Old School Discipline

We try to get together at least once a year… The old neighborhood gang. These are the friends that i don’t remember meeting because we played together as babies.

Terri hosted a gathering recently, which consisted of us spending a few hours at her kitchen table, drinking Coors Light and bashing the best damn taco dip ever invented. And talking. About everything.

Family – Who’s dead?  How’s Mom?  Dad?  Did the foreclosure happen, or did your brother keep the house?  Cancer?  Damn… He’s young for that.

Life – Between jobs. Teaching middle school is a bitch*.  Kids buying houses.  Rehab (of both kinds).  Hair Salon politics. Husband going back to truck driving after surgery. Living single.

But my favorite category: “The Good Old Days”.

i had a glorious childhood, and the three women sitting around that kitchen table were a huge part of that…

Most disappointing moment: When Sherry informed us that she had, in fact, faked all of those slumber party trances.

daisyfae: NOOOOOO! i’ve been telling those stories for years!  “There was this one girl that we REALLY DID put into a trance! She’d act like a lamp and shit…”

Sherry: Sorry. Faked it. I’m good. Just ask my husband about that…

We talked of school days. Teachers did things in the 60’s and 70’s that would get them jailed today!  An offhand comment then = a fourth degree felony now.

The neighborhood squabbles. We’d pretty much duke it out amongst ourselves – parents were rarely aware of, let alone involved in, dispute resolution. Every summer there was some drama, and one of us would end up being held down and forced to eat a handful of grass. Or two.

daisyfae: Is it just me, or are we coddling the kids today by giving them the “bully” option? We went through all that crap, and i don’t know if any of it damaged me…

Terri: I think it thickened our skin a bit. Taught us how to deal with all the nasty people out there in the real world. We were all afraid of Tammy, though, and learning to leave the really crazy kid alone was probably an important lesson.

They asked about my sister, T. Relayed that she’s doing well – after many bumps and tribulations along the way.

daisyfae: She had a breakdown while working on her PhD. The therapists got ahold of her… rather than stick with the fundamental diagnosis of “bipoalar disorder” given by the docs, they thought there must be more causing her troubles. “She must have been abused!”  They swarmed in on the fact that we got hit with a belt on occasion by the parents.

Jenni: We ALL got hit with belts then!

Sherry: We got the paddle, or whatever my Dad had handy to throw at us.

daisyfae: Yep. It was community standards at the time. That’s what the parents in our world did back then…

Jenni:  Did you hit your kids?

daisyfae:  Yep.  But not as punishment – i’d slap a hand if they were about to stick scissors in the electrical outlet, or pop ’em on the ass if they were about to run in the street.  i figured it made sense to reinforce potentially dangerous activities with a bit of pain…

Sherry:  Me, too…  If anything, I probably should have hit my son more…

Terri:  Do you think it traumatized them?

daisyfae [snorting]:  Oh, hell!  i’ve done far worse to traumatize them!  i suspect, given a choice, that they’d have taken the damn belt…

* My favorite line from my teacher friend, Sherry: “Once school starts, I cannot smile again until January. You can show NO weakness, until the year is well underway.”

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34 thoughts on “Old School Discipline

  1. Thinking about friends from my childhood, there are none that I hang now until you get to seventh grade. We get together on occasion, but his (third? fourth?) wife drives me crazy. A bit to clingy. And he’s changed so much, and recently. Always makes for an interesting get together.

    And my dad? A big fan of the switch . . .

    • i’ve been fortunate… the neighborhood crew has stayed pretty level through the decades. early on, we were all pretty scattered – raising famililes, working… makes it hard to stay connected… they are good humans, though. and i try really hard to keep such people in my life.

  2. My mother had this thick, wooden yard stick that she would whomp me with. One day I got fed up, grabbed it out of her hands and broke it over my knee. Undaunted, she grabbed a broom and picked up where she left off. I wrestled her for it until my Dad came in and beat me with a belt because he thought I was trying to hit her with the broom. And yet, I grew up to be the completely normal, well-adjusted adult that I am today. Go figure.

    • Whenever we saw mother stoop to remove a slipper…we scarpered! Yes, I felt the occasional whack of a squishy-soled slipper across my backside, but it was never vicious and, like your slaps, usually a warning to stop whatever I/we were doing or saying. My Dad never hit me.
      I come from the age when corporal punishment in schools was still legal and sometimes violent. Usually (at my school) “six of the best” on the palm from a leather strap.But some schools still caned boys across the backside.

      I’m glad that’s been outlawed, but still don’t see the point in this current molly-coddling and the “no contact” rule. Kid face-plants off a swing? A hug can do wonders!
      Wow! Long comment! Leaving now…

      • dinah – my dad never hit the girls. ever. but mom was the disciplinarian. i do have a clear memory of my dad hanging my brother upside down against the refrigerator to shake stolen change from his pockets when he was about 12 years old…

        corporal punishment happened at school. “Swats” with a paddle. A witness teacher was required. i got swats from a 7th grade gym teacher for my repeated failure to “dress out” for gym class in the middle of the school day. She played tennis. ouch….

    • cram – amazing how well we can remember these details. and yet forget whether we fed the dog tonight! like you, i’m quite normal, despite the occasional burn of a leather strap across my dainty little ass….

