June 28, 2012

Pondering Punishment - Part 2


Brenda is revisiting the subject of punishment in Pondering with a Purpose this week.  Last week she asked about how we punish our loved ones.  This week she's asking us to look back into the past and write about how we were punished and how it affected us.  Ouch.

My mom was an unwed mother in the early 60s.  Not cool in small town America.  My grandparents, however, gave her (and me) a fighting chance.  They kept me with them for the first three years of my life so my mom could finish college and even live away from home to do her student teaching.  Even after Mom married and I went to live with her and Dad, I was with my grandmother every day while they worked.  So, it's only natural that Nana was the first to discipline and punish me.

I don't remember Nana being quick to anger, but once angered....oh, boy!  Two instances stand out.  The first I have no idea what I did, but I remember her wailing on me with a flyswatter (and it wasn't one of those flimsy wire-handled things we have today...this thing was solid) until it broke!  The other time I remember I'd heard some college kids yelling something on the street and I decided to try it out (I don't remember what the word was, but I can make a pretty good guess) and Nana slapped me so hard she knocked out a tooth.  I bled all over the place and that really rattled her.

Even though Nana's punishments were physical, I learned from her that punishment doesn't have to affect the love.  I always knew she still loved me because afterward she'd show it in endless ways.  From her I got that punishment is about teaching the wrong-doer a lesson that will help them be a better person.

Mom never punished me much.  Mostly she left it up to Dad and never interfered with his decisions.  When she did punish me, it was with a spanking.  She had a 1/2" thick wooden paddle that was printed up with "funny" sayings about what it meant to get a certain number of swats.  It was meant to be a joke.  I don't recall ever laughing when she was using it on me.  The worst thing she ever did was when I was a teenager.  She was mad (I think because I'd made Dad mad about something) and she looked me in the eye and said, "I wish I had given you up."

Dad never hit me.  I wish he would have.  It would have been less painful.  

When I was small my punishments were what we now call time-outs....time spent sitting in a chair.  It was never a few minutes or maybe half an hour with Dad.  It was hours.  Any small infraction would land me in the chair.  I lost whole Sunday afternoons to the chair because I didn't finish my dinner or committed some breach in table manners (Dad was HUGE on manners).  

Grounding and writing were his preferred punishments during my junior high years.  I got grounded constantly and for just about everything.  I was once grounded because in doing my job of dusting and cleaning the house....I didn't dust the top of the baseboards (ask me how often my mom did that).  When it came to cleaning the house, it pretty much had to pass a white-glove inspection or I got grounded.  The writing was his grand idea of punishment for not picking up the dog poo in the yard every day.  It wasn't a simple "I will clean up after the dogs."  No, it was a long, compound sentence that took two lines on the page and I had to write it 10,000 times.  I'm stubborn (and so was Dad) so I spent several months grounded at home over that one.  By the way, when Dad said grounded it meant I went only to school and where they went, no phone, no television, no friends....I pretty much had to stay in my room except to eat.

In high school, Dad still grounded me, but he added long-winded speeches that beat me down emotionally to the mix.  I never, ever cried in front of him, though.  I learned to put up the wall....and I still do it with everyone today.  Thanks, Dad.  He also started to "hit me where it hurt" so to speak.  I loved my grandmother more than anyone in the world and every summer I spent two weeks with her right up until I went to college.  Well, not every summer.  I missed a couple because Dad decided my punishment for something would be that I couldn't go.  That was the worst thing he ever did to me.

Anyway, my parents taught me that the punishments weren't about me learning to be a better person.  They were about them and their anger at me...for failing them, for embarrassing them, for not being perfect.  I learned that I wasn't good enough and I never would be no matter what I did....baggage I'm still carrying around and that my mom is still adding to even though I'm nearly 50 years old.  It might have been different if they had shown love in between, but they never did.  From them, I definitely learned what kind of parent I didn't want to be.

1 comment:

Wendy S. said...

I so admire you Stacy. Despite all the pain you experienced with punishment you have turned into a loving parent that doesn't have to be so punitive with your children but still has meted out consequences.


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