Mr. DD and I were each raised in conservative homes. My parents weren't necessarily strict, but they instilled a sense of respect in me to the point that even now, at 39, I rarely swear in front of them and it's usually limited to "damn" and "pissed off". We worked hard as children of farmers. Laziness wasn't tolerated. Punishment for lying or back-talking was a smack on the behind with an old-fashioned, heavy, wooden yardstick that is still in the kitchen.
I don't think my husband got off that easy. His father was a bully who yelled, belittled and cursed. He still does at 85. I'm sure he wasn't light-handed, either. Mr. DD has never gone into details, but when we discuss when and if we should use corporal punishment on X, he always has said that it didn't do any long time harm to him.
When X and Mr. DD butt heads, which they do with alarming frequency, I see that how he was raised didn't exactly help.
There was an incident here a couple of weeks ago, that even now, makes my hands tremble. X was stalling at bed time and Mr. DD was losing patience. One thing led to another: X was on the floor ignoring repeated requests to get dressed; Mr. DD was yelling at him; X kicked at him; Mr. DD quickly retaliated with a smack to X's bottom. A very hard smack.
I was sitting there, trying to keep everything from escalating without actually taking over. When I saw, and heard, how hard Mr. DD had spanked him and X started screaming, I lost my shit. Mr. DD immediately tried to sooth X, but I pounced in and was lifting X into my arms. Mr. DD resisted and wouldn't let go, and under the din of X's wailing I hissed that if he didn't let go, I'd punch him in the face.
We both knew at that moment, I would.
He relinquished his hold and I carried X into his bedroom where within a few minutes he had calmed down, but I couldn't seem to get my pulse to slow. I was beyond livid.
Mr. DD and I have never fully agreed on punishment styles. I prefer timeouts, which come after only one warning. Mr. DD threatens spanking, but rarely follows through. It's the bullying that is the hardest for me to deal with. If I try to step in, Mr. DD accuses me of undermining his authority. He doesn't seem to understand that he's already done that when he starts to yell.
I remember the first time Mr. DD spanked X, which was a couple years ago. I told him that if he ever did it again, it was because he didn't respect me and my wishes, which was not to physically punish him; or that he was unable to control his temper.
Sadly, it is me who is also unable to control their temper, and X has been on the receiving end of a pop or two to the behind from me since I made that statement.
It's hard to imagine that there was a time I was firmly against it, and even harder to imagine that X was such an agreeable and easy toddler. At 5 he has perfected the defiant stare backed up by the silent treatment. He is a 15 year old jam-packed into a preschooler's body.
That night, after I threatened Mr. DD, we have vowed to try to step back when we get angry. We both recognize that the angrier we get, the tighter X gets wound; and the tighter he's wound, the angrier we get. It's a horrible and vicious circle that we struggle with daily. I know most parents do.
If we each recall vividly our parents' punishments, then maybe there was more harm done than not. Is this what I want for X to remember? When he has his own children, I don't want him to have to tell them that spanking "did him good". I want him to remember that when he was at his worst, we were at our best, offering support and encouragement, not threats and punishments. Maybe this was the legacy that wooden ruler was supposed to give me.