  3. Interesting discussion. Tempered, of course, by this week’s discussion (furor?) about the Texas judge who belted his daughter over a computer and internet downloads. (I haven’t watched the video and won’t. I really don’t need to see that kind of stuff. Same as the video of the Chinese two year old hit by a car and no would help. Sad, but my watching a video of it isn’t going to help.) Anyways, people like the judge forced the hand of the authorities to enact laws that allowed many parents to totally abrogate their child rearing responsibilities. We didn’t spank ours much; it was never much called for. My dad? He used his belt. Mostly on my one sister though. I was much too sly to draw that sort of attention. My sister? Not so sly.

    I envy you having old friends to catch up with, although only somewhat. Being a little bit antisocial (it’s genetic) has its rewards at times too.

    • like you, i don’t watch such videos. i don’t need to, and agree that it helps nothing.

      it was much harder to discipline my children, and maintain order, without the violence. taking away privileges, restricting activities, forced labor… it is far easier to whack a kid with a belt and be done with it, rather than maintain consistency over a period of weeks…

      in retrospect, i probably only got hit with the belt four or five times. but it was slung suggestively over the back of Mom’s dining room chair. a visual reminder of her willingness to use it…

  4. Being bullied when you’re a kid can thicken your skin. Make you better better prepared to handle the real thing. I would say that a little bullying can be a beneficial. But it can also wreck a life. It’s hard to know when to intervene. My daughter is about to enter the Mean Girls stage of life and I’m a bit worried.

    • Community standards change over time – and i think the bar between “normal” and “extreme” bullying has shifted into a very conservative realm. Probably for good reason, as there have been enough tragic cases to warrant a strong reconsideration of what sort of behavior we will tolerate on the schoolyard.

      i found that the girls, between 4th and 7th grade, were horrid to each other. the boys would just beat the crap out of each other and it was done, but the girl snark went on for weeks and months, with each girl seemingly getting a turn on the “outs” with the other girls. my daughter shed her share of tears, but in the end, grew to see the behavior for what it was… and ultimately found a new set of friends through her involvement with theater in the community, and high school show choir….

  5. My Mother carried a wooden spoon in her purse …. and she wasn’t afraid to use it no matter where we were!
    It didn’t “scar me for life”.
    However, the bullying and abuse that I received from kids at school (red hair + freckles + chubby + early puberty = EASY TARGET) did.
    But, it toughened me up as well …. just not always in a good way.

      • “I’ll blow bubbles out my ass!” – really bad thing to say when mom threatens to wash your mouth out with soap because you called your sister an asshole…

    • i was a chubby. and a very homely one at that… the teasing was pretty awful… i was able to divert a bit of it by making fun of myself first… beating them to the punch line was a reasonable defense. but it fucking hurt…

  6. My dad did the spanking in our house & used a wooden spoon or rubbermaid ladel…whichever wasn’t broken. “Grab your ankles” was enough to cause my younger brother to start crying before the spankings even began. And no….we girls were not spared the rod. If we had to line up for the spoon….you can bet we deserved it. I think my brothers & sister & I all turned out all right. No murderers among us. lol…

    • we never got the spoon – but i had a friend who would get thwacked on the head by his crazy italian grandma. sounded like ringing a thick iron bell! i really think the key to this was that my mom never did it in anger – it was a drawn out process, after something vaguely resembling a trial, where we’d have a chance to say our piece. it was punishment, not an angry beating… can’t say we all turned out all right, but there are no murderers amongst my folk either. at least not yet!

  7. Dad had a belt! My younger brother was often the instigator of adventurousness but I was the “Elder” so I “Should have known better”. Yep. He often escaped. I never did!
    As for childhood friends, The family moved around so much and so far that I lost touch with people nearly every year and thought it was normal. It became a habit I kept throughout my life.

    • i was the youngest, and probably got away with th emost… partly because i learned more ninja tactics by watching my older siblings, and partly because my parents were pretty tired by the time i got there…

      surprising to me to learn all these years later that the continuance through the decades of these childhood friendships is apparently pretty rare. we were truly like sisters… squabbles and all…

  8. Daisy Fae, I don’t know if you ever write poetry but if you do, this post has the makings of a wonderful selection. What great conversation and taco dip!

    • oh, that’s a hoot! i don’t even consider myself a writer, let alone a poet! a close friend has recently asked me to read some works by Stephen Dunn. i tried. it’s very good, and i appreciate the craftsmanship and eloquence of the words and their meaning and cadence. but i’m seriously immature. i need the shit that rhymes…

      thank you for your kind words, though. needed a little boost today…

  9. Oh, I’m so sorry to hear how many people here were beaten and with implements. To me that is brutal and cruel. I doubt many of those belt (etc) wielding adults would have felt it acceptable to take to another adult in the same way so how could they justify doing it to a child?

      • it is a pretty lousy word… for this one, what i really meant is that it’s just what every parent did at that time, in our part of the world. doesn’t make it right, that’s for sure… “war” is pretty prevalent. in some parts of the world, female genital mutilation is prevalent. yep. definitely doesn’t make it right…

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