Are strict parents such a bad thing?
Andrea lay back, eyes closed, reclined on the wooden garden chair; her cold drink fizzed on the round wooden table by her side. The page of her book was marked by being open against the table. Her senses soaked in the sounds of the garden. Quiet music ebbed and flowed in the background, birds sang, there was a hum of wildlife. The sweet smell of the freshly mown lawn was being cut away by the first gentle wafts of the warm smoke from the barbecue.
A shrill cry of excitement made her jump. She looked around, lifting her sunglasses to survey the scene.
The garden was in full bloom and, freshly tidied, it looked it’s best. Her husband, Peter, stood over the barbecue; flames still leapt high and on this windless day the plumes of smoke rose in a vertical tower. Only the occasional breeze broke its journey and blew it towards her.
The cry had come from her young granddaughter who was chasing butterflies around the bushes with her mother, Emma, in hot pursuit. Emma was Peter and Andrea’s 26 year old daughter, a beautiful young woman who made them both very proud. They both drew close to the large hydrangea which stood alongside the shed, sporting huge bright pink blooms.
The butterfly had settled on this giant plant and Emma slowly approached and cupped her hands gently around the magnificent insect. Carefully she turned, crouched and opened her fingers revealing the creature to the young girl. Her face filled with joy, and quick as a flash she grabbed the beast with her little fingers.
“Stop!” Shouted Emma. The little girl recoiled in surprise. She opened her hands to reveal the battered remains of the butterfly. Emma quickly removed the debris and returned her focus to her daughter. Crouching again and nose to nose, a firm but calm discussion began.
Andrea couldn’t hear the words but saw the young girls head dip and moments later walk slowly to the back step where she would sit quietly and think about her actions. Emma walked towards her mother, wiping her palms on her jeans. She sat across the table from Andrea. The two Mothers exchanged a knowing gaze that said: “Kids!”
Andrea rested her head back, replaced her glasses and returned to her thoughts. Andrea often mused on the past and this event brought thoughts of a young Emma growing up with a more traditional system of discipline. She did regret some of her actions so much, and wanted to hold Emma and say sorry, wishing she could have been the Mum that a Emma had become. But a part of her wondered if she would have become that woman if she had been brought up differently. Would she have learned respect and patience? Would she have worked so hard to become the brilliant and talented nurse she now was? Or would she have let distractions pull her in another direction? No, Andrea decided she hadn’t done too badly. As the sun beamed down, her thoughts continued in the past.
Peter had taken the responsibility for punishing their son, Simon. The details had been a mystery. There would be a sudden explosion of anger and Simon would be marched or dragged into their father’s study. If he walked himself then Dad was already unbuckling his belt as he entered the room. After a minute the ‘cracks’ would begin and eventually the cries. Finally Simon would leave the room, eyes reddened, rubbing his backside, head down, making directly for his bedroom and slamming the door. Emma would avoid her father for the next few hours.
Andrea had always been responsible for punishing their daughter and fortunately hadn’t been called upon to raise her hand very often. The family had always been clear that while the children lived under their roof then they would follow the rules or face firm punishment and the final time Emma had been spanked was a couple of months after she turned eighteen and just four months before she left home for university.
The punishment had been a long time coming. She and her friends had started going out on an evening, but at an important time, leading up to her A-Level exams, Andrea had set a tight curfew. For the last four nights, despite warnings, Emma had become gradually later and later getting home. That night as she sneaked into the living room she was surprised to see her Mum sat waiting for her. Her heart really fell when she noticed the wooden hairbrush lying on the arm of the chair.
She began to protest: “Mum, you can’t! It’s not…”
She was cut off by a no-nonsense snap from Andrea.
“Stop! I’ll see you back down here after you have showered.”
There was no point arguing. Emma slouched up the stairs, undressed and began her shower. She was initially tempted the drag her feet and give her Mum time to calm down but experience told her that waiting would probably cause the anger to grow and ultimately her bottom would suffer. Shower complete, she dried carefully, put on her pyjamas and dried her hair quickly. Her heart was fluttering in her chest as she walked down the stairs towards her fate.
Andrea had made it clear some time ago that Emma was now too big to go over her knee and demanded she bend over the arm of the chair. Sighing and feeling very hard done by, Emma bent over, bare feet planted behind her, hands on the leather seat. Emma was now face to face with the hairbrush. It had been in the family as long as Emma could remember, but it had never been used to brush her hair, only ever to cause pain. As her Mum picked up the brush, Emma put her head down and braced herself.
Andrea gripped the brush firmly and walked around the chair to stand behind her daughter. The white cotton pyjamas with fine pink and blue stripes had pulled tight across Emma’s bottom as she bent forward, making Andrea’s target clear. The spankings in this house were never for effect; Emma would be made to feel the error of her ways. Andrea brought the brush down hard and fast on the right hand side of Emma’s bottom with a ‘clap’ that echoed around the room, but she didn’t cry out.
The silence didn’t last as two swats quickly fell in the same spot with as much force as the first.
“Oooouuuccchhh!” Came the cry as she tried to turn her hips to move her cheek away from danger.
It soon returned to position, though, as three swats rained down on the left. Andrea watched Emma’s bottom bounce with each swat and jiggle with some relief when she paused.
The next salvo began back on the right. Emma gritted her teeth and squeezed her eyes shut as what felt like hundreds of nettle stings repeatedly flashed across her bottom. Andrea hit the right cheek another three times. Her anger was falling away.
She pulled back the girl’s pyjamas a little to check the damage. The bottom was bright pink but not quite what she was expecting. The elastic waist band snapped back. Andrea placed her left hand on Emma’s back. Emma tensed sensing that this was going to HURT.
For this final assault Andrea’s pace was slower but she put all the force she could muster in slamming that wooden brush against the girl’s behind. Emma wanted to cry out but held everything in for that final six swats, then leapt up and squeezed her palms against her hot bottom. This behaviour and the tears now streaming down her face told Andrea that she had made her point and she suggested her daughter do some reading and then go to bed.
Emma re-climbed the stairs but interrupted the journey to her room to use the bathroom mirror. Knowing that in a couple of days she would be changing for games in front of her friends, she was horrified to see that a ring of bruises with a pale centre had already formed on each side of her bottom.
Andrea’s mind came back to the present. She knew the day after, Emma had got up and had a normal day. Apart from a few days of extra good behaviour you would never have know that something had happened. She did wonder what Emma would have said if she had felt the need to apologise.
Had she been asked, Emma would have probably joked that her Mum should ‘forget it’, to ‘stop worrying’, ‘I probably deserved it.’ However if she’d been honest with herself she probably would have said ‘sometimes I hated you’ and ‘it was too late’.
Andrea heard a laugh. Looking up again, her little granddaughter had returned to play, teasing her Grandad whose barbecue seemed to have settled down. Andrea wasn’t sure that today a lesson had been learned. Beside her, Emma smiled to see her daughter happy. She was sure the other butterflies were safe and hoped her little girl would never have cause to fear her the way Emma had feared her mother. Emma stood and headed to the kitchen to fetch the tray of meat for her father. He was ready to cook and she wanted to return to playing again.
© Jenny 2016