Monday, December 31, 2007

This 'N' That

This will be a mish-mash of thoughts and experiences.

Yesterday I went to the store about mid-afternoon while the Cowboy game and several bowl games were televised, I giggled to myself, as traffic was almost as light as Christmas morning. Anyone ever heard Texas is a football state? Actually, I woulda been watching too if I had an aerial. I don't, and the landlady forbids satellite. I refuse to pay cable. So-no football. Considering how the game went, I am just as glad I missed it.

Two weeks before Christmas, I had an emergency and had to call my oldest son, who in turn called my youngest son. Moms are supposed to give help, not ask for it. I really, really hated that. But a funny thing happened. I knew my sons loved me, but I didn't really know how much. And I was expecting them to go all bossy and tell me what to do. They didn't. They were very loving, and we sat down as a family and decided how I would proceed with me getting a full vote. It was a wonderful gift. Presents? Faugh! I got pure, undiluted love for Christmas. What is better than that? And I got the frills, too. I am a very lucky woman.

I usually make my goals and resolutions on my birthday, but this year, I will make some resolutions for tomorrow. I hate whiners, but realize I haven't been meeting some goals because I snivel "it's too hard." I will work on this. Another flaw is my prayers each day for blessings, but when extras come along, I tend to say, "no thank you, I have a plateful and I don't need seconds." How stupid is that? For 2008, I vow to say yes more often than no. And I've always had trouble asking for help. I've worked on this for years and will continue to do so. And I look forward to a happy year. That most of all.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Short Christmas Can Be Twice as Sweet

Shopping last Friday (Dec. 14), I began noticing a lot of people smiling at me. Huh, I thought. What's THAT all about? And then I realized I myself was smiling and happy, humming along with the Christmas carol music and having a good ol' time. Yup. I've always said my Christmas spirit clicks in around Dec. 15. And it did. And I realized how instinctively wise I've been all these years not to start shopping until a week-10 days before the holiday. I'm not a holiday marathoner. I may not even be in the 5 K unless I'm part of a Christmas relay team.

When I was working, I could always dive into the job and avoid this holiday activity until I was ready. (By the way, has anyone else noticed the ads seem particularly numerous and repetitious this year or is that just me? )

Yes, I got about half my shopping done early, but not with joy. At all. I tried not to scowl, but I did fantasize about finding the control panel in some stores and ripping out the wires so I wouldn't hear Christmas music before Dec. 1 for Pete's sake. Even after Dec. 1. I was polite to the clerks, honest. But I suspect I looked kind of grim, because I felt kind of grim.

So next year, I will go back to my usual habits of shopping two weeks before the holiday and quit worrying that most of my friends are organized and are finished long before now. (Talked to one friend this weekend and she has almost everything wrapped. For me, this simply does not compute.)

But then, as I said, I seldom enjoy shopping. It's like being told that for the 12 days of Christmas, we will eat turnips every single day, isn't that great? While listening to Wagnerian operas. While wearing shoes a half-size too small. And I should be thrilled and looking forward to this. Oh, and did I mention? We will pay through the nose for this because It is Good For The American Economy.

But Friday, I really enjoyed shopping. Spent 31/2 hours, in fact, which for me is amazing. Got some stuff for me, too. And now I'm listening to some of my favorite Christmas carols, and I've gotten cards from people I don't hear from but once a year, and I've seen some longtime friends who are usually too busy to synq schedules, and that part I enjoy very much. The spiritual part is a major component, whether or not I'm involved in organized religion in a particular year. At least half my friends eschew the God stuff completely, and that is fine with me. As they accept that for me, it's an absolute essential of Christmas.

This year, I keep thinking about the people who lost their homes in California and the Northwest, and that some folks in Oklahoma are just hoping they will have lights and heat so they can get home for Christmas. Not what they had planned, most likely. And I remember Dr. Seuss' book about The Grinch, who discovered to his puzzlement that even when he took away every single trapping of the holiday, the Who celebrated because Christmas just comes.

I think I will try very hard to be a Who or remember a Who this year. All the time singing carols along with the radio.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Spankings versus Beatings

(sigh) been meaning to write this for days. Just lazy, I guess.

There has been a big brouhaha across the nation over Massachusetts lawmakers considering the absolute ban of pinching, spanking, etc., of children by the parents. And I agree. That's just silly. I've heard some psychologist on radio saying unfortunately, some parents just go too far. Well, that's true.But the majority don't seem to. Go through any school, and you will not see kids with bruises and welts in the halls. You will see smooth-skinned kids without injuries, so far as we know. (A handprint on the butt doesn't show.)

