While time in general goes by quickly, time as a parent has never truly existed. Moments as a mother or father end as soon as they begin, leaving the lot of us dazed and hoping we never forget these pockets of time.
This is part of the reason I suck at disciplining my 7-year-old daughter. The last thing I want to do is take up any of our time on Earth together with unpleasantries.
I am either an effective disciplinarian or my daughter’s naturally well-behaved (for the most part). I constantly thank God for that. My hair would fall out if I constantly had to take measures to keep my child from calling folks derogatory names, kicking them in the shin and throwing tantrums when the day’s events don’t go exactly as desired.
Last evening, though, I had to flex my atrophying disciplinarian muscle and tell my daughter she’d be spanked if she again failed to bring home the night’s homework assignment.
Instantly (and instinctively, I believe), her eyes filled with tears. Spankings are a big deal in our house.
If you ask me during a parenting discussion how I feel about spanking, I’ll emphatically state they’re a necessary part of childhood. I might even say “every child needs a good thrashing every once in a while,” or something like that, and it’s unlikely you won’t believe me due to the raw conviction with which I’d say it.
But my words speak louder than my actions. I can remember each of the four spankings ever received by my daughter:
- one for running across a grocery store parking lot when she was 3
- one for saying something terribly disrespectful
- two last year for continuing to “act up” in school despite being warned she’d get a spanking if Dad didn’t stop getting notes home.
I cannot spank my daughter.
Of course, she doesn’t know that. She doesn’t know I’d rather scrub county jail toilets than strike, bit, pinch or dropkick her, which made me think about changing my mind last evening when I saw her brown eyes fill with tears upon hearing the ramifications for again neglecting to bring home her homework assignment.
(Her not bringing home her assignment actually speaks to a bigger issue: Kalista is learning to be “sly,” knowing she can’t do her homework if she leaves it at school. It’s critical I nip this in the bud.)
But what if she went to bed with tears in her eyes and something tragic happened in the night?
What if I were never able to speak to her again?
What if the last correspondence we shared was a warning she’d get her tail whipped if she didn’t take home her school work?
What if tomorrow never comes?
It’s a struggle; it’s a risk. I want to tell myself it isn’t worth the sadness, but I know it is. It’s important I reinforce her teachers’ instructions and show her there are unpleasant consequences for not doing the right thing. If she doesn’t learn when she’s a child, she’ll end up in “Jailbirds,” toothless and bleach-haired, when she’s grown.
I was relieved – elated, actually – this evening when I picked her up from after-school daycare and she told me tonight’s assignment was in her bag.
I’d survived another one.