I’m not a parent. To the best of my knowledge, that is. I mean, if I was a father then someone would have mentioned it by now. I know I’m not very good on details but I think, within the first 3 years, I’d notice a child especially if he or she was around all the time.
Young children are hard not to notice. They keep getting underfoot so you trip over them all the time. They scream and cry over the least little thing. Babies display very little in the way of subtlety and nuance when it comes to communicating. They’re programmed to have hissy-fits during the following times of day:
- Waking hours
- Sleeping hours
- All other times
- Twice on Sundays
And, they smell like, well, like, well, not good. This is because they are highly inconsiderate and don’t use the bathroom. Now, you, being of sound mind and tolerable personal hygiene, wouldn’t choose the exact moment when the bride and groom were exchanging wedding vows to let forth while in the 2nd row of pews. Which is precisely what some 6 month old baby once did.
No courtesy announcement beforehand. No two minute warning. Dude just went boom and the odor quickly disintegrated any shred of social order. People were trampling each other in order to get the hell out of the church. The stained-glass windows started cracking. The priest got as far as saying, “Do you, Carl, take Ellen to be your WHAT THE HELL? WHAT DID YOU FEED THIS LITTLE RAT BASTARD?! Forget it. I just retired. Bye.”
Carl and Ellen should have gotten the divorce right then and there because their marriage was doomed thanks to some baby who couldn’t be bothered to wait until an appropriate time to use the restroom.
This failure on the child’s part to use the facilities is generally blamed on “toilet training.” Or, the lack of it. This “explanation” is widely used to excuse this behavior to which I say, “How about LEARNING how to use the toilet, you lazy maggot?”
As far as I’m concerned, this “I can’t help it because I’m not toilet trained” is a stalling tactic and only encourages irresponsible behavior in later life. If you let this toilet training issue slide then what’s next? Well, I’ll tell you what’s next:
Because children won’t get an honest job since being toilet trained is usually a job requirement so they will sit around and collect disability because some politician will get a bill passed to say “the untrained” are too disabled to work plus they’re being persecuted so they’ll spend all their time getting Hollywood actors to wear brown ribbons and they’ll get lobbyists to force all us God-fearing, patriotic, hard-working, Americans from the USA of America to replace the word “toilet” in all buildings with the phrase “commode of oppression” in order to destroy yet another sacred institution plus we won’t be able to call them “the untrained” because that won’t be politically correct so we’ll have to call them “practitioners of otherly enabled hygienic achievements” and our hard-earned tax dollars will go to a large segment of the population who are simultaneously pooping on themselves and burning the American Flag because instead of getting toilet trained they’ll just vote for Bernie Sanders instead.
Anyway, got no kids. This leaves me free to play with other people’s kids. I use the opportunity to get the children completely wound up. Once the kids are fully foaming at the mouth, bouncing off the ceiling, speaking in tongues, destroying anything not nailed down and gnawing on the furniture, I give them back to the parents.
“Here, I’m done. Gotta go. Ciao.”
In the early 1980s, I was friends with a couple who had a son, Michael, and a daughter, Victoria. Not Mike and Vicky. None of this nickname nonsense. The parents were very clear about that. Michael and Victoria were two of the kindest and most conscientious children on the planet. Suspiciously well behaved, these two. Occasionally, I’d come over and play babysitter on weekends so the parents could get some alone time.
On one such weekend, I arrived at 5pm Friday and the parents were already flying out the door. Just as they were getting in their car to take off, the mother stands up and, in front of the children, yells, “Okay, Drew. What are your most important rules for this weekend?”
“Uh, I dunno…buy low, sell high?”
“I’m serious. There needs to be some rules that can not be broken under any circumstance.”
“Huh? What are….oh, uh, how about this? Don’t do anything that might injure yourself and don’t do anything that might injure someone else.”
I had no idea where this was going.
The kids immediately said, in unison, okay. What I said seemed fair and, given the kid’s good-nature, fairly benign ground-rules.
The mother then yelled to the kids, “Okay, you two. Those are the rules. And, if you break one of those rules then Drew will have to give you a spanking.”
