Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I was ____ and I turned out okay!

Last weekend I performed in another Rapides Symphony concert, and I had the privilege of playing with one of my best friends from college. While we were taking a break from rehearsal, I needed to pump. I asked if she would not mind coming with me to keep me company, and she agreed. While I was in the dressing room pumping, she asked me questions about breastfeeding. She told me how it seemed weird to her and that she did not think she was going to do it. As we were leaving I said, "There are some people who exclusively pump and feed their baby breast milk. I'm sure you could do that. Just as long as you're getting breast milk into your baby." She responded with, "Why does it matter? I wasn't breastfed and I turned out okay."


The dreaded answer.

Because we were walking back to rehearsal, I did not have the opportunity to give her all the wonderful reasons to breastfeed. I decided to file it away for later and write a fantastic article full of reasons to breastfeed when I got back to my hotel room. I had so many good ideas! However, when I made it back to my room and checked my blog, I began reading an article on the peaceful parenting blog entitled "How Spanking Changed My Life." As I continued to read, I quickly forgot about my breastfeeding article and began to formulate thoughts about spanking, which unleashed a fury in me that I did not know existed. I knew I needed to quickly get my thoughts out of my head before I became too angry to sleep.

My husband and I disagree on whether or not we will spank our children. I insist there must be other ways of getting your point across and he likes to use the "I turned out okay" reason. He was spanked as a child and he feels like he deserved it. Some children turn out just fine after being spanked, but many do not. My husband is lucky. I ask him how effective spanking was if he received them all the time for the same reasons. Sometimes he did not know that what he was doing could lead to a spanking. He would happily go along and all of a sudden he was getting spanked. Sometimes he was warned he would get a spanking if he did ____. Then he would proceed to do _____. It seems that even knowing ahead of time he was going to get spanked did not matter.

Sometimes when I am having a bad day, I may accidentally snap at my husband. He says, " I was just happily going along when all of a sudden you ____ for no reason." As an ADULT that unexpected behavior from me confuses the heck out of him. Can you imagine having to explain hormones to a little child? What about yelling? What about...hitting? That must be what it feels like to a little kid. They do not know how to control their behavior and emotions. They are in the process of learning how to do this. All they know is they are happily going along, then WHAM! They get spanked, smacked, swatted, beat, whatever you want to call it in order to soothe your own conscience to the fact that you strike your child. 

Not everyone fares well when it comes to spanking. The article is an open letter to Roy Lessin, author of Spanking: When, When, How, from Beth Fenimore, whose father illustrated the book. In her letter she details how the Roy Lessin method was a ritualistic event. 

The following are my own words.
1. Choose your weapon. Do not use your hand because your child will begin to fear your hand.

2. Do it quickly.

3. Find a private place in which to conduct the spanking.

4. Explain to the child WHY she is getting spanked.

5. Get the child into the spanking position. Some would have the child remove her pants and underwear.

6. Spank the child. 

7. Spank until you hear that particular broken cry that signals you broke the child's will.

8. Comfort the child. Make sure she behaves appropriately. If she does not calm down correctly or quickly enough, the ritual begins again.

There are so many things wrong with this. The first that struck a nerve was to ask the child to remove her pants and underpants. By the time a child is wearing underpants and by the time the child can really understand what is going on, parents should not be seeing their kids private parts. Those parts are exposed during this ritual, which must add to the shame and humiliation of the experience. Never mind the fact that there is no barrier between the body and tool of choice for the thrashing. It makes me uncomfortable to think of a young girl being alone in a room with her father and he is asking her to expose her private parts. Even if your words are, "It is time for your spanking. Take off your pants and underwear," it is still creepy. Maybe it's my dirty mind, but....no! The suggestion IS there! The shame adds to the punishment, making a greater, deeper and more lasting impression.

How demented it is that the parent must spank until he hears a certain cry- the cry that indicates the child's will is broken. Will? What exactly does this mean? When I think of a broken will, I think of an empty shell. Someone who has no hopes, goals or desires of any kind. No hopes. No dreams. Nothing. They just exist. No joy or happiness. No determination. No...life. 

Once the spanking is over, comfort the child. Are you serious? As an adult I am confused when someone who did something terrible to me acts nice to me. When someone hurts me it doesn't make any sense that that person would also comfort me. That is so confusing! Now imagine a child. I wouldn't want that person to touch me anymore. Why is that person who just caused stinging welts to raise on my flesh wrapping his disgusting arms around me to tell me everything is going to be okay? Why is he telling me anything other than what he just did was wrong? My heart would be screaming, "Go away! Don't touch me!" Of course I would not be able to say that because I am busy trying to act the "right" kind of happy. 

This is so confusing! Is this supposed to teach that, as long as someone comforts you, it is okay that she hits you? Most likely it not intended to teach that lesson, but it probably does anyway.

Fenimore wrote in her letter about receiving her first spanking at six months old, hearing screaming babies in the lobby of her church who were receiving a Roy Lessin spanking, and of Roy Lessin's wife giving her a spanking. This angered me in a way that I have never felt before. I thought about someone laying a hand on my 7.5 month baby girl. Especially someone who is NOT her mother or father. How DARE she touch someone else's kids? I thought about my little girl, and I imagined that I would gladly give them a dose of their own medicine if that ever happened to her.

So there are plenty of people who would tell me, "Well, Kristi, you need to understand the difference between spanking and ABUSE." Say what you want to try to justify your actions and make yourself feel better, but the fact is you allowed your hand, belt or chosen object to make physical contact with your child's body in a harsh manner. I think those that try to differentiate between levels of spanking are those that spank. And I think they do that so they can convince themselves that they are doing the right thing.

I wonder if those that spank feel good about what they are doing. Do they feel calm, cool, collected and in control of their actions when they hit their children? Are they surprised when their kids start hitting others who do not behave the way they want them to? I suppose then they just teach the kid not to hit others by spanking them. That makes sense. Here kid, I'm going to hit you but you should not hit people. 

But "I am an adult and children and I are not equals." You're right. As an adult are you not capable of more rational teaching methods than hitting? Spanking, swatting, hitting or your chosen sugar-coated word is not a rational teaching method.

And anyone who hits a BABY is just plain evil. There is no excuse for that kind of behavior. It is just evil.

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