When I was a kid, my father whipped me with a cat-o-nine-tails outside of my house if I even looked sideways at him. (I’m not sure why sideways was an issue for him and I certainly wasn’t going to ask). I walked to school with paper bags on my feet, which may seem less than helpful, but it happened when I was a kid so it was character building. My parents would play bowling
with kids by setting up pins in the back of a station wagon, and then making quick lane changes on the Eisenhower Expressway and we didn’t die. I disappeared first thing in the morning and didn’t return again until long after all the cops had gone to bed and my mom never even noticed I was gone unless I left uneaten liver on my plate and then it was back to the cat-o-nine-tails. I thank God for them everyday because it made me the parent fearing, paper bag wearing, bruise displaying, former missing child I am today.
We’ll be back in a minute with our program: Why the Boomer Generation is Lucky to Have a Single Representative Left Alive after this message from Sugar Drops! Candy Coated Sugar! It’s what for breakfast!
Those were the days, weren’t they? We faced danger straight in the face and continued to not die. We were lucky and brave and unaware of what was lurking in the various bushes and all station wagons.
Nowadays, (I guess that’s a word because spell check ignored me), kids are wimps, seat belt and helmet wearing wimps, brought up by simpering parents (our kids and grandkids) who don’t appreciate the lessons we strived to teach them; primarily, making it out alive is good enough for us and should be good enough for the little buggers we produce.
Every kid who runs into trouble does so because his or her parents didn’t take a good swing at them from time to time. I’m guessing those ISIS characters (and by characters I mean M!!@# Fu!@#$ A!@#s who should die in a pit of their own mucus) were raised by a bunch of Spock reading ninnies who gave them “a time out” rather than beat them, but I can’t vouch for this as I was raised by a pair of people who harbored within themselves a mix of every European identity and thought reasoning with kids was the devil’s therapy session.
We lived on the South side of Chicago, where all of the European mixes of the day congregated and apparently held meetings on how to deal with youngsters who misbehaved or behaved in developmentally appropriate ways, because most every kid in our neighborhood was very familiar with the dreaded bouncey ball paddle sans bouncey ball.
And I don’t mean to imply or say outright that I felt I was in danger throughout my childhood because, unless I walked between my father and the White Sox on TV, I was either pretty safe or completely unaware of the abundance of hidden dangers.
I rarely did anything apart from my parents that I wouldn’t do in front of them except riding my bike along break neck paths in the nearby woods, dating boys (men) who were far too old for me, trying and casting aside cigarettes, being myself, and watching TV with my friends by way of the kitchen phone.
How’s that life threatening you may ask? Well, the phone was attached to a cord and could have been a deathtrap if someone had tripped over it as I watched Cat Stevens on Midnight Special in the den, with a phone that began its life in the kitchen. But I was willing to do that, because I was wild.
I was also the youngest and the only girl in my family and my parents either found this adorable or terrifying because I was never spanked despite my transgressions.
My brothers, however, behaved as if they were members of the Hell’s Angels and that was in the first grade, from that point on, my brothers made the Hell’s Angels look like Pat Boone’s family reunion (remember him? Doesn’t he seem creepy to you now?). They were spanked plenty and this seemed to encourage them, so who knows?
I spanked my only child three times, and by spanked, I mean swatted the piles of padding on the back of his butt. I’m pretty sure that’s why he doesn’t remember it. I spanked him once because he ran out in the street, another time because he chased a squirrel after I explicitly said these words, three times, “Don’t chase the squirrel” and the third time because he ran out in the street while chasing a squirrel.
At some point, I asked myself why hitting the person I loved most in the world seemed to be a good idea when, as a preschool teacher, I controlled an entire classroom full of kids by giving them my patented “I don’t think so,” look. And it worked. Still does. There’s something about my face that makes small children freeze in their tracks and comply and don’t think that hasn’t come in handy at restaurants.
So, I gave up making myself feel bad by swatting him with such a light touch that he didn’t feel it and, as a result he has never listened to my directives a day in his life.
I’m exaggerating and embellishing for comic effect, of course. My son grew up without incident and went to college where he began to misbehave by completely ignoring my specific directions that he become a rock star rather than study psychology. And yes, I’m probably the initial reason for his choice of majors.
Studying is not his only focus, however. He also teaches music to ruffians-in-the-making at School of Rock. (Yes, there is a real School of Rock and no, Jack Black doesn’t teach there,)
He has hobbies too! Like worrying that I’m disappointed in him because he didn’t become a rock star which is balderdash, if balderdash means kind of true. (Not really, Jesse. Find another hobby…like rock stardom!)
Yet, if I met him at Starbucks today and we struck up a conversation I would try to figure out a way to make him my BFF, whatever that means, because, if you leave out the rock star part, and I don’t, he’s turned into the kind of adult I could like very much, because loving him might seem creepy given the age difference between him and me, although I think his devilish good looks might make it understandable.
And not to toot my own horn (and as David Letterman says, “I would if I could”), I think he’ll probably raise my future grandchildren in a similar way so, I’ll probably like them too. If not, I’ll just give them the face.
All of which goes to show, I molly-coddled him and, as a result, he defied me in the most important ways. No rock stardom for him! He could hit his unprotected head on a microphone stand or not wear a seatbelt in the back of a limousine, causing him to fall across the laps of girls of disrepute and who knows (or wants to know) what could have happened.
So, new parents, feed your kids too much sugar and surprise them with a spanking now and then, followed by the words my dear old dad used to say, “That was for nothing. Think how bad it will be if you do something.”
Those were the days. Thank goodness they’re over.