I became a mom back in the 1990’s, the purple dinosaur decade of “time outs” and “naughty chairs”. So did most of my friends. One of my children will tell you that the only time she remembers getting spanked was when she went down by the lake without an adult. The other one will tell you that his little bottom was at the receiving end of his frustrated, inexperienced mother’s hand more than once, often for doing less than scaring that mom half to death. Today, they are both happy, successful grown ups despite my mistakes. Looking back, ever spanking either one them was still the biggest one.
The previous generations of children, the one I was raised in, grew up knowing that there was always a chance that poor choices on their part could result in even worse choices by their parents or caregivers. Depending upon the child, this form of punishment might have been the only one used by a frustrated adult lacking the tools or discipline to find better ways to teach a child right from wrong.
We all know better now. We’ve known better for a while. At least, I thought so until a week ago when the “experts” on social media began babbling and justifying the behavior of an NFL player who was indicted for abusing his four-year old son. I’ve been particularly disheartened by the number of supporters who’ve used the tired “I was whupped and I turned out fine” argument. We still hear this a lot, don’t we? Most often, when it comes to the physical discipline of little boys.
But here’s the deal. Little boys grow up to be bigger boys. And bigger boys grow up to be men. And then, these men become fathers. And the scary thing about this is that whether they look “fine” on the outside or not, whether they can hold a job, or catch a pass, or pass for whatever “normal” is in 2014, there are those darn scars that nobody sees. I think that wise men remember the feelings of fear and rage that resulted from physical discipline. They vow never to make another little person feel that way, and then don’t. Ever. But there are other men who forget those little boy
feelings. Maybe they’ve convinced themselves that might will create right and not rage.
I’d like to believe that it isn’t done out of habit, or helplessness, or fear of inadequacy, or rage. Or because they just aren’t evolved or educated enough or man enough to find a healthy, safer, more effective alternative. I’d really like to believe that it’s done out of a sense of responsibility. That it’s done out of love.
But then I remember that I spanked my boy, too. More than I’m proud to admit, even now.
And then I remember why.