Friday, May 25, 2007

Dreams and Spankings...

Last night I had a dream I was moving back to a home I lived in when I was 30 (on my parents' property). When I walked in the front door and into all the rooms, I found all of Dad's work shop stuff stored in every nook and cranny of my house to a point where there was a small path leading through every room and no room for anything else!

Now, there’s a message! I was pretty miffed, to say the least, and going to require him to move it out.

I think what stopped me from moving forward for so many years was Dad’s “stuff” that invaded my life: his assertion that I would fall flat on my ass, etc. Had I insisted earlier on moving that crippling prophecy out of my psyche, I would have progressed faster (without as much fear and trepidation) toward the kind of life I am now living – in the spirit, with the muse – living the goal I always had for myself.

But even in the dream I had a hard time feeling mad at Dad for more than a few moments… In the dream, his shop had burned down and the only place he had left to keep anything was with me. That, too, was a metaphor of his life. He needed to have his stuff in our lives because his own life had pretty much burned down around him before he was ten. (He was an unwanted fifth child and photos of him even as an eight year old show a very sad-looking little guy who looked pretty lost and alone.)

I think my compassion has enabled me to forgive many unpleasant aspects of the way Dad lived and treated those he loved. If I had missed the experiences I had being raised under his roof, I would perhaps never have known emotional hardship, and without that, I may not have learned compassion for others and ultimately for him…

When Melody (Jackie’s best friend from childhood) was here last weekend, we were discussing birth order and she mentioned that the middle child is generally the peacemaker and peacekeeper. (I am a middle child.) Jackie looked at me and said, “Not in Kris’s case!”

I was taken aback, as was Melody. Melody insisted, “Yes, she was!” and Jackie said, “No, she wasn’t!”

I kept silent, since this was about other peoples’ impressions of me (which can be painfully instructive if you’re strong enough for it!). Melody said, “Kris was always peaceful, in her bedroom writing or out with the animals.” Jackie said, “No, she wasn’t! There were times when she was very UNpeaceful! The time she took ______ on for holding a knife to my throat, and another time when she almost pummeled ______ for being a tormentor.” And Melody said, “There you go! She was being a peace-keeper at that point. Peacekeepers aren’t always peaceable, you know!”

And Jackie got it. She looked at me, mouth a bit open, experiencing an “Aha!” moment.

Whenever I was belligerent as a kid it was nearly always because someone else had overstepped the boundaries of civilized interaction with someone else. (I will usually allow someone to trample on me pretty good before I’ll call a halt; I am much quicker to react when someone else is in harm’s way.) In childhood and teenage years I was usually in my bedroom doing my own thing (writing or reading) – engaging my mind in some mythological noble pursuit.

I used to wonder why solitude was so compelling to me, but looking back I certainly understand it now: Outside my bedroom door was utter emotional chaos! Dad was the personification of the Tasmanian Devil. Big sis was all too often engaged in calling her sisters “Fatso” “Retard" and the and other equally-negative appellations. Jackie, the baby in the family, hit both of us over the head with a wooden spoon when she was a toddler (with Dad’s help -- he carried her on his shoulders so she could catch and bash us) and developed a bossy attitude -- which I actually treasure most of the time these days! No one else can say "Kris" to me the way she does and make it sound like a reprimand! Any time she disagrees or thinks I'm all wet, I'll get a "Kris" that sorta corrodes the lining of my stomach... What she's saying is, "I am trying to be peaceable here, but you are so far off base you are on the moon!"

In the Smith family, Mom and I were two peaceable types existing in a tornado alley of related lunatics! (I say that with a laugh and a lot of love!)

(Mea culpa -- there were many times when I too engaged in cruel verbal jousting; but usually only because it seemed to me almost impossible to be truly heard in our family when I was peaceable and quieter. I remember thinking one time, "The only time Dad really listens to me is when I'm riled to the boiling point or so freaking upset I can hardly breathe I'm crying so hard...")

