Cling Clang Clang

Four years into parenthood, I want to look back and say stability is very important. As much as you can, try and be stable people, with a stable marriage, keeping a stable home, holding stable jobs, with stable schedules. The cornerstone of our stability as a family is our nighttime ritual, which rarely changes. At some point around 7:30PM we all go upstairs and help give Fiona a bath, then we each read three stories to her, then we tuck her in and if she's not already asleep, one of us lays down for a few minutes until she nods off.

Part of the night ritual is Mr. Rogers-ifying myself, as I change from daytime clothes into some fleece sweatpants and a fleece jacket. Last night, as I unbuckled my belt and slid off my jeans, I heard the buckle and my pulse and mind started racing.

Cling Clang Clang.

I
rarely wear a belt — probably only half a dozen times a year when the
dress code calls for it, but today I'm wearing jeans I bought when I
weighed 15lbs more than I currently do, so they were a necessity. I
very rarely hear the sound of a buckle clanging around.

The sound of a belt buckle was usually used as a simple threat.

Shut up right now and stop bickering with your brother. Do you want me to get the belt? I'll go get it!

Cling Clang Clang.

My
mother or father would shake the belt in their bedroom closet as it
hung, loud enough to be heard throughout the house. Maybe four out of
five times the threat of violence was enough to get us to stop, and in
the rare cases we didn't stop doing whatever it was we were doing, the
belt was removed from the hook, brought into the room, and used to whip
us along the backside or backside of our legs.

I suppose it is a
generational thing and I guess it was an improvement over my parents'
own respective childhoods. I frequently heard stories of my grandmother
breaking wooden paddles and spoons while hitting my mother as a child.
My grandparents said they were hit, spanked, and beaten by
great-grandparents more frequently than they spanked their own kids. A few years before she died, I remember my grandmother apologizing for how she used to hit her children saying she didn't know of any other way at the time.

I
remember sitting in a college psychology 101 type class at age 19 and
the subject of children and child rearing came up and the professor
mentioned offhand how he never once hit either of his children, and how
they grew up to be well-adjusted adults that knew the difference
between right and wrong. I was in a fairly conservative town and I
remember the class was just flabbergasted (there was an audible gasp). Questions popped up like
"how do you get them to understand when they are wrong?!" and "what if
one of them broke something special to you?" and the professor said
something along the lines of how he simply had discussions with his
children until they understood the gravity of the choice they made or
how it might have disappointed him as a parent. I remember most students
saying things under their breath how the professor was a hippy or that
it sounded ideal, but reality rarely was.

Sometimes
when things
are tense these days and I get very frustrated, I can hear a little
voice in my head wanting to act on impulse and I realize "oh this is
where my parents would have hit me
" but instead I stop for a second and
figure out a way to diffuse the situation.

As I pick up my daughter during our
night ritual and I whisk her into the bathroom to brush her teeth and
get ready for bath, I can't imagine a situation where I am pushed to
the point where I not only want to hit her, but I'd leave the room,
grab a belt, return, and then hit her repeatedly with it. Doesn't that give you enough time to second guess yourself?

"Just
wait until we get home from the restaurant
." I heard that a few times
as a kid too. Delayed and planned beatings are even more baffling.

I
mention
all this not to sound smug or make it sound like I'm making
better choices than my parents, but to just share the sheer
bewilderment about the situation. I've been frustrated with my daughter
before, even started to lose my temper before. I've raised my voice at
her, even yelled to the point I might have scared her before catching
myself and reeling it back in. But I've never spanked her and I'm
confident I never will. Using a belt is something I can definitely say
I will never do, because even as a middle-aged man, one jangle of my
belt buckle is enough to remind
me of what that was like.