Hal and the Flute

I have hesitated on whether to share this story because it involves spanking, which is a rather hot-button issue in parenting circles. I’m not interested in joining that debate. I think that many of us are on the fence on whether or not spanking of any kind is ever an appropriate tool in our parenting arsenal. I personally tend to agree with the anti-spankers on the notion that there are usually better ways to administer discipline and consequences. That said, spanking was part of my childhood and that can be difficult to overcome. And sometimes I simply can’t find a way to make the severity of the situation understood by my strong-willed and stubborn children. So, please, if you are opposed to spanking, extend me a little grace, knowing that I struggle with the issue, and please try to see the smiling moment in this tale.

Jane recently acquired a flute and hopes to join the band next year. The day the flute arrived, I had a very serious conversation with Hal about it. I explained that the flute was not ours and was very delicate and expensive and he was not to ever, ever touch it. I used my best stern, I’m-not-kidding-around-this-is-serious mommy voice to make sure he understood.

The next day, I was away from the house for awhile and when I returned, I found the flute case open on the dining room table with the individual parts in disarray on top of it. I bellowed Hal’s name and he reluctantly came into the room.

“Did you mess with Jane’s flute?”

“Yes.” His voice was very small.

“Hal, this is very serious. We talked about this.” I took him firmly by the hand and led him back to his bedroom. On arrival, I squatted down in front of him and took both hands. I looked him in the eyes. “Do you understand that that is a very expensive piece of equipment? It is not a toy and it does not belong to us. You cannot play with it. You must understand that. We aren’t playing around. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

“Ok. You are going to get a spanking for this because you had been told.”

As I finished speaking, his little face crumpled and his eyes welled with tears. I expected a protest about not wanting a spanking but that’s not what I got.

In a desperate,yet resigned voice, he cried, “But Daddy already gave me one!”

In that moment, my heart went out to the poor boy. He had let his curiosity get the better of him and had messed with something he knew he wasn’t supposed to. His father had found out and punished him. Then his mother found out and was about to punish him again. And in the same way. He was trying to bear the consequences as best he could but this was too much. I could see in his eyes that he understood the severity of the situation and was not likely to ever touch the flute again.

“Oh, honey!” I cried. “If Daddy already gave you one, I won’t give you another. I didn’t know.” I wrapped him in a hug and felt the relief in his body as he hugged me back. I then wondered why my husband had not put the flute away after he found it. My planned administration of discipline had been born from my belief that I was the first person to encounter the flute, given its found state. I was later to learn that he hadn’t known how to put it in the case so had left it for me to deal with.

I honestly don’t know if the spanking alone would have been enough to stop Hal’s handling of the flute. But the unintended tag-team of the spank and the almost-spank worked miracles.

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