I love my sisters with all my heart, and I loved my mom and dad (and still do). None of this is intended to belittle anyone. It’s just amazing what looking back in love does to one’s perspective. We were all just “out of control” – the others all-too-often launching verbal assaults and Mom and me off in our little cocoons of stolen moments of solitude, temporarily escaping the stress of chronic emotional uprisings.

I just wanted to be left alone. I still do when people start to get dicey and unpleasant. That’s no way to live, really – at the end of two extremes: unmitigated tension and sublime meditation. But it was so at our place.

Yet other kids often told us they wished they lived in our family – so others had it much, much worse. I have since heard horror stories of other childrens’ lives. My childhood may have left scars but no gaping wounds that refuse to heal… There was no sexual or physical abuse. Oh, I was spanked a few times as a child, and swatted well once as a teenager, and deserved every one of them!

I don’t consider spanking abusive; sometimes it was the only thing that could capture my attention and make me STOP and LISTEN to what Mom was telling me! I think kids who are never spanked don’t realize that there are actions and activities that are wholly unacceptable. Spanking should be reserved for those moments: e.g, when a child is tormenting an animal or another person, or running headlong toward a busy street. “YEOWCH!” is a wonderful, effective way to instill vital lessons!

Matters of safety and decent interaction need to be enforced physically the FIRST time (and any subsequent times they occur) so that a child has a Significant Emotional Experience and SEEs that THERE IS A VERY SERIOUS CONSEQUENCE FOR DISOBEYING THIS PARTICULAR RULE. Time outs and time in the corner should be for minor violations (failure to put toys away, interrupting, having an attitude, etc.). Stuff that can get a kid killed or actions that willfully injure another living being (animal or human) should be met with the strictest form of discipline – a heated up hind end! In my opinion. I’m not trained as a child psychologist and I’m not a mother, but this is how I would raise up a child in the way he or she should go… My Mom did it for me (spanking), and I’m no worse the wear for it – and probably a whole lot better than I would have been without strict limits on the parameters she set for me.


Anonymous said...

I often wonder how different Denny would be had he been the first child. But as you said some children had it much better or much worse. I had a hard time in my early 20's with my birth order. I felt that Denny was mom's favorite, and he was. I had a lot of anger towards both of them. But looking back I realize that I was dad's favorite. I finally forgave my mom....and boy did it feel good. I also realized that it wasn't Denny's fault. Then he forgave me for being so mean to him. Becoming a mom helped me understand and come to terms with it. I do my best everyday to make sure my kids don't hate each other or me. Not trying to be their best friend....but guide them, and try very hard to not show favorites. I don't care what a parent says, it is hard to not favor them. I love the girls the same, but for different reasons. One restored my faith in the Lord, and one saved me long enough to find that faith. I know that you know my story of how I came "back" to God. And if you don't I will share it with you this weekend. I so enjoy this blog. Thank you for doing it.


PS. I too believe that no child ever was harmed by a swat on the behind for trying to run in the street!!

Kristine M Smith said...

I thrilled you're enjoying the blog! Tell others! If it's a plus for you, it may be for others, as well! Help me get the word out!

THANKS! Love ya!

Anonymous said...

I can relate to much of what you said about your childhood. Not because I was a middle but because my mother was and chaos was always outside her room as well. I still am trying to understand her aloofness and sense of aloneness and your story has helped me with this.

I don't agree with you about kids needing to be hit though. No child needs to be hit to teach them about life. We are really one of the last countries who believe this. Most other countries have now outlawed CP because they have recognized that children are people and can be raised without punishment and without violence.
The more an adult is reactive the more the child is reactive. The more calm an adult is, the more calm a child is. Lessons in life - even the tough ones take going over and over with children. And they do learn. Ironically, children who hurt animals the most are the ones who are hurt themselves. Smack a child and many animals pay the price. Be kind and patient with a child and everyone benefits.