Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My First Time

I was 43. He was 7.

To paraphrase/elaborate upon St. Paul: When I was a child, I thought as a child. I spoke as a child. When I acted unacceptably, I was spanked as a child. To paraphrase every corporal punishment apologist, I turned out okay -- psychologically undamaged from derriere-administered discipline.

Prior to parenthood, after discussion with my comparably corrected husband and pending parenting partner, we agreed. We’d likely employ the method as occasion(s) deemed fit.

However, following my son’s – and his sister’s – birth, the implementation of the swat/smack/spank simply felt wrong.

Perhaps pridefully, I became besotted with the efficacy of oral diatribes regarding behavioral expectations (frequently paired with the removal of privileges), and was repulsed by the prospect of engaging in the “do as I say and not as I do” inconsistency. Seven years and two months passed.

In the interest of word count, and a modicum of discretion for my son’s and my privacy, details of the catalyst infraction need not be revealed. Suffice it to say, on the day described, all other punitive means had been exhausted.

With a bare hand and a heavy heart, contact was made. Tears were shed. (I managed to hold off on mine until he had run up to his room.) The sister, well-aware of her brother’s lapse and the subsequent consequence, with respectful dignity uncharacteristic of one her age, went into the den.

So then what did I do? I called my mother – who with no subtlety in times past had implied my parenting arsenal was incomplete for the absence of the proverbial “rod.” Did I call to confess my matriculation into the Spanking Parents’ Society, or was I somehow unashamedly professing my actions -- seeking parental validation and/or approval from my own mother?

As I write this now – outing myself as a deflowered spanker – am I seeking forgiveness or acceptance, understanding or empathy, from those with whom I am treading parenting’s path -- or a virtual spanking via reprimanding comment?

My children, uterine co-habitants though they may have been, have already demonstrated they respond to varied modes of direction – and correction. Our daughter tends to seek our parental (and others’) approval more readily – sublimating her own child-like desires to meet that goal. Not so with our son.

So did the spanking work? As the Magic 8 Ball would say, “All signs point to ‘Yes’.” Am I still tormented by the incident? Affirmative. But what torments me more? The idea that I had to resort to something I initially did not want to do -- perhaps admitting defeat -- or the actual physicality/ perceived violence of a hit? Maybe a bit of both.

Humiliation (not unlike guilt or shame), in moderation, may be healthy. Pain (carefully administered), parceled in moderation, may be proactive.

Let me have it.
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PS - Tomorrow is Way Back When-esday, and FIVE -- count 'em, FIVE -- players/participants will win in the giveaway this week! Get your pictures ready...


Leslie said...

I was spanked one time when I was about 5...and it worked! It was for lying, and I really did learn my lesson. I think it was so effective because it was not something my parents did casually, so it really made an impression on me. It made me realize that what I had originally done wrong (put fingernail polish in the sink) was minor in comparison to not telling the truth. I never thought of it as my dad "hitting" me, and I wasn't scared of him after that.

Your son will be just fine. You are still a wonderful and loving mom! :)

rachael said...

i think that fact that you took the time to think this much about it, shows just what a fantastic mommy you are.

Goddess in Progress said...

There are very few absolutes in parenting, no matter what we swear when we're idealistic and single, or brand new parents. I agree with previous commenters: the fact that it is such an out-of-character moment and so unusual would, I imagine, help to further drive the point home over what was done wrong.

M still tells the story of the one time he was spanked as a child. It was nearly 30 years ago, and he still remembers it, clear as day. It didn't ever need to happen again (and while he remembers it clearly, it's not as though he's emotionally scarred from the incident... it was just very meaningful).

No need to flog yourself, truly. It sounds like it was a very difficult situation. You did what you had to do, and you didn't like it one bit. That just goes to show that it will never become the worst kind of physical discipline: the kind that's too frequently and impulsively dished out. You are a wonderful mom. And sometimes even the most wonderful moms have to do things they aren't pleased with. It'll be OK.

Sara said...

I too was spanked as a child and decided not to spank my children unless it was truly necessary. I cried my first time too. I totally get this post and think you are a wonderful mom.

Rebecca said...

I'm so glad to read about this b/c I haven't decided what we're going to do yet. We were both swatted as children - DH received a little bit more in terms of punishment, but since it is so unlike you, I'm sure it will be remembered and the lesson will be learned. You're a great Mom...thanks for being so honest!

