Being a Dad
By Michael Eagan
October 7, 1999
I was watching television the other week, and one of those daytime talk shows came on where white people talk like black people and try to out-sass one another. I couldn't hear a lot of it because it was bleeped, and our television doesn't have any sound, but this got me to thinking; is our society as a whole getting sassier, more sarcastic, more ironic? Are we holding these traits, which were once considered taboo in polite society, as something to be emulated, even envied in our modern age? It's an intriguing thought, and a downright scary one to parents like myself who are trying as best they can to raise their kids to be respectful, productive members of society.
Isaiah is ten years old now, so he's pretty good about not sassing back. It's usually only once or twice a month he'll say something or give me some sort of look that makes me think he's subtly defying me. That's when it's time for a good old-fashioned spanking. If he should happen to do it in front of his mother or company, however, then it's time to get out Old Red, my rhinestone-studded cowboy belt. It's been so effective that he now trembles uncontrolably and refuses to speak every time I wear it. Sometimes he even wets himself.
Zachary is younger, so I haven't had as much time to beat him into subjugation. I am confident he'll learn; he's just at that age where the rebellious bones start coming in. Sometimes, for example, he'll refuse to take his nightly bath, and I have to physically drag him to the bathroom, strip him, and force him into the bathwater by hand. If he cries, I make the water colder. If he fights, I make the water too hot. He is slowly learning, I think, that the only way to get a comfortable bath is to take it without fighting or complaining, or to take it when Daddy isn't drunk. If I'm drunk I just make the water too hot because I can.
Kimmy, however, is a little hellion sometimes. She's six years old, and you have to watch her like a hawk. It seems like she's always trying to do something or get away with something defiant that could potentially hurt her if not corrected immediately. When she was three, for example, I accidentally left her in a hot car with the windows rolled up while I went into the liquor store. By the time I came out, she was passed out and needed to be taken to the emergency room. Boy oh boy, when she recovered did I give her one hell of a beating. She never pulled that one again.
There was another time, when Kimmy was five, that we had a power failure in the middle of the night, and so Kimmy's alarm didn't go off early enough for her to prepare Daddy's Saturday coffee and breakfast. My wife and I woke up late that day as well, because our alarms hadn't gone off either. When I found out what had happened, I refused to let Kimmy out to play with her friends, and instead made her clean the whole house top to bottom all day, with breaks every half-hour for spankings. I also didn't let her eat or drink anything for the next two days, just so she'd know how Daddy feels when his Saturday coffee and breakfast isn't ready when he wakes up. By the time Monday rolled around, she was pretty weak and her throat was too dry for her to talk, but I knew she had learned her lesson well. Now she keeps a wind-up alarm clock next to her bed. Her teacher called us that evening with questions; I just told him she a small case of laryngitis, and I never heard another word about it.
Sometimes I wonder if television is what corrupts my children into disobedience. It was just last month that I told Kimmy to clean the rats out of the crawl space under the house, and she warned me, "Don't go there, girlfriend." I beat her till she was unconscious, but in light of my recent experience with talk-show viewing, I wonder if she was, in fact, just mimicking what she had seen on TV. That's probably what she was doing, and thus I regret beating her the way I did. If I had been more attuned to what she was really doing, I could have beaten her even harder. Instead I put her down before I drew blood because the phone rang.
But I'm sure I can make up for that next time. In fact, I recently bought a leather switch at our local Farm & Home store, the kind cowboys use on horses, and I'm itching for a chance to use it on my little horses. That's what being a Dad is all about. There is no fatherhood rule book, no instruction manual, no Kama Sutra of spanking positionsyou just have to play everything by ear. Sometimes you make mistakes, sometimes you miss opportunities to teach important lessons, and sometimes you don't understand what your child is really trying to say when he or she sasses you back. Now matter what, you should never turn a deaf ear to sassiness or rebelliousness, this behavior could be your child's way of asking for harder or more traumatic spankings.
Being a Dad in today's world is complicated, to be sure, but it's a challenge I'm taking by the horns and roping into submission.
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