It’s in the news; it’s on everyone’s mind, so I guess it’s on my mind too. Adrian Peterson whooped his kid with a switch and the country is in an uproar. Before I go any further, let me say this. Nothing appalls me more than a full-groan man beating up on a defenseless child. For me, that takes first place, followed closely by animal cruelty, but that’s for a different blog. I just wanted to frame the picture, set the bar, and give you a baseline for understanding the reason I’m writing about this subject.
Perspective. I have a perspective and anyone who has read my book Positives & Negatives, Tricycles & Pancakes (PNTP), knows this. That aside, I don’t usually comment about how I obtained my perspective, but for the purposes of this discussion, I will relate a personal experience.
I don’t remember what it was that I did. I was young, and in the grocery store with my mother. As a child, I knew that it was important, no matter what type of store we were in, to keep my hands in my pockets. If I didn’t have pockets, my hands were to be by my side. Under no circumstances was I supposed to touch anything unless I planned to buy it. Ask any merchant and they would probably agree, it’s a simple and polite rule parents should still teach. Anyway, since I was too young to have any money of my own, there was no reason for me to touch anything. My best guess is that I probably got caught touching something, something that didn’t belong to me.
Back then, parental discipline wasn’t administered in private the way it is now. It was for all intents and purposes, instantaneous—and public. Why? Because it was expected. As a parent, it was your responsibility to make sure that your children were well behaved. If they weren’t, corrective measures were in order and the sooner the better. A child needs to understand immediately after doing wrong, that it is wrong, otherwise the disciplinary connection is lost. I probably touched something that didn’t belong to me and I was spanked, and it was public.
Honestly, I don’t remember the actual spanking and as I said before, I don’t remember the true transgression. So how is it that I can relate this story? The answer is—I remember the embarrassment. There I was, in the middle of the grocery store getting spanked right in front of all the other kids, some of whom I knew. I remember the giggles, yes, the giggles, because back then we all got spanked, and giggling was like saying ha-ha, you got caught. I also remember the look my mother gave me. It was the look all moms had. It was the look that said, see, you got what you were asking for. My only salvation was that after I got the look, each mom turned to their child, or children, and gave them the same look. Only the translation was a little different, though never misunderstood. It said, see, you do what he did and you’re going to get it too, only I’ll do it harder.
The snickering stopped.
My point is this. There isn’t a fine line between spanking your child with your hand (or even a switch if need be), and say, breaking an arm or dislocating a jaw. Welts rise, and fall, and then go away. Broken anything takes a lot longer to heal. The line isn’t fine—it’s distinct. It’s blaringly bright. It’s a line that is so obvious, it should be part of a parent-licensing test. Oh crap, I take that last one back; more government is the last thing we need. Shoosh! Okay, returning to my point—if that line is little more than a fine thread and difficult for you to discern, then it’s simple, you shouldn’t be a parent. No ifs, ands, or butts (get it).
Unfortunately for Adrian Peterson, more government in the form of law enforcement and the judiciary is exactly what he finds himself dealing with. Who knows how this quagmire is going to resolve itself. But has anyone considered what will happen if Mr. Peterson goes to jail? What kind of lasting damage does that do? How does a family recover from a spanking like that?
And what about the NFL? The NFL should stay the hell out of it. But that’s for another blog too.