I am the oldest of four, with a sister two years younger, and brothers five and eight years younger. Though my parents were, and are, progressives, when it came to child-rearing, they were decidedly old-fashioned. They had very clear rules and expectations, and spanking was the first response consequence if we broke them. All of us were spanked into our mid-teens.
By the time the older of the two boys was born, mom had stepped aside from her classroom teacher career and was a full-time stay-at-home mother. I would estimate that 90 percent of the spankings at home came from her. She oversaw the day-to-day running of the house and also closely monitored our behavior at school. A note from a teacher, a detention or some other disciplinary incident at school would guarantee us a paddling at home. The former teacher always gave the current teacher the benefit of the doubt.
She followed an elaborate procedure that included corner time before and after, a lengthy lecture, fetching implements and making us count the swats out loud. From the time we were sent upstairs to wait until we were released from the corner after, as much as an hour could have gone by. The whole process was designed to be a hassle, an ordeal we would not want to experience again.
The overwhelming majority of spankings from mom went unreported to dad, and he never knew that most of them had even happened. There was never a ‘wait until your father gets home’ with mom. She took care of business and we all carried on afterward, and it might never even be on his radar.
Now, dad did spank, though his tended to be much more impromptu and for line-of-sight type of things, like ‘screwing around’ with his power tools (older of the boys), breaking the neighbor’s lawn mower (younger of the boys) or running down the battery playing with the electric seats in his truck (my sister).
On occasion, though, mom might feel an incident was serious enough that he needed to know about it, too. An encounter with dad was the nuclear option in our house, and on those times when mom had informed him of some particularly egregious thing we had done, it was after she had already taken us across her knee for a dose of paddle or hairbrush to our bare bottoms. Now, we would be faced with his wrath as well as hers, and his wrath was definitely not something you wanted to provoke.
Dad always, and only, used the strap when he spanked us; the old leather tool belt that his dad had worn and had used to discipline my father and his siblings. All the pockets had been removed and it was a couple inches wide and permanently creased over, firm but supple, and in his hands a truly fearsome implement. He never used it in anger, but it was clear when he did he was not happy with our actions and we definitely would feel the effects for a couple of days after.
He had far less procedure than mom. No corner time before and very rarely after. Most times, he’d go get the strap then have you drop your pants and grab your knees right in the kitchen. As sis and I got older, he afforded us a bit more modesty and would take us downstairs to the basement recreation room or sometimes, in warmer weather, out to the detached garage.
I managed to keep my encounters with him rare. It wasn’t that I was perfectly behaved, but I was better at hiding things from my folks than my siblings were. The last strapping from him came when I was just about 14. Mom caught me sneaking out (actually sneaking back in) from seeing my new boyfriend illicitly.
Following an epic paddling from her, she told my dad when he got home from work. That earned me a trip to the basement, him holding the strap in one hand and my arm in the other. I had to drop my shorts and bend over the arm of the couch, and I got 10 sound licks on my bare butt and an admonition not to sneak out of the house again or it would be worse. I never cried with spankings from mom past age 8 or 9. I was stubborn and never wanted her to have the satisfaction, but I was always in tears if I was in trouble with my dad, even before the strap fell.
When my little brother Kevin was in 9th grade, he broke the window of the school behind our house when he was flicking rocks with his hockey stick on the way home from practice. He tried to run away, but the pastor of the church spotted him and called our house. Mom was furious with him, especially because of the embarrassment of the pastor calling. I was not living at home by then, but I happened to be there visiting when this took place and had a front row seat for the paddling he got from mom before he even changed out of his hockey gear.
My dad came home a short time later. Mom told him what happened and that the head of the volunteer maintenance committee at the school had called. Could he come over and help with clean-up and temporary enclosure until the window could be replaced? My dad’s jaw tightened and he headed to the stairs. Moments later, he returned with little brother in one hand and strap in the other.
