As a young boy trying to growing up, my parents often told me I was hard-headed. Looking back, I can see that their assessment was fairly accurate. But as a youngster, I never considered myself hard-headed or stubborn. I just figured I was right pretty much all the time. If you ask my wife, she’ll tell you that hasn’t changed much.
During those formative years I had a brother who was often my partner in crime. We were not bad kids. In fact, most of the time we were pretty darn good. But, like most kids, we had our ornery moments, and more often that not when we got in trouble it was because we were arguing with each other over one thing or another. Of course, I was always right and he was always wrong, but for some reason my parents didn’t often see it that way.
When my brother and I would do something we should not have done, punishment of some sort usually ensued, and sometimes that meant a spanking. Now, this was when we quite young, and the brother I’m talking about is 19 months younger than me, but inevitably, this is how it would go.
We’d get one or two swats, depending on the severity of our misdeed, and my brother would start crying, usually quite loudly. I don’t know if I had a high tolerance to pain or was just too plain stubborn to let anyone see me cry, but I never did. Hmmm, maybe that was part of the reason they called me hard-headed. I probably should have tried some other tactic because my stubbornness was usually rewarded with an extra swat, which only made me more determined not to utter a sound.
Watching cartoons or other television shows as a youngster in the 1960s, it was not unusual to see a spanking scene. Often, just before a kid was about to receive the punishment, the father would say those famous words: “Well, son, you know this is going to hurt me more than it is going to hurt you.”
Once when I had again crossed a line I was not supposed to cross, my dad uttered almost those exact words to me. I was a little tike, but even back then I remember thinking: “What? Really? Why would you even thing something like that.” I had never heard my dad lie, but when I heard those words I thought there could be no other explanation.
My mother never did much spanking. All she had to do was say, “You want me to tell you father,” and we usually straightened up real quick. But sometimes we’d already stepped too far over the line, or dad would already be home, and we’d get what we deserved.
It seems like I got a lot of spankings when I was young – with hands, yardsticks, Ping-Pong paddles, you name it. I even had to cut my own willow switch once. My dad says he doesn’t remember that, but I sure do. In fact, to this day I could take you to the exact spot where the tree was located.
I remember the tree well for two reasons. First, I believe some friends, or at the least my siblings, were around (as I got older it was usually when friends were around that I got in trouble) and it was quite embarrassing to have to go get a switch that I was going to get swatted with. And while that embarrassment only made me more determined to show no signs of pain, that’s the second reason I remember. Because that willow switch stung, even more than a Ping-Pong paddle. And, delivered properly, a Ping-Pong paddle swat can sting pretty darn good.
Now, before I make it sound like my dad beat me a lot or something, that was not the case. I deserved every spanking I got, and a lot more. It was just that my dad was raised with that “spare the rod, spoil the child belief,” and he lived what he believed.
Somehow, what my dad was trying to teach me through spankings, despite my continued arrogance, must have got through. Because through all my years of school I never got a single paddling, until the last couple weeks of my senior year when I got caught skipping school one afternoon.
As I grew into my teen years, the spankings went away and were replaced by other sorts of punishment. Like getting grounded, not being allowed to hang out with my friends, or having my cars keys taken away. Funny thing was, those punishments hurt worse than the spankings ever did.
Shoot, spankings are over and the pain gone in a few seconds. Take away the car keys though, or tell a teenager he can’t go on that date he had planned, and you get a hard-headed kid where it really hurts.
Then a few years down the road I had kids of my own. They were never quite as ornery as I was – at least I don’t think they were – but from time to time when they were little they’d do something that I felt deserved a smack on the backside.
More than once, as they bent over and waited for the punishment to be meted out, a kind of sick feeling ran through me, followed by a quick memory of words my dad had issued years before: You know son, this is going to …
I firmly believe a spanking can be a good thing for a little kid. It took me a lot of years to figure it out, but I finally learned that in can be a painful experience for parents, too.
Jeff Gilliland may be reached at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.