The kids immediately said, in unison, okay.
I immediately said, “Huh?”
“Drew, this is important. They need to learn that actions have consequences.”
I was ready to say she was completely out of her mind but they were about to shut the car doors and leave so I just said, “Yeah, sure, fine, great idea, whatever.”
“Okay, you two. You heard what he said.”
Again, they both immediately said okay. In my defense, this is back in the day when spankings were a standard free service offered by most parents so, at that moment, I really didn’t think anything about it
I figured Michael and Victoria were such sweet kids that there’d be no issue so I didn’t think it was worth arguing the point. Michael was 6 at the time. Victoria was 7. As far as I was concerned, they were old enough to know how to keep within the lines.
I do remember thinking these two youngsters were a little too cooperative. It didn’t concern me but it didn’t seem quite right, either. I had encouraged them, here and there, to act up but they were having none of it.
The parents were spastic about the rules. Bedtime was, I think, 9pm on weekends which meant being in bed at 9pm. 9:01 was too late. Not negotiable. 9pm.
Only acceptable television shows were allowed to be watched. I was given a list of them.
Subjects of “questionable content” were never to be uttered by them or me. I wanted to tell them to give me a little credit. I knew to keep it clean in front of the youngsters.
For example, I had a girlfriend, Carolyn, in college who had a 6 year old step-brother called Jason. When I first visited her house, I made sure to tell Jason, in a very family friendly way, I was going to Carolyn’s room to study and he shouldn’t worry about the noise coming from her room because that was just part of the studying process which was something he’d understand once he got to college.
Also, in the mildest terms, I once told him, “Carolyn especially enjoys doing her BIOMECHANICS homework and she might get really excited testing her theories on, well, CARDIOVASCULAR SYSTEM DYNAMICS and on…oh, let’s call it TISSUE ENGINEERING.
“And, Jason. Just a heads up, if we’re able to, well, RESOLVE properties of kinetic energy with the muscle responses to external forces in stimulated, uh, I mean, simulated conditions then you might even hear her delightfully scream….in the…..joy….of….academic…..accomplishment.”
Can’t get more subtle than that.
I figured this weekend would be fine and we wouldn’t get sidetracked by any spanking controversy.
Well, wouldn’t you know….
It wasn’t even 6pm when Michael, during a momentary yet horrendous lapse of total reason, tossed a very sharp knife at Victoria. He didn’t throw it hard. It was an underhanded toss but, had it hit her, could have done real damage. It was completely out of character and, once he did it, he looked mortified. The knife was barely out of his hand before he looked around to see if I noticed. I did notice and I also noticed that he noticed that I noticed while Victoria noticed that I noticed and Michael noticed that she noticed that I noticed. Then both kids stared at me.
I was staring at the ceiling and saying, under my breath, “I need a beer.” No booze in the house. Another rule.
Again, I’m not a parent. I didn’t know much about kids but one thing I did know was when you tell a 6 year old that if X happens then Y will result then Y had better result should X happen. Kids catch on to adult inconsistencies faster than adults. And, when they do, they’ll lose all respect for you and for all those things that make this country great such as whoopee cushions, government corruption, racial hatred, glow in the dark condoms and credit card debt.
Which meant I was now going to have to spank a child who wasn’t mine (to the best of my knowledge). I immediately got angry at myself for so casually agreeing to such stupidity.
“Uh, yeah. Right. Right-o. So. Okay. Okee-dokee. So. Hey, Victoria. Would you like to go back outside and play a little more soccer with your pals?”
She looked very concerned.
“It’s all good. Have fun. We’ll join you guys in a couple minutes.”
She slowly walked back outside while Michael looked at the floor.
I suggested he and I sit on the living room couch so we might review the current state of affairs. I still had no idea how I was going to handle this.
I decided to keep the temperature as low as possible just in case Michael decided to aggressively defend his actions. I started with, “Well, maybe a career in family relationship therapy isn’t in your cards but…”
“I’m thinking ‘mob enforcer’ could be a profession you should consider…”
“Right. Right-o. Got it. Message received and understood. You’re sorry. Let’s cast our minds back in time, shall we? Do you remember the part about not doing anything to injure anyone?”
