Friday, July 26, 2013

 a robservation

"Spare the rod and spoil the child" was a truism when I was growing up. However, it took several levels of escalating punishment to get the rod out. 

In my house the first punishment for being caught in some deviant behavior or stupid act (“what were you thinking?!”) was to be ordered to “go sit in the corner and think about what you've done.” This was intended to both let me cool off and to embarrass me in front of my little sister who would prance around my chair and Na, Na, Na’d me like only a bratty sister who eats bugs can.  (Actually, I was the one who forced her to eat bugs)

After an arbitrary period had gone by (usually about an hour) my humiliation was compounded by a stern lecture from Mom with plenty of in my face finger wagging. Back in the 60’s it was fashionable for women to grow and sharpen their blood red enameled nails into little daggers that could put your eye out faster than a Red Rider repeating BB gun. The implied threat of gouging my eyes out kept me humble... for a bit.

This level 1 isolation and verbal rousing did absolutely no good if I was determined continue with whatever sin I had committed and promised never to do again while under the duress of setting on a hard chair, facing into the corner of my room enduring the slings and barbs from my sister.

A notch up the punishment ladder was the threat of Mom telling Dad (“don’t make me tell your father about this”) and suffer his longer lectures preached through a well practiced Clint Eastwood make my day face. During the insufferable lectures time seemed to slow down to glacial time. I felt myself growing old standing there by his lazy Boy recliner taking my verbal licks.

During the harangue he would slowly flaunt his belt buckle hidden under a big flab of belly like a dirty undercover cop seductively reveals his sweaty belt badge to a perp in a bar just before the fight breaks out.  

The implication of a whippin’ normally shut me right up, but not Dad.  Yack, yack, yack.  Lecture, lecture. lecture.  Doesn’t he know you can’t use reason and logic on a kid. You can’t stop a river with rhetoric.  I would usually beg him to just hit me and quit lecturing me.  This would be called mental torture today.  That is what I called it back then too!

If my comportment continued to deteriorate, the next level up was Mom spanking my butt with a wooden yardstick. These whacks smarted but were not that lasting. If I was not firmly committed to whichever cause I had “vowed to die for” I would move on to something else after a dozen good thwacks upon my buttocks by 36” of flexible wood.  Well, not that flexible, my fat butt and Mom’s sometimes very enthusiastic strokes broke several yardsticks over the years.

Luckily, level 4 corporal punishment occurred rarely.  In a desperate effort by my parents into fooling themselves to believing  they were still in charge came in the form of a  spanking by Mom with the big wooden kitchen spoon (ironically the very same spoon we got to lick chocolate cake frosting from when we were good). 

There is an allegory here can you guess what it is?  Did we somehow learn to be both butt kissers and rebels by the subliminal symbology of  licking a dark brown substance from the same spoon that would also blister my butt?. 

These spoon spankings almost always took the wind out of my obstination. Just enough real pain, suffering and humiliation to get my full attention and kick my butt-brain into a rational gear. I would think to myself, “Bobby (I was called Bobby back then) you really, really need to question if this compulsion to do whatever it was that got me in this much trouble this time was worth pursuing any longer.” 99% of the time I quit pursuing it.

Level 5 - THE BELT
I can only barely remember being on the bad end of my father’s belt once. I don’t even remember what I did. But, the crime had to be so heinous as to suffer the cliche’ of my dad saying, “this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you”, while popping the belt to let me know it was actually going to hurt me far worse.  The lashing usually only lasted a few hard licks while I bellowed and cried (for emotional effect ;) It hurt like Hell and was reminded of the ordeal every time I sat down for the next few days. After a belt lashing I would “straighten up and fly right”..... for awhile.

I never considered spankings unusual or cruel punishment by sadistic parents. It was just the accepted way of trying to keep your kids from growing up to be rapists or serial killers. Or to save us from walking through unfriendly neighborhoods patrolled by vigilante’s with guns. Spoiling the child by sparing the rod was un-American.  You might as well let commies stay overnight in your house if it be found out you spared the rod and spoiled you child.  

Today you can only instill an equivalent degree of mental pain and depredation by suspending web and data privileges and take away their smartphone and/or tablet for a week.  The only comparative punishment back then would be to take away my biking privileges and grounding me  for a week. No telephone, comic books or TV.  All I could do was read books with no pictures and play war with my little plastic army men.  No streaming video or World of Warcraft to calm me down back then.  

When I wasn’t being grounded or beaten would usually watch Bugs Bunny and Road Runner to satiate my bloodlust. If that wasn’t enough, Brent Faulkner and I would build model boats and planes then fill them with modeling cement and firecrackers then blow them up and burn them in mock battles.  When we were caught doing this the punishment cycle would start all over again.

-a Robservation