Monday, August 31, 2009

Dr. Make 'em Good

Here's a flash memoir on parental discipline.  You know, the spare the rod, spoil the child kinda stuff.

I come from a family of four kids--three boys, then me.  Mom planned to have as many kids as it took to get a girl.  Thankfully, it only took four tries. 

As you might imagine, being the youngest child and the only girl, I was spoiled. I could get my brothers in trouble just by saying, “Daddy, Geof farted on my head!” Or, “Daddy, John brandished a fork at me.”  In less than thirty seconds, Dad’s belt would slide out of its loops and he’d drag the accused brother by the ear into his bedroom for a whipping.

On the other hand, Mom was in charge of disciplining me. The mode of discipline for me was not the belt; it was “The Big Hand.” Mom was supposed to spank me whenever I got in trouble. The only problem was, she never could catch me.

I’d run down the hall and into my bedroom.  I'd dive headfirst under my bed.  Mom would grab  hold of the French Provincial foot board and whip my bed to the other side of the room. She wasn't super strong or anything.  It was just that we had hardwood floors at the time.  It was before it was cool to have wall to wall carpeting, before my parents let me pick out lime green shag carpet.

Since she couldn't get at me, Mom would slide the bed back to the other side of the room.  I'd do whatever it took to stay under it,  ignoring the pain of hardwood floor burns on my knees.

Sometimes I hid behind the sofa in the living room with Holly, our half Beagle, half Spitz dog. Mom would reach behind the couch, her hand like a claw trying to grab something, anything. Holly and I’d scoot just out of range. Mom would trot to the other side of the couch, move the Ethan Allen side table, and try to reach me from that end.  I’d do the army crawl  back to the original spot and Holly would stick close to me, tail tucked.

Mom always gave up. Not once do I remember actually experiencing “The Big Hand.”  Hence, the spoiling.

Dad wasn't so fortunate in his childhood.  He never escaped discipline.  He was one of five boys, all born at home to a strong woman named Flora. My brothers and I knew her as Granny. Mom tells me I parent like her.  I’m not sure what she means by that, but I think our kids have turned out pretty well so I take it as a compliment. My parenting philosophy has pretty much always been, “Whatever my parents did, do the opposite.”   That's why I've never said, "Your face is gonna freeze like that." Or, "I'll give you something to cry about!"

Whenever Dad was in need of negative reinforcement, Granny would say, "DooDoo, go out and cut yourself a switch from the oak tree."  DooDoo was Granny's pet name for my dad.  I know.  Being called DooDoo by your mother is punishment enough but that was never enough for her.  She always followed through with  the cut-yourself-a-switch thing. 

Once Dad returned to the house with his own instrument of pain (kinda like Jesus carrying his own cross, don't you think?) she’d say, "Now, DooDoo.  Drop your britches."  Then she'd whip him on the back of the legs, sometimes 'til she drew blood (again, not unlike Jesus). She called her punishment method, “Dr. Make ‘Em Good.” I thought that was hilarious—the name, not the fact that she made the boys bleed.

I know I said I parent like Granny but please believe (and Child Protective Services, this means you) that I've never utilized the Dr. Make 'em Good system of discipline.  Once we switched from timeouts to spanking, my mode of discipline was the extra large Pampered Chef spatula.  It always did the trick.  I only remember having to spank each child once or twice.  From then on, they were pretty quick to obey.  

I can honestly say, our children are not spoiled.  Loved lavishly--yes, but spoiled--no.

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