“I didn’t mean to.”
“Ah, I see. Well, we all do stupid sh….things we didn’t mean to do. Drunk drivers generally don’t mean to run people over. But, they were careless and, after sentencing, ended up being voted the Sweetheart of Cellblock C.”
“I don’t get it.”
“Good. Point is, if we do something then we gotta deal with the sh….stuff that comes after. Drunk drivers still end up paying for their recklessness by going to jail.”
Maintaining my friendly demeanor, I said, “Yes, I remember you mentioning that. Alot, now that I think about it. Just because we’re sorry we fu…..did something wrong doesn’t mean we don’t have to deal with the sh….what was the word your mom used?”
“Consequences.” He sounded defeated.
“THAT’S the word. Thank you. There’s a lesson in this for both of us, isn’t there. Yours is we’re all still accountable for what we do if it breaks the house rules. Wanna know what my lesson is?”
“Did you do something wrong?”
“Oh, yeah. My lesson is not to agree to do something I know I shouldn’t agree to. That was a bad move on my part. I know that now. And, please believe me, I’m really sorry, too. I hope you accept my apology. I didn’t think we’d be stuck having to do this thing. I’m feeling pretty dumb at the moment”
“I really don’t want to do this thing except we both promised your parents and we don’t want to be known as people who don’t keep their promises. I know you don’t want that.”
“So, now we gotta do this thing.”
“Okay, let’s do this thing so we can go outside and play. You know I hate the idea of doing this thing….we gotta do. “
“You believe that, yes? I mean, this just seems wrong. This thing. I really don’t want to do this. You know that.”
“Okay, right. So, uh, got a question. How are we supposed to do this thing?”
Michael explained the process involved him lowering his pants, lying over his father’s lap and getting his naked bottom spanked for an extended period of time with a large wooden hair brush which, if very distant memory serves, stings like hell. On a desk across the room was a hair brush big enough to use in a street fight.
“Yikes. Well….ouch. Right. Right-o. Okay. Well, so….hmmm. Let’s give the hair brush a miss and, please, PLEASE, keep your pants on because ick.”
What followed was a very quick and cursory effort on my part. A mild experience compared to what the poor kid was used to. I threw in a reminder to cool it with tossing knives at people.
Michael was fine. I was relieved and very happy I wouldn’t have to do anything like THAT again. We went outside to see how soccer was coming along.
We just stepped outside when I looked up and saw Victoria run into the street, without looking for cars, chasing the soccer ball. I tried to yell for her to get off the street but, thanks to the total terror that took over, I couldn’t get one word out. She picked up the ball, turned around in time to notice that I noticed that she noticed that I noticed and the other kids noticed that she noticed that I noticed that they noticed and now I was in deep.
Because it’s one thing with boys. It’s another thing with girls. I knew this because the above referenced Carolyn talked about the disgraceful way the numerous spankings from her father were handled. All aspects of her life were negatively impacted but none more so than intimacy. It screwed her up quite a bit. Our first attempts at sex resulted in her shutting down and sobbing.
I sure as hell wasn’t going to be the cause of any shred of damage.
And, yes, thank you, I fully realize she could have broken down in tears due to the magnitude of her disappointment with me in bed so shut up. Besides, we barely got to the clothes-off part before she fell apart so I didn’t have enough time to disappoint her so there!
So, there I sat. On the livingroom couch. Again.
Victoria chose to stand.
Starting the conversation with an inspiring and informative statement, I said, “Well……”
I had no clue what to say.
“Hmmm, I was….uh….what the…..well, sh…..shucks. Ah, got it. Let’s see if we can agree on….this. To me, running into the street, something your parents really don’t want you to do, without looking for cars and possibly getting run over kind of equals ‘doing something that might injure yourself.’ I’m guessing you knew it was against the rules because you looked guiltier than Richard Nixon when you saw me. So, uh, what are your thoughts on that?”
