. Getting out of the house was fun. I behaved.
When the six-year old boy was up to bad behavior infraction number seven, I gave up and spoke up.
“You know, your Dad works hard and it is really special when he takes you out. I don’t understand why you won’t listen to him,” I said proudly refraining from using cuss words or from channeling my inner oh-no-you-didn’t Puerto Rican.
The kid looked at me like I had three heads – too young to understand I had no jurisdiction and too young to know how to roll his eyes back at me. He went on misbehaving.
I gave the eye roll to my boyfriend instead. One-part “are you going to do something” and one-part “I never want to have sex again.”
He got up and smacked the kid on the ass. I gave him the visual high-five. The kid behaved the rest of the night. I smiled the rest of the night.
I’m dating a mini-van driving soccer coach who spanks. Dad would be proud.