Nancy said...

Oh, the torment. I understand. You went a LOT longer than we did with that though...there were MANY times when Burke didn't/wouldn't respond to any other type of discipline. I'm not proud. I am happy to report that it hasn't been necessary for a while now.

*hug* You're a great mommy :)

Julie B. said...

Wow - it's kind of freaky that you just happened to post this today. This morning I was thinking about this very topic. We haven't been afraid to spank Katie's behind, but this morning after doing so I just felt so disappointed with myself. My patience has been so thin lately and I found myself spanking just because she wouldn't listen/cease whining when getting dressed for school - this isn't an infrequent occurance at my house - but I found myself amazed that she hasn't become a "hitter" herself with my example and I realized that I need to be a bit more selective.

Laura said...

I was with my sister when she did it the "first time."
Her son had runaway and "hid" for fun in a Hecht's. Security was called...screams filled the air.
It was bad.
The spank was bad too...but totally necessary.
On so many levels.
I'm sorry.

Laura said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MereCat said...

Just my 2 cents....

Think about this.... Appropriate behavior is essential to survival. If a certain behavior, which is not conducive to survival is permitted, then it may be necessary to use more than conversation to correct this behavior. If your kid is going to run out into moving traffic, do you hope to talk him out of it, or do you use a little more force to ensure that it doesn't happen? This is an extreme example for other more subtle behaviors which could be potentially as dangerous in the long run. You as the parent are to determine what behaviors warrant what types of discipline in order to ensure the safety of your child not just in the immediate moment, but for years to come. Sounds like you did just that.

Aimee said...

Oh this topic is a heart-render, to be sure.

I was swatted as a child, and my husband was not, but we both decided not to rule out a spank as a punishment if the circumstances warrant it.

I think you are correct in the assessment that it depends on the child. Sally and Fiver are "pleasers" and most times it only takes a raised voice or "the look" to set them straight. The other two? Not so much. But it's still HARD!

I'm sure he will be fine, and the fact that you are agonizing over this is a sure sign that you are not likely to devolve into a serial spanker.

I never believed the whole "this hurts me more than it hurts you" thing until I had my own kids. Urg.

Keep on keepin' on, mama :)

Tracy said...

Oh, bummer. I'm sorry that it came to this, but I have no doubt it was the right decision. As you would tell me, you're the mommy and nobody knows your kids better than you. I'm sure that given the circumstances, this is what was necessary for Darren to learn.

My parents always told me that their job as parents was to teach me to function in life without them. Sometimes a spanking is needed to send the message home.


Barbara Manatee said...

Those decisions - while our children will never fully understand - fall under "Its going to hurt me more than it hurts you." I can imagine the inner argument with yourself - hang in there. And I agree - that you gave it so much thought and it weighed so heavy on your heart shows it was not just a harsh reaction.

Threeundertwo said...

"Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me." Guidance and discipline take many forms, and you, like me, found that boys on some occasions hear better with their butts than their ears. I'm sorry it was such a hard parenting moment.

As I wrote way back on HDYDI, I've learned to never say never. It doesn't make you a lousy parent.

Zip n Tizzy said...

Did you say, "This hurts me as much as it hurts you?"

*Hugs* Sounds like it was a hard day.

beth - total mom haircut said...

This is so, so hard. We've also come to the same conclusion as far as this topic and yet I know, I KNOW that there will be a day, a day when nothing seems to work. My kids are younger than yours and I already know this. It took you seven years to come to this point, which is pretty amazing. What's more, it doesn't sound like this came out of anger or was rash, which I think is key. There's a big difference between losing it and spanking, and moving on to spanking because because you are with a child you feel will respond to that after trying several other methods.

As another commenter said, the fact that you have thought about and evaluated this so much is quite telling as far as what a wonderful mother you are.

Mum-me said...

As everyone has already said, the fact that it was such an uncommon form of punishment was probably what corrected his behaviour more than the actual swat itself.

I see children every day who are spanked for any little thing they do, and it does not worry them one little bit because they just expect it. If they were subjected to a good time-out and then discussion of teir bad behaviour they would probably respond more favourably because that would be out of the ordinary for them. Perhaps?