A while ago, I had occasion to spank my eldest daughter.
When I was young, I was spanked as a child and slippered as an adolescent. I grew up in Barcelona, married at the age of twenty-two and had two children, a boy and a girl. My husband and I decided against using corporal punishment on our children. We’d grown up in the seventies and eighties, we’d both been spanked, but times had changed.
At the age of thirteen, just before the Christmas holidays, my daughter brought home a letter from school complaining of her behaviour. She’d been disruptive in class, and another mum had complained that she’d made her child cry. She’d basically been bullying this girl, although it did sound to me as if it was teasing gone too far rather than malicious or hateful behaviour.
My husband and I sent her to her room while we discussed her punishment. We agreed to take away her phone, ground her, and ban her from the television for three weeks. We called our daughter down to explain her sentence, but before we could she asked to speak.
I could see she’d been crying. From the tremulous tone in her voice, I could tell she was sorry about what she’d done.
She said something like, “Mum, dad, I was thinking upstairs. I deserve a punishment, but I don’t want to be grounded. I’ll miss the Christmas parties, and New Year. Can you spank me, please? I want it out of the way.”
My husband and I looked at each other, rather non-plussed.
“I won’t complain to anyone, I promise,” she added.
“Honey, what brought this on? We’ve never hit you,” I asked, after a moment’s pause.
Our daughter told us that she had a friend who had described being spanked at home, and one thing she’d said had stuck with our daughter. This girl said she always felt it was over. Like, her parents were satisfied with her again. Like her guilt had gone away.
“I never feel that when you ground me. Please, I want to try it. This once,” said our daughter.
“Your mum and I need to discuss this,” said my husband, and I was grateful to him for buying us some time.
Our daughter was sent to her room and told we would call her when we’d decided what to do. My husband and I conferred quietly when she’d gone. He suggested we try it this once and see if it makes a difference. I agreed on the basis that spanking hadn’t messed us up.
“It’ll have to be you,” my husband said. “I could spank our son, but not her.”
“Okay,” I said, uncertainly. Then I said what was bothering me. “Isn’t she too old? Isn’t spanking for little kids?”
We decided that since we’d both been spanked at an older age than our daughter, that wasn’t a problem. We traded doubts and concerns. What implement should we use? We agreed on something flat and fairly smooth, maybe a belt; a cane would be too severe. How many strokes was enough for the offence? I had twelve when I was punished as a child, and my husband even more. How would we know we’d gone far enough? Would this be a precedent for punishment in the house? Our son was younger. Suppose he refused? What if our daughter spoke about it at school and we got in trouble?
At last, we came to a tentative agreement. We called our daughter down. She’d tied her brown hair back in a pony tail, removed her contact lenses and put on her red-rimmed glasses.
When she came downstairs, she was wearing pyjama trousers. I couldn’t help wondering if she was expecting to be spanked there and then. If so, she was to be disappointed.
My husband spoke to her calmly, gravely. He told her we’d agreed on this occasion to spank her. But it had to be strictly a matter for this house. She couldn’t tell her teachers, her brother or her friends. She agreed.
I told her I would spank her the following day after school. Her brother would be at football practice, so he’d never know. I gave her the option of changing her mind until the last minute, but once I’d started there would be no going back. She agreed and hugged us both. Then, to our amazement, she sat and watched TV for an hour, laughing along at some cartoons as if nothing had happened.
The next day, I was so nervous. My first task was to obtain an implement, and we’d decided on a plimsoll. I went to the shoe shop and picked out a large sized pair of sports gym shoes. At the counter, the lady asked if I was sure they would fit me. I told her that was not something to be concerned about, and she gave me a knowing look. The plimsolls cost eight euros, and I remember wondering how many times we’d have to use it to get our money’s worth.
All day, memories of my own spankings filled my head. I could hear again the authoritative voice of my father telling my brother and me to drop our pants and bend over the kitchen table. I used to manoeuvre myself carefully so my brother would not see my bottom as I joined him across the table.
I remembered the expression on my brother’s face as the slipper struck his bare backside, his face inches from mine. I remembered biting my lip, not wanting to cry out as the slipper struck my own rear end.
And now I would have to be the spanker. How would my daughter react?
In the hour before my daughter came home from school, I practiced swinging my plimsoll on a cushion set up on a chair, wondering what the neighbours would think if they could see me.
To her credit, my daughter returned on time. There was no lingering or delaying. She came home to face the punishment we had agreed upon without fuss.
“How was school?” I asked, trying to be kind, but she just wanted to get on with it.
I told her to take her things upstairs and come back down when she was ready.
Five minutes later, I heard her coming back down the stairs. There was no turning back now. The plimsoll was lying ready on the kitchen table.
My daughter appeared, her hair tied back. She was wearing pyjama bottoms. She went to the sofa and stood by it, then told me she was ready.
“Come on, then, mum. I’m ready.” she said.
I looked at her.
“You’re going to sit, right? And I’ll lie over your lap?”
I told her she was much too big for that, and that I needed her to bend over something.”
She looked crestfallen. I told her that when my dad spanked me, I had to lean over the kitchen table.
“Let’s try that,” I said.
My daughter leant across the table obediently, but she was evidently too tall for it to place her in a satisfactory position. She positioned herself over the back of a chair, but had to stand on tip toes. It wasn’t comfortable.
I suggested she just touch her toes, and she did so.
“This is pretty embarrassing,” she whined.
“It’s a punishment,” I explained and then suggested her pyjamas needed to come down too.
At this, she stood up again. She protested her pyjamas were made of cotton, they were thin, and they wouldn’t make a difference. The spanking would feel just the same.
I insisted they needed to come down, so my daughter rolled her eyes, pulled her pyjama trousers down, and touched the ground again.
I swung my plimsoll hard onto her bottom. The impact ran up my shoulder, and she yelped. I gave her a second stroke, then the third. That produced a groan.
One reason my father had spanked me so effectively was that he had deliberately ensured every area of my bottom had been struck hard and well. So, the fourth and fifth strokes struck her right where she sat, near the base of her bottom.
At this point, I thought back to my own spankings with the slipper and, one occasion, a wooden spoon. I knew the soreness my daughter would be feeling, the tingling pain, the anticipation between strokes and the sting of each stroke.
After twelve strokes, the twelfth being the hardest I had managed yet, she wailed in pain.
“That will do,” I said quietly.
Quickly, she stood up and pulled her pyjamas up.
“Thanks, Mum,” she said tearfully, and gave me a hug. “That was much better than staying in every night.”
She hurried up to her room and closed the door.
I realised my dad had taught me well.