When did these little creatures, whom we’ve nurtured with love and affection since they entered our lives, start forming their own opinions and ideas? Children, who don’t yet realize that eating the contents of their nose is not okay, want a say in everything from when they take naps to which toys they will and will not share.
I’ll never forget the day I took both my toddlers on an outing and had to pry them off each other because one “touched” the other. When I stood up and blew a stray hair out of my face, an older mom stopped and smiled at me.
“My twin sons are in college now,” she said. “I hate to tell you this, but it doesn’t get easier. It just gets different.”
Fantastic, lady. Thanks.
But she’s right. As they get older, Jacob and Zachary respond better to logic, reasoning, and consequences. However, at the same time, they also require more food and less sleep, which really eats into “me” time.
Right. Not easier, just different.
My children were three years old when I realized the horrible, sad, and ugly truth. Instead of taking after my mild-mannered, wise, and affable husband, Jacob and Zachary were obviously willful, opinionated, and stubborn like their Mama. This led to a complete emotional breakdown because I knew that their attitude, combined with what was starting to look like very curly hair, would make their lives challenging.
Especially in high school.
Discipline, in our house, had to start early. We weren’t necessarily afraid of it. Discipline comes from the Latin word disciple, which means, to teach. This is required if you want to keep kids away from drugs and parole officers. We insisted our children show respect, honor their families and themselves, and eventually shut the fuck up and go to sleep.
It took some doing.
My first crisis was when they were teething and biting one another. So I tapped them on the butt as encouragement to behave appropriately.
They looked at me with curious expressions. I think one may have passed a little gas.
Soon after, I left the room to quickly answer the phone or maybe, God forbid, blow my nose. When I returned, Zach was gnawing on Jake’s nose.
So, I remained calm, moved them apart from one another and tapped Zach on the mouth.
He yawned and started playing with his toys.
“I don’t think that little bastard understands what the fuck is happening,” I mumbled.
Jake didn’t think so either. I could see it in his eyes when I wiped the blood off his face.
Shortly thereafter, I pulled the same move my Nana had pulled with me thirty years earlier. I took a finger (who can remember with which kid – they’re twins, for fuck’s sake, and I was exhausted) and gently bit, with just enough strength to show that biting didn’t feel good. I hoped they would remember that the next time.
No such luck.
For the next go-around, I got sad and shook my head, picking up the injured brother and showering him with love and kisses. I turned my back on the biter. Just froze him out for a second.
That did the trick.
The biter was immediately ashamed. He cried and put himself in timeout. It never happened again.
Spanking and biting = 0. Guilt and manipulation = 1.
Like me, most of my friends were spanked as children and do not spank their own. When we discuss this issue, none of us feel like we were psychologically damaged for getting spanked. Quite the opposite actually, those of us who were spanked believed we probably deserved it.
I know I did. Especially that time I told my mom, after she yelled at me, that hostility was a sign of sexual frustration.
Hell, I would have hit me.
No one condones bare bottom, prolonged hits on a child bent over the knee, but a few of my contemporaries have popped their kids once or twice on the butt when they were little, and stopped because it didn’t do much good. Spanking wasn’t a hit with us, because it didn’t produce the desired results.
It also made so many of us feel…icky.
According to the people in my circles, if we wanted our kids to fear us, or cry, or be confused about inconsistent messages like “we are going to hit you to show that hitting is wrong,” we’d go ahead and spank them.
Personally, that’s not what I was going for. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think I’d mind if my kids feared me a little. It’s why I wear a costume witches’ hat every once in a while and “forget” to turn off Snapped: Women Who Kill.
But I’d rather they behave appropriately, or make better choices. That’s why, for us, spanking was not the discipline of choice.