Sun of the Earth

25 10 2012

Tonight we had a patient come in with his daughter and three grandchildren, his, not hers.  And while he’d an appointment, she did not.  No matter, in her mind though, for the world, you see, revolves about her.  And being that we are a serving organization, with a focus on comforting people, we worked her in.  This was actually a bit more involved than “the doctor will see you now” because working her in involved a late night run to another office to retrieve her records and the babysitting of those fine young children of hers.  (The latter statement is, of course, rife with sarcasm.)

From the start, they were unruly heathens who’d quite obviously never felt the sting of a bare hand or heard the ominous sound of a belt flying through the belt loops, much less the firm and steady voice of their parent disciplining them.  What they knew of punishment was the tried and true method of writing.  Yes, writing.  Think Bart Simpson in the opening scene, but multiply that by a few hundred.  A few hundred for each unacceptable action and within a few hours the children were into the four-digits.  It didn’t cease their ambivalent behaviour at all though, they seemed to just roll with their ever increasing tab.  At one point the youngest child quipped whatever to her mother’s threat of even more sentences, but it never appeared to strike the frazzled woman that her method just wasn’t working.

It got me pondering, what is the perfect disciplinary action?  Obviously, I think, it all depends on the child in question.  But too, it depends on how early you, as the parent figure, began setting behavioural expectations for that child.  If it’s all fun and games until you realize they can’t spend a full day in school because they don’t respect authority figures, obviously a stern talking isn’t going to accomplish a great deal as the child has little or no respect for what you’ve to say.  And yet, bullying them through violent measures will only gain their attention for a short while before they grow numb to your calloused hands on their virgin skin.

I’m not anti-spanking – not by a long shot.  It worked well, by and large, for my parents and I’m no worse for wear as a result of it.  It wasn’t the course of action for my every malfeasance, but it was my parents’ favoured reaction.  There were fairly established punishments for most anything I did – lying would result in brushing my teeth with Ivory soap, or a few dashes of Tabasco on my tongue; backtalking resorted in a firm thumb flick at my lower lip; not doing my homework meant going to bed hungry; and most anything worse than those would result in a spanking.  And my father was a professional paddler, with his homemade 2×4 drilled with holes.  Initially, until I was 4, they used one of Daddy’s belts; but in a fit of anger one time, my mother hit me with the wrong end of the belt and sliced a gash in my lower back.  Following that incident, the paddle came from the lumber store to Daddy’s workshop to its final resting place right behind the front door.

I’ve spanked my girls, but not often.  I realized early on that for me, when spanking, I found myself feeling better and less raged afterwards, which was a scary prospect.  I didn’t want to have spanking become a release of my anger.  The last time I spanked either of them was about six years ago and my oldest popped off afterwards, showing me that she was unwaivered by the punishment.  I took a pair of scissors, chopped her long golden hair off at the base of her pony tail holder.  It was a wake up call for us both, that we are cut of the same cloth and the obstinance we show one another cannot come to any fair return.  After that, the girls and I formed a contract, which spells out the expectations I have for them and what they can expect in return.  It covers everything from cleaning their room to grades to chores and empowers them to know how to earn play time, television time, computer time, cell time and even money.  We’ve had that in place for about five years and it has worked well.

But back to the heathens in the lobby.

These are the future generations of our country, the ones who will determine where our Social Security dollars are spent, the care we receive – heck they may even become our caretakers.  Are we setting ourselves up for failure by not intervening on situations when we see exasperated parents at their wits’ end with unruly children?  And yet, would such help be accepted if offered?

I watched the mother sit idly as our staff all but straight jacketed her children, running them off from using the aquarium as a drum set and retrieving the items they fetched from desks and rooms and I decided that no, such help wouldn’t likely be accepted.  While I didn’t offer the mother the input that obviously her writing assignments were having little impact on the children’s behaviour, I garnered that such a statement would likely be met with defense rather than an open mind.  She made no apology for their activities and her limited input to correcting the actions was just the threat of more sentences.

I guess that’s how it is though, when you are the Sun to the Earth.

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