“Yeah, I heard that alot from my previous customer. But, no fair apologizing. It’s this learning actions have consequences thing that has your parents ridiculously….I mean, seriously concerned.”
“Would you please stop apologi….”
“I was bad.”
“Whoa!!! Time out!!! Stop. Who said anything about you being bad? You aren’t bad. You have never been bad. Never, ever, ever. Uh-uh. In this case, you would be, how do I put this, WRONG.”
Silence. She stared at the floor and looked sad. Not the staged-sad look that kids will give you. Just sad. And, scared. Just as Michael was. She was putting up no fight or argument. Just as Michael didn’t.
There was something in the way she said, “I was bad.” It hit me. I didn’t say anything for a minute. I just stared at the floor.
It occured to me the message they received from their parents early on was, “If you don’t do what we tell you to do or act the way we tell you to act or speak the way we want you to speak or not be perfect all the time then we will make you suffer.”
They were operating in fear.
I asked her to sit next to me and she did.
“What I’m about to say is important because it’s something you have to remember for the rest of your life. Always. Listen very carefully. Are you ready?”
Quick nod. Still looking down.
From about 2 inches from her ear, I whispered, “You have never, never, never been bad your whole life.”
She thought for a moment and gave another quick nod. No eye contact. I figured it was the first time any adult ever mentioned this to her.
“Repeat after me: ‘I am Victoria.’ I’m serious, just say, ‘I am Victoria.'”
After a pause, “I am Victoria.”
“‘And, I am good.'”
Another pause and getting teary, “And, I am good.”
It took some prodding but she said the entire sentence while continuing to stare at the floor.
“Now, Victoria. This is going to be hard but you need to look at me and say that whole sentence.”
That was a challenge. But, she managed, eventually.
“Keep looking at me and say it like you mean it.”
She was doing her best not to cry. She tried a couple times but not convincingly. Then, she started crying.
I was thinking how absurd this had gotten. I was about to say, “Young Lady, you are NOT getting a spanking until you convince me how good you are!”
To her credit, she was finally able to say it with a little conviction.
I threw out anothet challenge. “Let’s replace ‘good’ with ‘strong, beautiful and wonderful.'”
And, it took awhile but she said it almost as though she meant it which was good enough for the moment. I was thinking it was time to get this over with because Michael was probably wondering what I did with his sister.
“Here’s something I think you should do every day. Look in the mirror and say, “I am Victoria and I am strong and wonderful and beautiful.”
She said she’d “try.” “Try,” in kid-speak means, “Don’t hold your breath.” That was another thing I knew about children.
There was a handheld mirror on the coffee table. I held it in front of her and pestered her to repeat the sentence a few times. She did and didn’t look quite so fearful.
I did the same preamble as before: this isn’t about you, it’s about actions and consequences, I hate being put in this position and I really apologize but a promise is a promise and blah, blah, blah.
I should have mentioned her parents were completely deranged but I didn’t.
“Right-o, let’s do this thing and let’s go back out and HEY! NO. DON’T TAKE YOUR PANTS OFF. NOT GOOD. And, let’s give the hair brush a miss, too.”
We went through the motions and decided we’d do pizza and ice cream for dinner.
I remember thinking it might have helped for me to have someone tell me I was strong and good and wonderful when I was 7 but no such luck.
Because, as a child, walking around thinking you’re worthless and bad is a bitch.
Not much fun as an adult, either.
THE END except…
There’s a post-script.
The reason I’m writing this is, not long ago, I got a call from Victoria. Out of the blue. We completely lost touch when she was 8. Her family moved and we hadn’t spoken since. But she tracked me down.
To thank me for how I handled that very awkward moment. She told me, ever since Spanking-Gate, she repeated, “I am Victoria and I am strong, beautiful and wonderful,” everyday. In front of a full-sized mirror.
She is in a management capacity for some big bank. Happily married. Two children. Two happy children who were never afraid to be themselves. Her parents were at the very edge of her picture. I got the impression she didn’t have much to do with them.
Her friends, family (excluding her parents) and co-workers all call her “Vic.”
“Mike” said hello, too.