rules

Rules were one thing, which I may or may not discuss later. But consequences were another. I grew up in a time when corporal punishment was considered good parenting. By other adults, anyway. I wasn’t a bad kid. But I knew too well the sting of a belt or the hard-pointed toe of a sturdy cowboy boot against my backside and may have been slapped a few times.

As painful as that was for a child (except for that time, as I grew older, where I hormones gave me a little more padding on said backside, protecting me a bit better from the smack. But, fortunately, because I was older and wiser, I figured more quickly than my little sister did that keeping this discovery to myself, as opposed to thinking I had the last laugh, was a safer bet), this became very perplexing to me as a parent. As I child I knew I was ruled by fear. And I promised myself I would command respect because I deserved it–because I was respected–not because someone feared me. As a parent I quickly learned that the problem with corporal punishment wasn’t just that it was wrong, but also that it worked. And as I found myself dealing with willful and sassy and even disrespectful ‘tweens and teens, I was at a loss. Because the one thing I knew had worked on me, I was determined not to repeat. And I never found anything else that did.

So what is the answer? I still don’t know. I hung on to the repeated words of my friend, “Preserve the relationship,” and kept a tight grip on any shred of hope that “This too, will pass,” and just kept loving. The best my broken heart could love.

In other news, that time I was grounded for an entire month–including no phone calls–simply for breaking curfew, felt extreme and torturous, especially to an oldest child who carried her responsibility complex rather hard and heavy upon her shoulders and was otherwise a good kid. Oh well.

So say what you will about rules.

The one rule by which I could not–and still cannot–abide, is the clean plate rule. So relieved when common sense came around and we started asking kids to simply try something before they got down from the table and didn’t make them sit at the table for an hour until they managed to gag down the last bite of cold Spanish rice.

Am I angry about this? No. But I didn’t think it was a good rule and the only thing worse than the fact that it was the practice at the time I was raised is that some people in our day practice it still even though we should all have learned better.

And that’s what I have to say about rules and consequences.

[Day 138 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

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