A few nights ago before I fell asleep, I read the following passage from Mikhail Sholokhov’s “And Quiet Flows the Don”:

 

“Gurgling something into his beard, Pantaleimon limped off to his hut. He found Gregor in the kitchen. Without saying a word, he brought his stick down over his son’s back. Doubling up, Gregor hung on his father’s arm.

‘What’s that for, Father?’ he demanded.

‘For your goings-on, you son of a bitch!’

‘What goings-on?’

‘Don’t soil your neighbour! Don’t disgrace your father! Don’t run after women, you hound!’ Pantaleimon snorted, dragging Gregor around the kitchen as his son tried to snatch away the stick.”

 

Sholokhov’s scene made me wonder, ‘Whatever happened to corporeal punishment?’ And I began thinking that maybe, just perhaps, adding spanking to my parenting toolbox might make my life a whole lot easier and my role as a mother much more effective.

 

For instance, this morning when my nearly 6-year-old daughter shouted that this was “the very last time” she was “ever, ever going to clean up,” I tried to explain that picking up after oneself is a lifelong task and that she’d better get used to it and stop making such a fuss. When Georgia continued her outburst, I sent her to her room, but I could still hear her histrionics through the door. Now if instead of putting her in time-out I’d allowed myself to box the girl’s ears, she might have actually listened.

 

Or when her twin brother, Griffin, spat on the floor the other day – an incident I recounted in “As The Spitballs Fly” – I could’ve punctuated my point that his behavior was unacceptable if I’d propelled him upstairs with a swift kick in the behind. Then Griffin would’ve thought twice before trifling with me again or ever expectorating in, or for that matter outside, the house.

 

Furthermore, when Georgia and Griffin’s 2-year-old sister collapses into one of her fits – because I won’t let her watch a show, or won’t give her a treat, or won’t find the microscopic Barbie shoe she lost somewhere deep inside the couch – maybe I could threaten her with a spanking. It worked in Russell Hoban’s “Bedtime For Frances.”

 

Granted, the book was originally published in 1960, when “spare the rod, spoil the child” was still in vogue. But when Frances keeps getting out of bed to tell her parents she can’t sleep, her father finally says to his raccoon daughter, “‘And if you do not go to sleep now, do you know what will happen to you?’…

‘I will get a spanking?’ said Frances.

‘Right!’ said Father.

‘Good night!’ said Frances, and she went back to her room.”

 

Later in the story, when Frances thinks about telling her parents about the moth making noise at her window, the little raccoon reconsiders. “Bump and thump. His wings smacked the glass. Whack and smack! Whack and smack made Frances think of a spanking. And all of a sudden she was tired.”

 

Now those are the kind of results I’m seeking.

 

I can only send my children to their rooms so many times a day. I have one friend who says her daughter actually likes being put in time-out. “Good,” she says. “Send me to my room!” And I’m running out of toys to confiscate.

 

Furthermore, when I deny my kids treats, I feel compelled to forgo my own dessert until after they are asleep, which I really hate to do. I work hard at child rearing, even if I’m often ineffective. I deserve that giant bowl of coffee ice cream after dinner, before I do the dishes and wrangle the kids into baths. And I often find myself making preposterous threats – ones my children know I’ll never follow through on and that I’d be crazy to execute – such as the whopper I told my son the other day: “Stop all this nonsense, or you’re not going to school!”

 

Personally, I’m growing tired of all this beating around the bush, so to speak. Now if I could beat on their little behinds, we might get somewhere. For instance, if I could circle the dinner table when my kids refuse to sit in their seats and swat their heads like in that game, Whac-A-Mole, we might actually make some progress.

 

I was still perusing this line of thought last night when I re-opened Sholokhov’s novel about the Don Cossacks and read the following passage:

 

“Streaming with blood, Aksinia ran towards the fence separating their yard from the Melekhovs’. Stepan overtook her at the fence. His black hand fell like a hawk on her head. The hair slipped between his fingers. He tore at it and threw her to the ground.

 

“What if a husband does trample his own wife with his boots? One-armed Alexei Shamil walked past the gate, looked in, winked, and split his bushy little beard with a smile; after all, it was very understandable that Stepan should be punishing his lawfully wedded wife. Shamil wanted to stop to see whether he would beat her to death or not, but his conscience would not allow him. After all, he wasn’t a woman.”

 

Well, maybe corporeal punishment really is for the birds – or at least, better left to the Cossacks.

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