“I have to go help fix this window you broke,” he said to my brother. “And we are going to have to pay the insurance deductible on this. Well, we’re going to figure out how you are going to repay us for that, but meantime I’m going to take a deposit out of your butt. Drop your pants.”
My brother looked equal parts scared and embarrassed. He shucked down the sweats he was wearing, and his boxers, and he bent over and grabbed his knees while my dad went to work. There were 12 licks in all, given in rapid fire succession, and he covered his bum from the top down to the tops of his thighs. My brother toughed it out without crying but it was evident from the grunts and gasps and squeals that he was in distress. My dad told him to stick his nose in the corner until he got back from the window clean-up and that is where my brother stayed for the next hour, his striped bottom on display for everyone to see.
I remember a serious strapping my sis took from dad in 7th grade, when she was caught with cigarettes. Both my folks’ dads had serious health issues related to smoking and it was the one thing my parents had zero tolerance for. When my mom found the cigarettes, she paddled my sister in front of the rest of us and left her standing in the corner with her red bottom showing until dad came home.
When he heard the news, he went upstairs and came back with the strap, called her out and gave her a dozen licks on her bare bottom while she was bent over grabbing a kitchen chair. She was howling and sobbing after he was done, hopping up and down and rubbing her crimson behind while flashing her dirty blond pubic triangle at me and our ogling brothers. That was another rare time where dad made someone stand in the corner afterward as a lesson to everyone. It was a very subdued dinner we ate, with my sis with her nose parked in the corner just a few feet away from the table. We shared a room and I saw marks from the strap for several days after when she changed.
A similar fate befell Patrick, the older of my two younger brothers. When he was in 8th grade, he, one of our cousins who was in his class and another kid were caught drinking behind the maintenance garage during recess at the Catholic school they attended. My cousin had taken these single shot rum bottles from his parents and the three of them were taking swigs from them when they were caught. This was a BFD and there was an after school conference with the moms and the principal (a nun). The upshot was that the three of them would have two Saturdays of detention, which meant a half day of tasks like cleaning classrooms and doing yardwork around the school. That was the least of my brother’s worries.
When they made the short trek home from school, mom sent him up to change and told him to bring back the paddle and be quick about it. While the rest of us sat at the kitchen table doing homework, she made him drop his pants and underwear and go over her knee for a paddling on his bare bottom. She made him stand bare butt in the kitchen in the corner for about a half hour, then sent him to his room with a: “I’m sure your father is going to want to deal with you, too.” All of us at the table gulped because we knew what that meant.
When dad came in, mom briefed him on the incident. You could see the color coming to his face, but to his credit, he waited about 15 minutes before he sent my little brother up to their room to tell Patrick to come down and bring the strap with him. It was just before dinner and all of us were at the table when my brother came down, strap in hand. My dad pulled a chair from the table and placed it in the middle of the kitchen, took the strap from my brother and told him to get his pants down and bend over.
“I am going to show everyone what happens to kids who drink and who embarrass this family.”
I had a profile view of my brother and could see my dad draw back the strap and bring it down with a loud crack in the center of my brother’s bottom. My brother let out a hiss and I saw him thrust forward. My dad was not as measured or methodical as mom, and the licks came in a rapid succession of CRACK..CRACK…CRACK. Patrick was not counting, but I was, and dad gave him 18 in all that left his bottom a criss-cross of angry red horizontal stripes. It was the most licks I remember any of us ever getting from him. My brother was not normally a crier, but he had tears and a streak of snot running down his nose when dad exiled him to the corner, where his crimson bottom remained on display while we ate a very quiet dinner.
EPILOGUE: My cousin Judi told me her brother, who had taken the rum, got both a dose of the strap and 12 licks with the stick, a vinyl mini-blind wand they considered to be the nuclear option at their house. Years later, Patrick told me he and our cousin had compared butts the next day at their Saturday detention and they agreed our cousin got the worst of the deal.