(Some language as always will be a little salty and slightly NSFW. Just so you know.)
I’ve never spanked my kids. In the almost ten years I’ve been a dad, it hasn’t happened. It’s been a choice, a conscious and discussed point. Because of the belief that it’s probably what’s best for kids. Also, it’s just not done these days. Not like it was. Not in the days where there was so much spanking, it’s amazing there’s only 50 Shades of Grey. Considering how much spanking was going round in the eighties and before, it should be 50 Shades of Grey, 30 Shades of Black and Blue, and 23 Shades of Red Hand Prints. But as we started this whole parenting thing (and by “parenting thing”, I mean “have a couple kids, try to keep them alive, and turn them into semi-decent human beings”), it was pretty clear that the weight of society and proper parenting was clearly tilted towards the “don’t use violence to punish your kids”. There’s some who would say that it isn’t “punishment” but “teaching” when they raise a hand to their children. That by hurting your kid physically, those children will know not to do whatever it is they weren’t supposed to do. The idea being if one kid hits another one, it’s best to hit that violent kid to “teach” them hitting isn’t okay by hitting that child in the butt until it’s red. Or if your kid breaks something or doesn’t “do as they’re told”, why not swat a butt? To be honest, it’s really the butt’s fault for being so cushiony, it’s built for spanking. But by this butt reasoning, it should carry over to all things. You get a parking ticket, the parking enforcement should spank you. You cheat on your taxes, spank-spank-spankity spank. And if you do something truly heinous like say “I’m not a racist but...” and then follow that with something racist, you get your butt beat by a spoon. (Granted, things that will have to be addressed for those that enjoy spankings and those will indeed will have their mouths washed out with soap or some other alternative.) And that’s not even to mention the death penalty which is the ultimate butt-spanking.
Now, to be clear, I was spanked. Spanked quite a bit as a kid. My brother and I often fought and were rampant turds of destruction so the common option was a hand on the butt. Back then, you couldn’t talk things out. Time-outs didn’t exist. And the nuclear option that was the one step beyond a simple butt-thumping was a wooden spoon for the whacking. That didn’t happen too often and what I remember most is not how it changed my behavior in any way, but the one time the wooden spoon broke in the midst of the spanking. It’d be like heading to a be-heading and the guillotine bounces off the guy’s neck and into the crowd. There is a point where you realize you graduated though when you’re no longer able to be spanked. For me, it was the broken spoon incident and it was basically a Nebraskan bar mitzvah. Once a spoon shatters on your ass, you are a man, my son. You are a man!
But it’s all relative. Not just in the punishing punnish way, but in that back then, it was a different time where spankings were given as the baseline form of parenting behavior. It wouldn’t be unusual to be at church and be taken out to get swatted and then return to your pew thinking you suffered just like Jesus. It also made the whole handshaking thing awkward with “Peace be with you… sob… sob…” and then gingerly sitting down. It never felt unfair though really. Unless you didn’t do what you got in trouble for. And even then, there was the Catholic guilt that even though the punishment wasn’t right that time, it more than made up for the times where I got away with stuff. So, all in all, I’m not not spanking because it ruined me in some way. I’m not sure it corrected my behavior or made me better, but still it’s mostly because just doesn’t feel right in today’s day and age.
Not that this makes me an awesome dad. It doesn’t and I’m not. Because I do yell at my kids from time to time. Nothing too horrific (or so I think), but I’m sure years later on they’ll say that yelling is just as bad as spanking. Or even worse. (Actually I’m even somewhat aware of how it affects kids and their brains and that’s why I try my darn damnest not to do that either and when I do lose it – due to me being exhausted or stressed or hungry or them just being raving dick monsters – I do apologize and say that I shouldn’t have done it. Of course, when they accept my apology, they do so often in a gracious and beautiful way of very sweetly saying, “It’s okay”, which we all understand makes them the real villains because it makes me feel infinitely worse.)
So as a rule, we try the whole talking it out thing. Like I’m civilized or something even more ridiculous. To come up with consequences to their actions that connect directly with the not okay behavior. And it’s not always easy. One time when visiting his grandparents, my oldest was three and furious about something he couldn’t get. Despite telling him that things weren’t going to change no matter how big a tantrum he threw, he then lost his damn kid mind and ran up and bit me in the butt. I was turned away from him when he did this, doing some dishes to help out. And no where did I think my butt – no matter how meaty or plentiful it is – would be gnashed and snarled on like this. But for a kid where words were difficult to come by, it was the only way he could express himself and thus I then I had teeth marks on my butt for a couple days. Instantly, feeling the teeth, I think there’s other parents who would talk the kid down or remove the teeth with a preternatural grace as though they were the second coming of Marlon Perkins or the Crocodile Hunter. I did not react in such a way and shoved the rabid beast off my butt and he slid to the floor and back into a fridge with a startled look that he was equally as surprised by my reaction as he was by his action.
And that’s the most I’ve ever done physically to either of my sons. Pushed one off my butt when he bit it. Now, that’s not to say that in the future nothing will happen. It’s instinctive that when you get hurt, you want to hurt back. And they’ve hurt me multiple times physically, most of the time unintentionally or not knowing how powerful little kids can be. (Especially with their giant heads ramming into your own or hitting in areas so sensitive, you can’t help but be buckled to the ground, ironically hurt in the balls by what the balls done made.) Because I understand the idea of “I-get-hurt, I-get-to-hurt-you.” It’s what most of our most satisfying entertainment is made out of. Virtually every superhero movie, every action movie, most all movies exist with a bad guy (or monster or alien virus or whatever) kicking our hero (or our hero’s world’s) ass and then kicking ass back. There’s nothing more satisfying than heroes kicking ass and that’s proven perfectly and accurately in a movie actually called KICK-ASS. But that’s not how life can really be. If a guy cuts you off in his car, you can’t go ram into that guy. We have to try and be better. That’s not to say when genuine transgressions against society occur, we give murderers a stern talking-to and let them go. But we all work to handle each other in ways that keep us moving forward and start young, giving them words to express themselves and exchange with each other and not just expressing our parenting will with physical domination.
However, with all these “consequences” and “time-outs” and other ways to parent outside of physical punishment, there’s a small backlash. Mostly by guys who think it’s manly to beat the shit out of kids or that their own survival of such treatment means it worked and makes them strong and powerful. But the arc of history needs to lean towards progress, towards us becoming better parents, better people. Because my generation got spanked and spanked hard. The generation before probably were beat and spanked and ignored. The generation before that were probably just sent them to war for punishment. And prior to that, families were filled with kids, entire litters, so if one kid stepped out of line, that kid was given to a troll and used as an example to the rest.
“What happened to brother Bosephus, mummy?”
“Oh, he hit your sister. So we dropped him off the bridge to the village troll. Now, you just have twenty-three other brothers and sisters.”
These are just the facts of parenting through the ages and perhaps there will be a time when we realize progress has turned into stasis and then become outright regression. Until then, I’ll not spank or beat my kids, try to yell at them less, and hope they will be good guys and better guys for it.
(And also, I hope that me being all cool means that I hope that when my kids get bigger than me - which they will because they’re tracking to be giants - they won’t beat the shit out of me. Because that’s what all this is really about. My intense planning for the future rooted in a bowl of cowardice.)
As always, thanks for reading and just being so awesome. Hope all is going swimmingly with each and everyone of you.
the T stands for spank