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.