In my state, there is a misconception that the state protective agency doesn't want anyone spanking there kids. That's just not true. Most workers were spanked and in turn, spank their own kids. BUT---

What is a spanking, and what is a beating? My parents both spanked me. Dad used his hand on my bottom (outside my clothes). He got a lot of strength into that swing, and it stung. Sometimes left a red mark that lasted 10 minutes. Mom was the product of Southern parenting. She sent me out to pick my own dreaded switch with a few leaves on the end, and then she switched my calves, three time My, that stung! and again, the marks had faded in 10 minutes. While I was getting the corporal punishment, they were both telling me what I had done wrong, (Dad much louder than Mom) how disappointed they were and how they expected me to act in the future. Spankings were not frequent. They really made an impact, so to speak. And I surely didn't want another one. But I never had a mark. That's a legal definition, by the way, of spanking, except I think Texas law gives the marks up to an hour to fade.

Pinching is okay, too, see above. But I have seen kids with 3-4 red-purple marks on their arms from what must have been really vicious pinches. Life-threatening? Nope. Probably doesn't even interfere with the parent child bond too much. Most folks I dealt with seemed to think that unless there were bruises or welts, the spanking would not do its job. Frequently used implements are wooden spoons (one mom meticulously hit her eight-year-old 70 times; she was not out of control), sticks, yardsticks, thick wooden paddles, belts (for some reason, many I saw held the smooth leather end and swung the buckle, leaving gouges where the tongue bit into the skin one or two inches) and the ever popular electric cord. There are dads who have their children drop their pants and lean over a chair so they can spank them bare-assed. That usually leaves bruises for several days.

And no, the state will not take your kids away for any of the above, unless it's considerably more severe than I have discribed.

Discipline means the parent is in control and has a goal, a lesson to be learned, from the spanking. Too often, I've seen evidence the parents lost control and just flailed away.

No, foster parents are NOT allowed to use coropral punishment. Think about it. Why? The kids have already been abused, to the extent they have been taken out of their homes. Foster parents get extra training, and many are super good with kids anyway. You should see the appearance and behaviour of these kids after six months of predictability, safety, and consistent rules. You really can parent effectively without spanking, hitting, slapping or pinching. But for many, it takes classes to introduce these new ideas. It's kind of like always knowing how to use a hammer very well, and then going into a class where you learn about a whole bunch of new tools and how to use them. You hardly have to use the hammer at all any more.

I remember a 13-year-old girl with a single mother we were dealing with. Mom was 28 or 29 and absolutely beautiful, and a very strong woman. She dealt with the schools, with social services, with police, and she was invariably polite. But she had decided what she was going to do and she was not to be dissuaded.

Daughter, 13, was also beautiful and fully developed. At the point of our visit, she was 3-5 months pregnant and stubbornly refusing to reveal the identity of the father Oh. And she had a mouth. Sometimes she got in scuffles at school and ended up in alternative classes. Mom was beside herself.

So the day came when she came to school with welts all over her, electric cord welts. No open cuts, but welts, on her arms on her back and yes, on her barely pregnant belly. This was not discipline. This was Mom utterly losing it. Kid wasn't in mortal danger, but still--not supposed to happen. And it indicated a bad situation at home where things could escalate. I was on-call that day (meaning from 4:30 p.m. that day till 8 a.m. the next morning I was called to handle any reported emergency that came in to my county.) My boss sent me out to get a signed paper contract (not legal in court, but most folks who sign such contracts and put their name on it will honor it. Health care counselors sometimes use the same technique with depressed clients to keep them safe till the next session.)

"There is no way we are picking up this kid," my supervisor told me. "and you are not to leave without a signed contract." Nice work if you can get it...thank God by then we had cell phones.

When I got to the home, Mom was in the kitchen cooking supper. She wasn't happy, but did let me talk to her daughter alone in the bedroom. She turned off the stove and we began to talk. And we talked and talked. She steadfastly refused to sign anything. She obviously was angry and frustrated with her daughter. After two hours, I was getting a little desperate because I relaly needed to use the bathroom. I figured I would have to excuse myself, drive to a store a block or two away and return, hoping she would let me back in.

Finally she sighed and said she didn't understand what was going on these days. Her mother had whipped her children and no one intervened. She said she guessed my parents had never spanked me. No, I told her emphatically. I was spanked.
"Then you had bruises," she said. No, I told her, I had spankings and switchings but I never had a mark after about 10 minutes. She stared at me. I looked at her. We had a joint epiphany. It had never occcurred to her a spanking or whipping could be administered without some lasting marks. It had never occured to me that she didn't understand it could be done withOUT leaving lasting marks. We talked another hour and somehow my bladder perservered. And ultimately she signed. And she kept her word, too.

So when people talk about giving spankings, I've learned that what one person means may be very different from the law. And in many cases, this doesn't matter a great deal. But I still run into people who rhink spankings or whippings mean beating the kid black and blue or leaving switch marks that last for days. That DOES matter.

Government doesn't have a right to intrude on your family to insure your kids a happy childhood. You can still be as dysfunctional as you want. You just can't beat your kids black and blue or puncture their skin with belt buckle tongues or leave bleeding wounds. That's not too intrusive, is it?