Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Does spanking deserve jail time?

A foster mother in Connecticut is facing 100 days in jail after she admitted spanking a four year old with a wooden spoon according to a report.

The women told officials that she had spanked the child because the child had hit the woman’s granddaughter, spat at her, and used a racial slur toward her. The biological mother noticed bruises on her daughter during a supervised visit.

Let me tell you, if my mother had to spend 100 days in jail for every time she spanked me with a wooden spoon, she would have easily been serving 20 to life.

You see, the wooden spoon was my mother’s spanking instrument of choice. She brandished that kitchen utensil like a magician wields his wand. And it had the power to work its magic, too. The mere mention of the wooden spoon could stave off defiant acts such as deliberately disobeying, sassing back, “borrowing” your older brother’s pocket change, or singeing your own eyebrow off while playing with your father’s matches.

On more than one occasion, my mother would ask the utterly ridiculous rhetorical question: “Do I need to get the wooden spoon?”

She would even take the instrument of discipline and cookery on road trips. Even when concealed, its presence was felt. I remember one time we were on a day trip to place my father had to go for an hour’s worth of business. While my dad was in some office, my brother and I played in an adjacent field. At one point I found the wooden spoon tucked up near the front seat of the car. I pulled it out and starting pretending it was a sword. As I swashbuckled toward a patch of woods, the wooden spoon leapt out of my hand and flew deep into a patch of briers beyond reach.

Although I had repeatedly insisted that it was only an accident, but my mom wasn’t buying any of it. I had to spend the rest of the time in the backseat, perseverating over what would happen when my dad got back. When nothing did, I had to sweat it out the long ride home, wondering how bad my punishment would be, regretting I had ever touched something that wasn’t mine.

If I had done anything bad, I was lucky to only get the wooden spoon. For serious offences, it was Dad and the belt. Those castigatory moments happened after my mom would utter the oft cited albeit cliché phrase, “What ‘till your father gets home.”

After the arduous wait, the grip of fear as he walked in, the dead-man-walking moment hearing the mumbling that was mom telling dad all that I had done, Dad would call me into his room.

There he would ask me what I had done. I would tell him all. There was no point of lying at this point. He already knew. In fact, as I would later find out, he knew a lot more than I had realized. We lived in a pretty small town where no one person was separated by more than one or two degrees from each other. Dad would then talk to me, very calmly, about what I had done, why it was wrong and such. Then came the consequence out from around his waist punctuating a lesson that would be soon learned and long remembered.

Whether with a wooden spoon, belt, or bare hand, spanking was a part of my childhood, of my friends’ childhoods. It’s what our parents did. It’s how we learned. When we got it, we deserved it. We didn’t like it at the time, but, let me tell you something, we did learn.

While I would never think of using an object to spank my kids, I don’t hold it against my parents at all. They were good, dedicated parents. Perhaps if they had spared the wooden spoon, I might not be who I am today.

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