I witnessed my daughter’s disciplining of my grandson the other day, and it wasn’t a pretty sight. Oh, I took plenty of corrective measures as far as Lacey and Dallas were concerned, but this was different. For some reason, just being on the sidelines and watching made me anxious and returned that old familiar knot in my stomach. At the same time, I understood how both mother and child felt during this tense moment.
Discipline when I was young came in swift, thundering actions. A warning was given and followed
“Stop that crying, or I’ll give you something to cry about!”
I always found that confusing. First off, their job was to administer punishment; my job was to dance in a circle and try to avoid the blows. Second, I cried because it hurt, and I figured that was why my parents gave this punishment. If I hadn’t screamed like I were dying, I feared the spanking would continue forever.
One time, Mother discovered that holes had been cut in a pair of pajamas-mine. She and Daddy went ballistic, and they questioned which of us had done it. Somehow, I was designated as the culprit. Before the spanking began, they told me that I was being punished not because I’d supposedly cut the pajamas but because I lied about it. Sometime later, about fifteen years, my brother admitted to Mother that he’d been who’d done the deed. That was a little too late to save me.
In my younger years, my temper was volatile. When things happened, I felt as if the top of my head would explode. My anger raged so strongly that I began to cry, the signal that I didn’t care what happened to me or what I did. All this angst can be traced back to my having been teased about being fat and “buck-toothed.”
Mother would catch me in the early stages of a fit. The punishment was to make me sit in a chair at the kitchen table until she determined I’d cooled off. I’d pout and be silent for one of the few times in my life. Eventually, I would calm down, and at that point, she would talk to me about why I was so mad and how I should handle it.
When we were 13, Daddy died, and Mother was left to ride herd on us. By then, we were too big to spank, or so we thought. Jim came home hours late one day during his freshman year. Mother was scared witless about his well-being. When he walked through the door, she calmly told him to pick out a belt. Then she walked into our bedroom, laid Jim on the bed, and flogged his bottom. He wasn’t thinking straight because he came up mouthing off. She laid him down again and administered more. After the third time, Jim either got the message or was so weak he was unable to continue.
For most of our discretions in high school, we were grounded. I couldn’t make better than a “D” in geometry. Mother taught middle school math and couldn’t understand my poor performance. She grounded me until my grade came up. That meant going nowhere and doing nothing. After 26 weeks,she came to me and stated,
“You aren’t going to bring that grade up, are you?”
I told her that I would already have done so if it were possible. She released me from that punishment, but by then, a story to tell in my adult years had been created.
I fought battles with Lacey and Dallas about punishment, and that’s another column for another time. I don’t think I could go through it again. Today, I sat on the sidelines and thanked God that I no longer needed to discipline anyone else but myself.