As the mother of a 12-year-old girl who insists on growing, it’s Twilight Zone-ish to know that, just a few short years ago, I was huffin’ and puffin’ in somebody’s delivery room and now that same little bundle of joy is wearing my clothes, borrowing my shoes, and rifling through my makeup (even though she doesn’t think I know).
Twelve years crawled by when I was a kid, but as a mom, it’s bolted by in lightning speed.
But like my mother and so many others, I have to remind Miss Preteen Thang every so often: you could wind up being in the friggin’ Guinness Book of World Records for rapidest growth spurt or tallest tween-ager. Doesn’t matter to me. If you get out of line, I will mount a chair, climb a step stool, or scale a ladder just to knock some sense into you. She can try her hand at being big and bad if she wants, but she’ll never be too big and bad to get smacked. Word to her mother.
Last month, the school nurses measured my baby. She is 5’4”. I am 5’4” and have been since I stopped growing when I was her age. But that recent reality check has done nothing for the way corrections are doled out in the Harris household. Sometimes taking away the netbook and the TV and the Facebook page and the activities with friends is appropriate, even — by golly — effective. But sometimes when she’s clearly lost her doggone mind, she needs a swift pop to bring her back to her senses.
I am a firm believer in corporal punishment. Not excessive, haphazard slaps, mind you. I think discussion and discipline go hand-in-hand. So whenever Skylar does find herself on the wrong side of my open palm, we talk about why it happened and how she can avoid it ever happening again. It takes quite a bit to get me to the point of getting physical, but I think it’s safe to say that every time it’s happened, homegirl earned it fair and square.
Now the question isn’t necessarily is she ever too big to be spanked. It’s when does it stop being effective?
My mama is always threatening to beat somebody’s tail. And since I’m an only child, that somebody is usually me. Even though I haven’t gotten a bona fide spanking since I was in maybe seventh grade, she did dole out a couple of streetfighter-style butt whoopings when I was in high school. The last time — and by far the worst — was when she thought she caught me and this grimy boy in the aftershocks of sex.
It was all just really, really unfortunate timing. As she turned the corner, I was coming out of my bedroom and he was coming out of the hallway from the bathroom, still pulling up his zipper. Time froze for almost a solid 10 seconds as all three of us stood there at the intersection of gross misunderstanding and hell breaking loose. Then the hands of fury got to flyin’ and we both had to duck and run for cover. He could hop in a car and leave. I had to ward off Mama “Fast Knuckles” Harris all night.
I recently ran across that guy’s profile on Facebook and silently cursed him for causing all of that confusion. And to top it all off, he wasn’t even that cute. Still ain’t.
What that incident taught me: 1) stay as far away from boys as possible in isolated parts of the house and 2) my mother was, is, and will always be the heaviest hitter I know. Some people joke about ruling with an iron fist. My mom really does.
But I do remember clearly when spankings became part of going through the motions and stopped hurting as bad, not necessarily because they weren’t as painful (I did mention the iron fist, right?), but because I had gotten old enough to learn how to suck it up. I can tell my own daughter is entering that space where whoopings hurt her feelings more than her booty.
It’s probably pride and maybe a little self-awareness. You don’t have that when you’re a kid. You just want to dodge the paddling and if you’ve gotta take it, get it over with as fast as possible. There’s no real reflection time while you’re bent over your parent’s knee. That, dear friends, doesn’t happen until you’re back in your room with red flames of pain waving over your butt like dude in the Icy Hot commercial.
How old is too old to get physically disciplined a la spanking?
Image via Ben Husmann/Flickr