Family / Parenting

Dear Parents: Hang Up and Hit Your Kids

Your children are out of control, and you’re oblivious, yammering on and on into your phone about how you literally can’t even while ignoring them with a single-mindedness usually reserved for Olympic athletes and religious extremists. The rest of us, however, are not so gifted as to tune out the wailing that would seem to call for an intervention; would seem to insist on, at minimum, some form of acknowledgement. For the love of god, everyone within earshot has acknowledged it. The stares, slack jaws, and bonding looks shared by total strangers should be a signal to hang up and do something. Anything. But of course, if your own flesh and blood can’t garner your attention, it’s clearly asking too much for you to pick up on the silent cues of others. And while you go on either blissfully or willfully clueless, or both, the rest of us are forced to simply endure the shrieks, tantrums, and hurtling of little bodies onto the ground in writhing, convulsive clumps. Forced to stand idly by and witness the knocking of items off shelves, the torpedo-like slamming into other people, the scaling of structures never meant to be scaled. Because, god forbid, we should be seen as crossing that Checkpoint Charlie of societal borders: parenting someone else’s child.

I’m begging you–the world is begging you–pay enough attention to your kid to hang up and hit ‘em.

I’m not talking about abuse. I’m not talking about drawing blood or leaving marks. I’m talking about a jolt to the system so that your kid learns how to behave in public and doesn’t wind up like Donald Trump. (And if you just thought, “My kid could do way worse than growing up to be like Donald Trump,” you’re part of the problem.)

A little bit about me: as a child I felt very safe, I felt very loved, and, when necessary, I felt very much the sting of my parents’ hand. We got hit. Not a lot, just when necessary. When we were little, it was a spanking. As we got older, a smack. In recent years, my parents have tried to rewrite this piece of our history. “We hit you…what…three times,” my mother said to me recently. “Ummm no, Ma. More than that.” I’m guessing this has something to do with current social mores, or maybe they just don’t remember, but my brother will back me up on this: we got hit, more than three times. Sometimes upside our head. Sometimes right across our condescending smirk. Sometimes whatever they could reach from the driver’s seat. Oh, the horror of that disembodied hand reaching to the backseat like the alien coming out of John Hurt’s chest. We would scatter like cockroaches to either side of the car, because we knew that when that sightless, angry, Jack-in-the-Box of a hand grabbed something, it wasn’t letting go. Ever.

As an adult, I feel neither damaged nor abused by this. Although I was deeply confused when my nephews were born and my parents suddenly decided they “don’t believe in hitting.” Huh. Interesting. I did not become a violent person, taking the lessons of my occasional physical punishments as a signal that hitting is the way to solve problems. Quite the contrary, actually. I abhor violence. I turn away from it on the news and scroll passionately past it on my social media feeds.

The truth is this: I deserved every pop I got. In fact, I should have been hit more. I was a little shit. An arrogant, pompous, condescending know-it-all of a little shit. So much so that I still haven’t decided if my parents not hitting me more was due to some supernatural Gandhi-like restraint or just plain laziness. Maybe a combination of the two. Who knows.

There were boundaries. All kinds of boundaries. Bedtime boundaries, behavioral boundaries, boundaries of respect. It was my duty, as a child, to challenge each and every one of them. It was their duty, as responsible parents, to pop me one when I did. Fair enough. I had it coming.

For some of you, your kids have it coming. Do it now, before it’s too late. Before they get too big and can hit you back. Before they turn into people who believe they can do anything they want, whenever they want, wherever they want, and however they want. Before they take up residence in The Land Without Consequences. Hang up your phone and hit them now, quickly, before they turn into Donald Trump.

4 Comments

  1. You know, I appreciate this post more than I may have been originally willing to admit. I have my own reasons why I don’t hit my kids (which I shall not utter here), but I do agree with you.

    You’re a brave man. You’re about to have your ass handed to you.

  2. Loved your post, Roger. I never saw you as an arrogant little shit as you claim. You were a wonderful little boy and a good friend to our son, Jeffrey. And….you have grown into a bright, articulate and special man. I know that Sharon and Herb had a lot to do with that. We miss all you guys. Say HI to your mom, dad and brother from Dan and Pam.

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