Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Crime and Punishment

My father didn't believe in spanking; neither did my mother. They really didn't have to, at least not with me: I was such an uber-sensitive kid that just frowning at me would reduce me to tears. My sister, on the other hand, was a handfull. They don't come much more headstrong than her, especially in the early years.

Which brings me to a story that, for reasons to boring to recount, I was thinking about just yesterday. In my family, we call it The People Incident.

Do you remember those little Fisher Price people with the round bodies that fit into holes in toys like the Fisher Price School Bus? Well, back in the Stone Ages when I was a child, they were made out of wood, instead of the ubiquitous, light-weight plastic of today. One day, my sister and I were arguing over who was going to get to put one or another of these wooden people into the Fisher Price ferris wheel that had been a present given to one or the other of us. Now, despite being 3.5 years younger than me, J was and still is one tough cookie. And strong. So when she finally wrested the little figurine out of my hands and I howled in anger to our parents, she--completely out of frustration and anger--threw it back at me, hitting me in the forehead and raising a nice little knot. My father, who had witnessed the throwing of the toy after responding to my howls, was incensed. And decided, on the spur of the not-his-best-thinking moment, to go with the whole eye-for-an-eye thing. So he made J--who couldn't have been more than 4 or 5 years old--stand across the room from him. And then he took that little wooden character...and whipped that sucker across the room at her, where it glanced off her shoulder with an audible thunk.

I don't remember if she cried; I don't think she remembers either. We were both just too shocked at the sight of this 6-foot-tall angry man hurling a piece of hard wood at a 4-year-old.

Of course, as the years went by, it became a joke between J and I: "If you don't give that to me," we'd say as teenagers, and even now as adults, "I'll throw a people at you."

And my dad? Like so much of his life, he has only the vaguest memory of the incident, much less what prompted him to think that was a good, nurturing idea.

The moral of the story? If you haven't sent a chunk of wood hurtling toward your child's head or body recently, you're doing a great parenting job. See? Isn't it all so much easier when you just readjust the high bar a bit?

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