BY DUSTIN J. SEIBERT
Published March 27, 2001
A couple of months ago, I was walking through the Target store right outside of Saline and I witnessed a young child, maybe seven years old or so, running from his mother screaming what he wasn"t going to do as loud as he could through the store. All eyes in earshot are directed on this kid as if he were putting on a free concert complimentary to the patrons of the store. But that"s not the worst part. The mother is actually pleading with this kid, attempting to bargain with him for his silence. Pleading with him! "Come on now, honey if you behave yourself, I"ll let you play with your Pokmon/Teletubby/Zooboomafoo when we get home!" I was absolutely awestruck. I wanted to grab the kid myself and hurl his little punk ass across the Menswear section. All that ran through my mind during this occurrence was the brutal corporal punishment that I would have received had that been me cutting up like that.
Now I completely realize that I am young still, and many may argue that if am not yet at the point in my life when I can talk about this, but I will be damned if things haven"t changed since I was a child I like to think that I was riding on the coattails of that "old-school" era of discipline that seems to have disappeared with the turn of the "90s. I read stories of kids divorcing their parents. I see many unwarranted cases of so-called "child abuse" making their way to the courtroom. Most importantly, I often witness firsthand the lack of any discernible discipline in parent-child relations. There is something terribly wrong when a kid is telling his parents what he or she isn"t gonna do. Interestingly enough, I remain the reigning champion opposed to anything even slightly resembling authority, yet even I can accept that there are those impressionable years that require special attention. Allow me to share with you some of the more painful memories from my days as the Little Manifesto ...
When I was a young buck, my mouth often wrote checks that my narrow high-yellow ass could not cash. Everyone that knows me well can attest to my incurable smart mouth one that often got me in a world of trouble. It was no thing for me to get a whack across the mouth or a thump in the temple if I were lucky. My parents covered both sides of the spectrum: My mother was the intimidator her tone of voice and piercing stare alone often straightened me up enough to save the skin on my behind. My father, however, spoke volumes with his leather belt. Those of you who feel me can attest to the fact that the belt is one of the last things you want to connect with your skin at high velocity. Heaven forbid I made him angry enough to the point where he blindly got me with the buckle part. (We all make mistakes, Dad ... I still love you, man) Grabbing the belt in mid-swing? Bad idea. He would drag me into arm"s reach like Scorpion from Mortal Kombat and take it from there. "Get Over Here!" Flawless victory.
I knew to go to all lengths possible not to make my mother mad enough at me to have to break me down, though like all humans, I would falter. She would call me at my father"s house and warn me days ahead of time about the hell that I was gonna catch when she saw me next. I would just wait in frightful anticipation, praying that she forgot about it. Yeah right. She would whip her moccasin, complete with small cleats, off of her foot and just have at it, swinging after every word that came from her mouth: "Don"t (whack!) ... you (whack!) ... do (whack!) ... that (whack!) ... again! (WHAM!)" And voila! A small beige ass with a grid of pink dots! You would be surprised at the things you promise never to do again when you are getting the hell beat out of you
Nowhere was I safe! My babysitter would make me pick my own weapon of destruction off of the nearest bush or tree. My aunts, uncles, and older cousins straightened me out many times. Even in elementary school I was subject to the ass-whippin"! The principal and teachers would carry around a long wooden paddle, aptly titled the "Board of Education" (those cynical bastards), and drag an insubordinate in front of all their peers and proceed to disperse a Greek-style punishment. Imagine that! In front of a classroom of friends!
I promised myself that I would never subject my children to corporal punishment I imagine that we all made that claim at one point during the healing process following a thrashing. Yet I see now that sometimes it is the only way to get the point across. I mean, what does "time out" really accomplish? What groundbreaking genius of a parent came up with the brilliant idea of putting a kid in a corner for five minutes to make him or her "realize what they have done wrong?" You don"t think that they are sitting in that corner plotting on some more shit to get into when they get free? Not to incite bad memories, but ponder if you will on the worst beatdown you ever got from your folks. Now, whatever it was that provoked that journey into new realms of pain, did you ever do it again? Ever? Yeah, I didn"t think so. You equate the crime with the punishment and you make it a point to never catch yourself making that same mistake twice.
I was never abused, nor am I promoting child abuse here there is a thin line between discipline and abuse, and a good parent knows not to tread that line. I am simply tired of seeing roles reversed between parent and child. I will never get used to hearing a child curse out his mother (instant death in my family), and I will never understand the parents that don"t think that this is a problem. I am almost a grown man and I still pay both of my parents the respect that they command and deserve ... though after this I believe perhaps that I am now on their respective shit lists.
Dustin J. Seibert, whose column runs every other Tuesday, has good parents. Really loving parents. He hopes that you, the reading audience, don"t leave with a negative impression of them. He also hopes that the locks won"t be changed on the doors once he comes home. But you can give him feedback at www.michigandaily.com/forum or via e-mail at email@example.com.