I remember many years ago a simpler time. Each summer in late July, my family would camp out at the West Liberty Fair. I think it is now called the Muscatine County Fair. This far wasn’t big by any means but when you are under eight years old, everything seemed bigger than life. I had two brothers and two sisters and each competed at the fair by showing their prized sheep. But there was so much more, there were cattle, dogs, and other livestock along with crafts, vegetables, and fruit competitions. I also remember those huge RVs. They seemed enormous to me. One more thing that always happened during the week-long fair…it rained. Oh, I don’t mean a casual shower; it poured. It always rained so hard that these huge puddles would appear. No, they were small lakes.
One thing I also remember were the challenges our mother gave us. After going through a difficult divorce, our mother chose to enter the upholstery business. She would visit and offer her upholstery services to potential clients. She redid many chairs and couches during those years when things were tight financially. Our mother did what she had to in order to provide for her family.
Well, as required in the profession, our mother needed yardsticks. At the county fair, there was a vendor who advertised its services under the Stock Car Grandstand. Among the free tokens available were yardsticks. Our mother would challenge my sister and I to cross the entire county fair, stroll up to the vendor, grab as many yardsticks as we could, and then bolt back to our camper. Mind you, we had to run over a mile and if you are under eight years old, it seemed like crossing the state. We usually were able to grab up to ten yardsticks. It wasn’t stealing; after all, they were free! Our mother was so proud of us! LIttle did we know!
Throughout the year, those yardsticks tended to break. It never occurred to me how. And then the next year, we would be challenged once again to grab as many yardsticks as possible. How was it possible that our mother go through so many yardsticks? They must be brittle or something, right?
And then one day, I did something wrong. It must have been such a minor offense because I don’t remember what I did. But evidently, it was important enough because I was told to come to my bedroom where my mother was waiting for me with a yardstick. She bent me over and she began to smack me with the yardstick. The yardstick didn’t really hurt but just the embarrassment of the spanking and the feeling that I let my mother down was the real pain.
The next summer, as my sister was now a teenager and “too old” to run back and forth from the Grandstand, it was up to me to grab as many yardsticks as I was able to transport. I wonder why my sister chose not to participate anymore.
Well, this continued on for several years until another day that I was due my punishment for a minor offense, in my opinion, of course. My mother was awaiting my arrival in my bedroom. I was a little older now so the spanking would have to be a little harsher this time. After a few smacks, the yardstick broke and this time the spanking didn’t really hurt me. But then, I remembered what she said afterwards. “You broke my yardstick! Go down to the basement and grab me another one!” Wait, what? I broke your yardstick? I wasn’t the one who was smacking by backside with the yardstick. You did it to me!
Of course, I only thought of talking back to my mother and would never have said that to her face. If I had, I would have likely gone through a dozen of those yardsticks. But wait…it was now making sense. After all of these years of running across the county fair with an arm load of yardsticks, it finally made sense as to why she was in such great need of them. And, why my sister chose not to participate in helping out in the endeavor. She must have been one of the reasons why we went through so many yardsticks, too!
While our mother never whipped us like those fathers and mothers we have heard in the news recently, she had to punish the best way she knew how. Spanking was part of parenting. If you never spanked your child, you are likely going to have an undisciplined child. I am sorry to disagree…during the “terrible two” stage, every child pushes the limits of what it can do. if your child has a metal fork and is crawling toward the electric socket, you better grab the attention of the child with a little spank on the bottom. Saying “N0” is not going to work. One little spank is not going to harm the child but the child will realize that it did something wrong when looking at your concerned and serious face before the spanking began. As children grow up, spanking doesn’t work so well. Different punishments must be invoked. Teenagers feel most punished when their cellphone is taken away or if they are not allowed to go to a special party.
Whipping with a stick was never allowed in our house growing up and it is not allowed with my child at home.
Article by John Coder
Posted September 22, 2014