Grandparent Discipline

In times gone by, families were more than just mom, dad, and the kids. Grandparents were integral parts of what we call family. They lived close enough to see any time, and they served as baby sitters and stand-in parents. That job also included administering discipline at times.

Our maternal grandparents lived not more than a mile from us. In fact, Cureton Road was named after Mamaw Balch’s family. When our parents were in a bind, they went to them to care for us. Sometimes it was at our house, but many times we stayed at their little home.

If we misbehaved both adults would put the hammer down on us. Mamaw was as slight woman, barely more than five feet tall. She was a faithful bible reader and every day she listened to radio preachers and singers. If the situation demanded, Mamaw would dole out discipline of a harsh nature. She administered a tongue lashing that cut to the quick. With every sentence, the misbehaving child felt whittled smaller and smaller. At the end, a weak-voiced “sorry” came from the one of us that was in trouble.

Papaw Balch believed in a stiffer punishment, what some of us call a “come to Jesus meeting.” A swat on the bottom with a hand, paddle, or switch is what he preferred. The man stood six feet, two inches tall and towered over us. His voice didn’t intimidate us until his anger rose. Then, his face contorted and he growled. Punishment would be swift and certain.

On one visit to their house, Jim did something that earned him a correction from Papaw. The big man grabbed my brother by one arm and half lifted him from the ground. His massive hand popped Jim’s backside twice. My brother bawled like calf, more surprised that Papaw would spank him than from physical pain.
“That’s half what you’re gonna get.”

Jim was traumatized for days. He fretted over when the next part of the whipping. It became almost unbearable, and the next time he saw Papaw, Jim asked when if he could have the other half of his spanking. Papaw laughed and then told Jim there wouldn’t be any more punishment.

Punishment by parents is bad enough. When grandparents become bad guys to children, it’s earthshaking. The older folks are supposed to be the ones who spoil children rotten and then send them home. I admit that I can be stern with Madden at times. I think it’s happened on, maybe, two occasions. I’ve not swatted his padded bottom, but the teacher look and a growling voice have come out. The tears flowed, and I felt like a monster. I discovered that in just a few minutes my grandson and I were friends again.

I don’t recall disciplining my own children as being so difficult. Of course, I lived with them 24—7. Although we live far apart, Amy and I plan to spend as much time as possible with Madden and correct him when he needs it. That’s not to say that our hearts won’t break when the boy tears up.


Well, life is filled with changes, and this is a big one for me. The paper for which I write wanted a different type of column from me. They did allow me to include a link to this web site. For many of you, that's why you're here. THANKS FOR MAKING THE JOURNEY!

What I'll do each Monday is post a new column like the ones that used to appear in the paper. Just follow the link that you find in the paper. Maybe you can add it to your bookmarks so that it will be handy. While you are here, why not become a member of Rector's Readers? It's easy to do. Just click on the link at the left of the page and follow the steps. I'd like to have hundreds of you as followers.

I'll miss the newspaper connection that I've developed with people over the last few years. Let's keep in touch and make this blog one of the most popular. I'll try to write pieces that are interesting and fun.

Thanks for dropping by. Please keep in touch. I hate losing friends.

Clearing Land

I’ve been cleaning the lot beside our house the last few days. Most every muscle in my body is knotted and sore from swinging an axe, sickle, and mattock. The work’s been hard but fun, and knocking around there reminded my past.
In one spot fencing and barbed wire are gnarled with vines and ground. It’s the location of the old pig sty. Mother and Daddy kept hogs in that spot before Jim and I were born. Twice a day, she would tote a five gallon bucket filled with water to the pin that was located about three hundred feet up an incline. She also carried food to them.
Mother used to take our older brother Dal with her on the chores. On one occasion, she was busy about her chores and couldn’t find him when she turned back around. In a panic Mother looked for him, and her fears that he’d gotten in with the pigs had her almost hysterical, something that just didn’t happen. She finally discovered him in another area of the woods where Dal had wandered off to play.
It was on this lot that some of the biggest adventures Jim and I shared took place. I remember having our toy guns and rifles and crawling through the woods there as we escaped German soldiers in make believe games of war. That was when such play wasn’t considered inappropriate or harmful to a child’s psyche. We also built a lean-to from pine limbs. It served as teepee where we took turns as either cowboys or Indians, a game that today would be called cowboys and Native Americans.
It was in that general area that Dal tormented Jim and me. He was the babysitter when our parents were at work or school and demand that we do what he wanted. When we refused, Dal walked out the back door with news that he was running away. He left the two of us, probably no older than six or seven and scared to death wailing for him. Our older brother stood at the edge of the woods for a few minutes before returning. Jim and I gladly made his lunch and poured his drinks.
In the fall when we played there, one of us would feel the slap of a limb across an eye as we navigated the underbrush just before sundown. We’d go home whining about how much the affected eye hurt. Mother would be at the stove fixing supper, and she had little patience for such complaining. Her advice was to get a wash cloth, put it on our the scratched eye, and go lie down in a dark room. We did so, and the discomfort subsided. When we awoke the next morning, the eye problem was gone, just a Mother had promised.
My neighbor Mr. Nelson used to burn brush on that lot. He taught me the best way to perform the job was to wait for a snowfall. Then he poured kerosene on the pile and when the fire started, he used a leaf blower to stoke the flames until the blaze resembled a blast furnace. I still use that same method when I burn.
This lot needed some attention to clear its blemished surface. It didn’t take long for the memories to flood back, and feeling young for a while made the soreness of my muscles a bit easier to take.

