My brother, five years my elder, and I, were remarkably well-behaved children. He was quite passive, liked to read, listen to classical music and watch “The Mickey Mouse Club” on TV. I was a little more obstreperous, but still knew how to mind my manners. I just wanted attention. Our mother was always frazzled, our father owned a car dealership, worked six days and two nights a week. We had a maid in our little Detroit house when our father was gone. She did all the cleaning, laundry and cooking. Even some childcare. Mother drove us to and from school and participated in ladies’ clubs while we were away.
During the quiet dinners when Dad wasn’t home, Rick teased me, to see if he could get me to giggle until milk came out of my nose, which he could and it did. We would also kick each other under the table. This would infuriate my mother. She never punished me. The threat was always, “Wait until your father gets home.” Then he would spank me for the infringement of good table manners. This left me with distain for my mother and fear of my father, who was actually a very gentle human being and I’m sure hated carrying out my mother’s edict.
I acted out in other ways as well. I took a pencil and scribbled on the wall paper in our Dining Room seen in the Featured Image (this photo taken at my 7th birthday party). An art gum eraser took care of the offense, but I am sure I got a terrible spanking for such a horrible crime.
The worst ever happened on our screened porch. We spent long summers there. The room came off the dining room and was a haven in our non-air conditioned house. We had rattan furniture out there and kept one canvas shade pulled permanently down, as it was behind the couch, offered screening from the near neighbors and was difficult to get at because of the furniture arrangement. The other two shades only came down during storms. But I took a brown crayon to this particular shade and scribbled on it. That was indelible. We didn’t have anything in the late 50s to erase crayon and the marks stayed until the day we sold the house in 1963. I don’t even remember how I was punished for such a crime. I’ve blocked it out entirely.
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.
Sounds like your infractions were pretty minor. How dreadful that your mother made you afraid of your father! And spanking? Wow! Thanks for sharing this, Betsy. As always, I enjoyed your writing, and your birthday party picture is a classic.
I wasn’t a trouble-maker; just occasionally rambunctious. I think my family was fairly normal in the way discipline was meted out, but it did seem unfair, even to my very young self.
I was spanked too, up to probably age 7 or 8, and didn’t really question it as a discipline method. It seemed quite common among my peers at that time. (Even in high school, misbehavior in boys’ gym class, such as not having your gym uniform, was punished by paddling.) Suzy, I salute your parents for being in the vanguard.
I wrote my senior college thesis on parental discipline techniques, and believed then (and now) that physical punishment was not as damaging as love-withdrawal, which was also common at the time. I guess you pays your money, you takes your choice.
John, I agree. With-holding love is terribly damaging, particularly to children, but to anyone at any age.
I had no idea spanking was common in our youth. I guess my parents WERE in the vanguard. John, I would love to read your thesis!
Oh my God, Betsy… I had no idea you “acted out” so much! I suppose all kids do, but when I met you as a teenager, you were so very well-behaved that you were our teachers’ favorite, and a true class leader and role model. It’s fun to think of you misbehaving the way you describe here! Seriously, every story you write here is a revelation, deepening my understanding of, and my love for you, my friend.
Steve, I was always a good kid. I had to think back a LONG way to come up with this story, and it is pretty tame (and I was 3 or 4 at the time of the offenses). I am glad you are getting to know me through this form of writing…we don’t get to talk nearly often enough.
Wow, Betsy, you must have been a terror! Indelible scribbles on the window shade. What was next, being caught with a broken cookie jar and crumbs on your face. I’m guessing you’ve been in trouble a few times since then. ‘Fess up, you little monster!
I am an incredible goodie-two-shoes, Chas. I’ve already written about the time I bit my brother on the ass when I was 3. That was the worst it got. I day-dreamed through a red light recently and got pulled over by a very nice cop. He asked if I knew what I’d done. Absolutely, I did. I think he wanted to make sure I wasn’t texting, which I wasn’t. He didn’t even give me a warning. Truly, I don’t get into trouble. Except for that abortion in 1982. But it was safe, legal and rare. It may be part of next week’s story, but will probably be beyond the scope of the tale.