You’ve seen the posts, haven’t you?
“If you were whipped as a kid, like, share, and comment.”
“Kids these days don’t know what it means to cut a switch from the yard.”
“If I talked back to my teacher, I’d get slapped. Share if you agree!”
The bruises we wear on our behinds, the back of our hands, and the insides of our psyches have become a badge of pride.
I was whipped a time or two. My pasty behind remembers the taste of my dad’s belt. And, I admit, I’m a bit proud that I am a part of that generation–the last of the whipped and, as some may say, the last of the disciplined.
While shaking our heads, some of my generation and some of the older look at the youth that follow and wonder if our future is doomed.
And then this happens…
I came home from work to find a wife with tangled hair, peanut butter stains on her blouse, red-streaked eyes, and sunken posture.
“What?” I asked.
Then she told me what one of our kids said to her…
“He said I’m the worst mom ever and he hopes I’ll die. Then he punched me.”
And, to be honest, my blood boiled hotter than combusting helium.
“I never would have gotten away with talking like that when I was a kid,” I said.
Within five minutes, said child came back in tears, hugged his mom, and said he’d never say something like that again.
Kids these days.
What is the world coming to?
When a child doesn’t fear his parents.
Cuz’ parents ought to be feared. Am I right?
I don’t want to be feared.
Now, lemme take you back about 8 years. I was young and very unpracticed as a parent. My oldest was only about a year and a half old. I don’t remember what he did, but whatever it was he did, I lost it. That helium-bursting anger raced through my insides. I grabbed him by his arms, lifted him into the air, and (with some restraint) shoved him onto his bed. With equal volatility, I shouted some horrific reprimand that, luckily, I can’t remember.
I expected to see humility, or defiance, or regret in his expression. But instead, I saw something that, to this day, crushed the center of my soul.
I saw terror.
My own son was afraid of me.
My son was afraid of me.
I would never have hurt him. But he didn’t know that. And how could he?
Through the fear in his own eyes, I saw the monster I had become, if only for a split second.
I vowed that day that I would never let the monster return. And, in the last eight years, I’ve never hit, shoved, slapped, or spanked any of my kids.
So what if my kids don’t fear me? So what if the thought of a whip or a wooden spoon doesn’t halt angry words? So what, if every few months, they become so angry that they themselves turn into little monsters–monsters that say things that cut my sweet wife to the core.
At least they don’t fear me.
Because there will come a time when the clock of my protective bubble will expire. The time will come when those things that are truly worth fearing will creep into their lives like a deadly cancer. The time may come when they’re at a party they shouldn’t have attended in the first place and joints and booze are passed around like candy and their way out is a phone call to Dad. Or maybe they forgot to fill the gas tank like I asked and their stranded in a rough part of town. Or maybe they do something stupid enough to land them a one-night stay in hotel-a-la-county jail and they’ve got one phone call to make.
Who they gonna call?
Do I want them to fear me then?
In moments like that, maybe a kid with enough spine to talk back to Mom will have the brass to call the one person he never feared. Maybe restraining my whip or spoon or switch will pay off then.
I’m glad I was raised the way I was raised. And I’m glad I had parents who knew to be both firm and compassionate; parents I dared not defy who would pick me up from a jail cell if needed. (And no, I’ve never been in jail).
But if I had a choice–to be respected and feared or to be trusted?
I’d take the latter.
How about you?
This is lovely. I believe you can be feared or respected, but you cannot be both. I choose to earn my children’s respect. They have never been hit by either of us. My son is in college doing really well. My daughter is in junior high and tells me everything, because she trusts me and knows that I respect her and will always, always, support her. My kids have never been in trouble, never been suspended, get mostly great grades, and are well-balanced people. Even without being beaten with a belt. Go figure. Thank you for bringing a well-balanced and well-written story to an online world that seems to encourage a level of violence that is simply not needed.
Love this: “I believe you can be feared or respected, but you cannot be both.”
And I love hearing about your success stories with your kids. The “dangerous” years are rapidly approaching for me…