Finding Comfort

The week between Christmas and New Year was a busy one. I traveled to Cookeville to pack the last of the things in that house and then made sure they were loaded on the moving van. Next Amy and I met the movers in Nashville and they toted the stuff up a flight of stairs and into the small condo we purchased. It’s only two miles from our daughter’s home and, more important, only two miles from grandson Madden.

This condo is an older one. Built in the 1980’s, it has just enough room to house us and hold family when they drop by. Walls beg for a coat of paint, fixtures in the kitchen and bathrooms are dated, and the cabinet doors in the kitchen are warped or stained. The price was right, however, and we didn’t have to shell out exorbitant amounts of cash for the place.

Amy and I liked the place the first time we viewed it. Neither of us could say exactly why, but it was the one we kept coming back to as we looked at and compared at least twenty residences. It wasn’t the best or worst of what we viewed, but this condo had something none of the others had: comfort.

For some reason, we were comfortable from our first entrance. That didn’t changes as our stuff began to fill the space. At least fifty boxes held glassware, pots and pans, and miscellaneous items (things thrown in because they don’t fit anywhere or were found at the last minute). It took two and a half days to open those boxes and store the items, a process that might have been quicker if my wife hadn’t felt the need to wash every plate and cup.

Few things make a new place homey like a bed. We set ours up, and put on fresh sheets. Pillows that held or unique indentations lay atop the spread and waited for us to pour our tired bodies into the bed. Clothes were dispatched to familiar dresser drawers, and clocks, eye glasses and remote controls were placed in familiar locations.

The best part of this new part-time home is the living room. It is part of one large room that also includes a dining area. We sent a couch from Knoxville for sitting and got rid of the one in Cookeville that was as comfortable as a rock. We also sent our end tables and coffee table.

Other than the bed, the best pieces in the place are two platform rockers. One belonged to my dad. I can still seem him sitting in it with his feet upon the ottoman as my twin brother rubbed Deep Heat into his swollen ankles. The other rocker belonged to my father-in-law, Isaac Netherton. I remember him propped up in that rocker with a box on his lap. He’d watch television and whittle for hours. Both men were never more relaxed than when they sat in their favorite chairs.

An old familiar idiom says that “familiarity breeds contempt.” In our case with this new residence, “familiarity breeds contentment.” We’ll enjoy our new home away from home.

New Year's Resolutions--Maybe

I’m contemplating what, if any, resolutions to declare for the New Year. Over time, I’ve made plenty of them, but most of them fell by the way side before long. However, some of the most important ones I managed to carry through.

The resolutions began as soon as I had a life outside the house. As a teen, I promised myself to do better in school. That included actually bringing my text books home, reading them, and completing homework assignments. As I’ve admitted to everyone before, those promises lasted until school opened after Christmas breaks. Then I was back on the slide. Not until college were those resolutions fulfilled.

When Amy and I first married, life was different. Too many times I said things that hurt her feelings. With each year, the resolution to be a better husband was uttered. I swore that I’d take on more chores, be more understanding, and be more attentive. For awhile life ran smoothly and I carried through with those things, but before long, I’d forget to something or roll my eyes when Amy told me something. It’s a wonder that she put up with me. I am lucky that she loved me in spite of my failures to keep my resolutions.

As a dad, I promised to be more patient. Folks who knew me realized the resolution was in impossibility to keep. So was the one that dealt with being loud and bullish. Lacey and Dallas learned to flip the switch so they didn’t hear my growling.

I’d never run a mile in my life as a teen or younger man. When one of our friends died, my brother and I decided it was time to get some serious exercise. I resolved to begin running. At first a half lap around a track caused gasps and stitches in side. Eventually, I ran two miles every other day and even ran in a couple of 5K events at the school. Back surgery was the only thing that could stop my running in all types of weather or whatever city I was in.

A few years ago, my older brother Dal died of lung cancer. He, Daddy, and Mother all died the same way. Dal had just turned 54 a couple of weeks before he passed. Daddy was 53 when he died. The year that I was to turn 52, I made the resolution to quit smoking. If not, I felt sure I’d be dead within another year. The process of quitting was tough and required relaxation therapy, a strict plan for cutting down and then quitting, and something I didn’t realize existed inside—willpower. That was seven years ago, and it’s hard to believe I quit.

Over the last few months, I’ve put on some weight, and it’s not comfortable. Trying to lose a few pounds during the holiday season is an exercise in futility. So, I’ve already decided that the main 2010 resolution will be to cut some poundage before summer. With luck I will find the willpower to stick with the diet. If not, the problem will grow—and so will I.