Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Ebb and Flow.
Shannon and I were talking today about punishments. Â At 16, sheâ€™s old enough nowâ€”and good enoughâ€”that Â she Â doesnâ€™t Â really Â get many punishments anymore.
The only thing Â punishment-worthy Â in the pastÂ year wasÂ when she forgot to tell me she wouldnâ€™t be home until 7 and I was expecting her at 5. She didnâ€™t call and I couldnâ€™t reach her.
When she arrived home, it was too lateâ€”something instinctual had been activated. Iâ€™d already gotten in the car to pursue that pre-programmed Â moment ingrained in the genes of my matriarchal line for millennia: driving up and down the most likely highways to look for our children dead in a ditch somewhere.
Since sheâ€™s always quite good about keeping Â me informed of her whereabouts, I knew something had to be wrong. When Â she arrived home casually and completely unaware Â of Â my Â emotional Â turmoil, Â I was Â vividly Â livid. Then I decided instead of getting mad at her, I wouldnâ€™t waste myÂ energy Â and sheâ€™d Â get Â an appropriate punishment. One she wouldnâ€™t forget. Â No, I wasnâ€™t goingÂ to beat the hell out of her. Just transfer a little of that turmoil. Why should I punish myself for her screw-up?Â Itâ€™s called behavior modification.
Since sheâ€™d failed to call me and keep me informed of her whereabouts, Â she Â lost Â her Â cell Â phone Â for Â the Â next week, until the exact time she showed up at home without calling me, as well as her email, IM, texting, and home phone privileges. Â I did let her made an email announcement so her friends wouldnâ€™t worry and call her boyfriend so he wouldnâ€™t think she was blowing him off, but that was it. It was a tough week for her to be so cut off and disconnected, but now that she knows how I felt when I didnâ€™t know where she was, sheâ€™s been great ever since and hadnâ€™t forgotten to call when her schedule gets crazy.
Still, her punishment was radically different from mine when, less than a year older, I came home from a date at 4 in Â the Â morning. Â That was…1979, Â after Â Iâ€™d Â spentÂ the summer away at college where there was no curfew. Itâ€™s a wonder I didnâ€™t get ulcers before I got home that night. I was so worried about missing my 1 AM â€œlooseâ€ Â curfew for an out-of-town event with my date and my cousins, but I didnâ€™t call home because my mom knew I was a good kid but I Â didnâ€™t dare wake my dad. Daddy always fell asleep by the time the 11 PM news was over (in those pre-CNN days) and didnâ€™t wake until dawn. That Â night, he had an overactive bladder.
So yes, I arrived home at 4 in the morning, with both my parents standing at the door, waiting before we turned into the drive. We probably would have been a lot later had the idiot boy not been Â driving 105 mph in his old clunker to get me home as quickly as possible. Â It seems Daddy had his shotgun. It seems that Daddy may Â have threatened him. Â I donâ€™t Â remember Â for Â sure. Â Itâ€™s Â just Â a shadow in Â my memory. That and the guy saying, â€œYes, sirâ€ and â€œNo, sirâ€ a lot.
But the Â worst Â part Â was Â that Â we Â really Â had Â broken down alongside the road, miles and miles from anywhere, hours before. No cell phones in those days and in a rural part of Georgia where youâ€™d easily get shot at for traipsing across the peanut fields and knocking Â on someoneâ€™s back Â doorâ€”and Â then Â youâ€™d Â find Â out Â they Â didnâ€™t Â even have one dem newfangled thangs called tellerphones. Do you know how hard it is to walk through a field and tall grass in 6-inch disco heels? Le Freak Â was not câ€™est chic thatÂ Â Â Â Â night. Forget scrubbing the floor with a toothbrushâ€”Iâ€™d already been punished!
Talking about punishments with Shannon led us back to when the girls were little. I refrained from become the child-beater that was in my patriarchal lineâ€™s genes. That was an active decision and a pattern I broke Â early on. I wanted my childrenâ€™s Â respect, Â not their fear. Though Â I neverÂ Â got Â the Â doubled-leather-belt-broken-on-my-back treatment from Daddy, I did get switchings, whippings (a nice Â euphemism Â for Â beatings), Â and Â an Â occasional Â dead limb applied to my flesh, usually with a barrage of you- ainâ€™t-fit-for-nothing and Â Â Â Â I-better-not-see-you-cry. Hmmm, how long has that stayed with me?
Of course, if you spare the rod for your babies, you have Â to Â come up with Â other Â punishments. Â Time-outs worked well for the girls and suited their personalities. Boring them was the worst punishment they could have. Well, almost.
I did have two specialties I devised just for them.
If the Â girls Â got Â into Â trouble Â for Â fighting Â with Â each other or being mean to each other, they had to sit cross-legged on the floor, facing each Â other, with their arms loosely around each otherâ€™s shoulders. Usually for about 30 minutes. Â They Â never Â made Â it Â that Â far. Â Theyâ€™d start glum, and Â within 10 minutes, Â theyâ€™d Â be playing Â on the floor with each other like kittens.
The worst Â punishment Â was Â when Â one Â of them Â got sent to the corner and had to put her nose in the right angle where the walls met. This was the most hated of all punishments.
As for me, I grew up willing to take a beating rather than the venom of my daddyâ€™s words. Iâ€™ve been promised that the next man in my life will sometimes get angry but heâ€™ll never play slice-and-dice with my feelings. Iâ€™ve taken enough punishment in my life.