I had old-fashioned parents. They had crazy ideas about them being the authority and I being under their authority. I was expected to obey, without question, and without complaint. And I did.
I only remember two spankings. I know I must have had more. I remember dad explaining to me when we lived in Fillmore- I was probably five- about when it is appropriate to spank a child. Dad taught me the concept of direct defiance. I’ve wondered for years if it was because I had been defiant or if it was because I expressed surprise at not getting a swat for something I assumed I would have.
Regardless, Dad explained that disobedience was not obeying but was not always deliberate. Sometimes people honestly forget or dont’ realize that they’ve disobeyed but direct defiance was another story. He used the illustration of a lamp. He told me that if he said not to touch the lamp and then a few hours later I walked into the room and touched it absently, it is disobedience. However, if after being told that, I reached for it when his eye was turned or even without, that was direct defiance and that was direct defiance and always required a swat.
Both of the spankings I remember, are the ones that felt unjust at the time. Now that I’m a parent, I understand that they were both prompted by fear for my safety and that they were justified regardless of my understanding at the time. Amazing our our perceptions change with experience.
The first was just two to three years after that lesson. We lived in Apache Jct. Arizona and I rode the bus daily to John Hancock in Mesa. I got on the bus at six in the morning and returned around five each evening. It was a very long day.
One afternoon, the bus broke down. The school owned several fifteen passenger vans that bussed in the students from all around the Phoenix area. We had to wait for the one that went to the Scottsdale area to return for us. It was very dull very frustrating, and meant that I’d arrive home at approximately bedtime.
One of the teachers lived just a few streets over from us and offered me a ride home. I didn’t think twice. I took the ride and when I showed up on our doorstep around four p.m. instead of around seven as expected, my mother was very upset.
I remember her telling me to “grab my ankles” and bend over. Oh boy. I tried but I was so upset at being in trouble for doing something that I thought was so right. I didn’t understand at the time what the problem was. I didn’t understand it for years. I had children and still didn’t understand how frightening it was for her. I now realize that while I saw the woman as a trusted teacher, my mother knew nothing of her except that she was somehow connected with the school. She could have been anyone and exposed me to anything.
Another three or four years later I came home from church and was told not to come downstairs with bare feet. Apparently a glass was broken in the kitchen and they were still trying to mop up the glass. I went upstairs gleefully and didn’t emerge for several hours. Barefoot. My father, at the first step onto the linoleum, turned me around and sent one stinging swat to my backside. I was more embarrassed than hurt by it. I truly thought he’d meant not to come RIGHT BACK down, not that I was to keep shoes on for some indeterminate amount of time.
Of course, I knew without any doubt that his reaction was out of concern for me and my feet. He was probably remembering a certain evening with a crochet hook. However, I remember feeling as though it was unjust.
It took another ten to fifteen years to understand his decision. For many years I assumed that I only remembered the two spankings I didn’t deserve. I now realize that the truth is, I only remember the two spankings that were spured by more than ensuring obedience. They were prompted by concern for my safety. Love shaken by a touch of fear.
I love them and I love what they did for me. Spankings and all.