It fascinates me how our memories as parents, change over time, sometimes rapidly. If women vividly remembered the pain and difficulty of giving birth, or the sleep deprivation afterwards, there would be a higher percentage of only children.
Memories of our children’s naughtiness are similar. When such events happen, we are vexed and perplexed by our children’s behavior. A short time later, however, the misdeeds become fodder for laughter in adult conversations. How do we now fondly recall that which made gray hairs shoot out from our scalps at an accelerated rate when it occurred? It is great for our kids that our minds change the tone this way, otherwise, we might harbor elongated lists of resentments against the little darlings, instead of cherished bits of nostalgia.
Perhaps it is our love for our offspring that changes the landscape of these memories like the wind sweeps autumn leaves across a hillside. Or, maybe a little bit of time reduces the amount of stress we remember feeling, the same way time dimmed our memory of labor. Then again, it could be the realization that we have our children for such a limited time, and this spins their impish ways positively, in our minds.
My son, Geoff, was about two years old when we dined one evening at Izzy’s. The meal was progressing without incident. He was a very easy child by any standard. That evening, Geoff stood on the wooden bench in our booth, munching on a chicken drumstick. Without warning, he suddenly thrust his arm forward, and chucked his chicken in a perfect arc over his head. It landed next to a woman in the booth behind us. She was significantly less than thrilled to have partially eaten food with toddler germs on it, drop beside her. I can only imagine what she was thinking about us as parents. However, in our defense, there was no indication he was about to do anything, nor any precedent for this chicken-tossing behavior, and toddlers can be unpredictable! We can only guard against behaviors that have already been seen and have a potential to recur in a given context.
I was somewhere between mortified and trying to stifle a few giggles. No clothing was stained. Still, I had to teach my young son not to do such things. I administered a stern reprimand, and took him to her booth to apologize. Having Mommy and Daddy less than pleased with him, and having to talk to a stranger and apologize were his consequences. That was sufficient for a child of two.
Geoff never tossed his food again, to my knowledge. If a child can get the message from an age-appropriate talk and a consequence, what is the point of hitting? Isn’t the goal of discipline, to deter a repeat of the undesirable behavior? If you can achieve that with a reprimand or discussion, why go further?
As an eight year-old, a piece of pizza slipped from my palm and landed in the dining area below, splayed across a bald man’s head, cheese first! Nothing naughty there—I had no intention of decorating his cranial palette!
I was a bit puckish though. I goaded my cousins into throwing small bits of their pizza crusts at the man’s head. We tested the direction the crumbs would go after making contact with his head for a physics lesson. The direction of the crusty chunks after the contact with the man’s skull depended on where we stood when we lobbed them.
There were no consequences for me from any adults, other than this man’s consternation. He didn’t seek the parents of the little miscreants who ruined his evening. The dropped pizza and the physics lesson were concealed from my parents until a decade later. Otherwise, consequences would’ve surely been delivered in swift repetition to the posterior portion of my anatomy. Knowing the “end” result, caused me to conceal my mischief.
Neither situation warranted a spanking. There was no real harm done, and an absence of malicious intent. A discussion about respecting others, and an apology proffered would suffice. My son was too little to understand respect then, but he quickly comprehended that it wasn’t okay to chuck food. No tears were shed, and he didn’t do it again. Wasn’t that the point?
This begs the question, “what does warrant a spanking, if anything, for you?” What factors determine which offenses will be dealt with that way, versus another? How else do you handle disobedience, defiance, and childish mistakes? If we manage adult problems the way we sometimes contend with children, we’d likely be jailed for assault, so why is it then okay to hit children, legally and morally? Lucky for us, our children will forget many of the times we blew it. Perhaps, their memories shift like ours, but for different reasons. What do you want your child/children to remember about how you parented? Did you parent the way you wanted to, today?