Category Archives: lesson


When did disciplining your child stop being a thing? It often occurs to me that a lot of parents appear to be afraid of their children, when really it should be the other way around. I remember growing up I had a deep seated fear of my parents. I have to preface this with stating that they weren’t abusive or unnecessarily cruel. However, if I misbehaved, God help me.

And the punishment always fit the crime. Whining and general brattiness got no more than a slap across the face. Failure to stop, or anything more serious and my mother would not hesitate to remove the strap from her purse and put it to good use. A few times I tried resisting, or worse, swatting her away, but I quickly found out that was useless and then my father would have to become involved, holding me down for prolonged discipline. My point in sharing this is that most people reading this today are probably totally freaking out right now thinking I was maliciously beaten. And really, I wasn’t.

I am not sure how I feel about corporal punishment. I have swatted my children a few times for general brattiness, and I have physically removed them from stores and other venues kicking and screaming while being shoved in the car, but I have never used things on them, or slapped more than their hands. But having had experienced more than that, I can’t say it scarred me for life, or really did anything to me.

I am in no way saying that what my parents did is the answer to anything, but I can’t help wondering at what point the relationship between parents and children become so skewed.

What prompted this post was a trip to the grocery store. A woman was there with her daughter that looked to be about 3 years old – only a few months younger than Ally. The child wanted something and the mother said no. Then the child started crying and the mother said no. Then the child started screaming and the mother handed her the item she wanted. All the child learned was to scream louder next time.

I don’t know what the woman’s discipline tactics are since all I saw was an isolated event, and don’t even know all the details. I guess what bothered me was that she appeared to have no authority over her child. I think I would have had less of a hard time with this if she had let her child continue screaming. Not how I would have handled it, and yes, a screaming child at the grocery store is annoying (yet not the end of the world), but she would have exerted some control in the situation.

This happens all the time, so what exactly happened in the last thirty years to invert the parent/child dynamic? And I totally mean “invert” because there have been several occasions where the parents actually seemed to be afraid of their children, doing, saying, or giving in to *anything* just to pacify their angry child. And this is why I began this post by discussing corporal punishment. I am well aware that it is not just frowned upon, but in some cases illegal, but there seems to be correlation between the decline of corporal punishment and the increase in undisciplined children. Just an observation.

If I were to slap my daughter at the store for throwing a temper tantrum and not heeding my warning to stop, someone would surely call CPS. When my mother did it, not only did no one flinch, but it was practically expected. I was never big on temper tantrums (wasn’t really part of my personality, and I learned very early on that they would not grant me anything), but should I have done it, it would not have only been acceptable for my mother to take matters into her own hands, quite literally, but any other adult in the vicinity. We were living in New York, I was about six, at the grocery store playing with something I should not have been playing with, and one of the store attendants took it away from me, swatting my behind in the process. My mother hadn’t seen what I had done, but because the lady was upset with me I must have done something wrong so I got a strong glare from her just in case I even thought of doing anything else. Seriously folks, if you think hitting your own child in public is bad, try doing it to someone else’s these days. Blood bath in aisle five….

But aside from actually touching someone else’s child, you can’t even verbally discipline them. Somehow that is not okay. They are someone else’s precious jewel, can do nothing wrong, and if the mother didn’t see it, then it obviously didn’t happen. When I was a child I was never asked if what the other person said was true. If someone went to my mother and said I did something, it didn’t matter if I had done it, could have done it, probably did it, or thought about doing it, because as far as my mother was concerned, I did it. That too instilled fear in me because while I had some control over the things I did, I had absolutely no control over what others told my mother. However, my punishments were brief, and I learned to just take them and be done with it. My parents didn’t believe in taking things away, grounding me, or withholding anything. I got the strap, and I was done. Cookies anyone?

By the time I was seven I never had tempter tantrums, behaved exceedingly well in public, addressed people correctly, was getting perfect grades, kept my room clean, and hardly if ever talked back to my parents. In other words, I had the fear of God in me (or my mother’s purse strap… same thing).

Again, I don’t know if physically punishing children is an answer to anything, and just because it worked on me does not mean it will work on all children. Not to mention there are surely other parents like me who will practically cry at the idea of *really* hitting their children, and that wouldn’t do well for anyone. But seriously, when did child discipline of any kind just stop? And is it coming back any time soon?

Lessons on Marriage

Sometimes you learn things after the lesson is over. It took me two divorces to learn about marriage.

If you marry someone who wants to control you, marriage is not going to make it stop. If anything it exacerbates the situation and the other person feels entitled to the control. You are married, and now you belong to them.

My best friend’s dad has been with his girlfriend for twenty years. They don’t live together. They communicate daily and see each other a few times a week. For years I thought there was something wrong. How could such a thing work? Surely there is a problem. Her birthday was a few weeks ago and we all went out to dinner. I don’t see them as much as I used to when we were younger and my friend lived at home with her dad. But seeing them together I realized how much they love each other. Sure they only spend a few days together per week, but when they want they can see each other as often as they please. Their communication is just fine. They share their spaces while also keeping their own, spending time together and then retreating into themselves. They have been happy together for twenty years. I finally understood.

Marriage isn’t about the amount of time you spend with the other person. You can be in the same room with someone and both of you existing in different places.

If someone wants to be with you they will. If they don’t, marriage doesn’t solve or prevent that problem.

There is compromise and then there is losing yourself. I guess this goes with the first thing I said in this post, but it reaches beyond control. This is when you try to placate the other person while slowly erasing yourself. As you give up more and more and witness the joy of your spouse, you believe it is for the best. Until you are briefly reminded of those things you once were. But you can’t have both. Marrying someone who doesn’t like you the way you are is eventually going to break the marriage.

While a big part of marriage is love, a large part of love is like. You can’t really stay in love with someone you don’t like. And you can’t stay married to someone you don’t love.

Letting your spouse talk you into giving up your dreams only leads to resentment, especially if you had those dreams before you met your spouse.

Marrying someone you are not physically attracted to creates a whole different set of problems. Yes, this sounds shallow, but if you have to be dragged into the bedroom every night on the verge of tears, one of you will eventually end up on the couch.

All of these points sound like common sense. Except, surprisingly, they are not. And sadly they are not things you can learn outside of experience.

Dear Mom

Dear Mom,

First of all, happy birthday! I guess today is as good a day as any to tell you how much I appreciate you. You have spent my entire life trying to teach me, but honestly, I learned most from the things you weren’t overtly explicating.

You are the strongest woman I know. I got my stoicism from you. I never quite learned how to block out all emotion, or never show I care, but I learned enough to protect myself. I have watched you my entire life, taking everything in stride. Nothing affected you. In a way I envy that, and maybe one day I will perfect the art of nonchalance.

You taught me how to build everything from nothing. You withheld from me when I was young, and as resentful as I may have been (and maybe still am once in a while), I learned to do everything for myself, never relying on anyone else. I am at a point in my life where I will have to build myself from nothing once more, and this time I have others depending on me, and because of the experience you have given me, I have quite a running start. I have learned from you how to pull things out of thin air, and in times of desperation, push just a bit further.

I have heard your stories, and I don’t know if I could do what you did, but I would like to think I could accomplish half. I have learned that much.

No matter what I did, you always wanted more from me, it was never good enough, and I think that was simply your way of motivating me, giving me impetus for achieving just a bit extra and never stagnating.

You even taught me the silly things, yet still important in their own right. I have your insane fashion sense, always ready for all occasions. I remember being about eight, and wanting to wear an outfit not far from pajamas. You asked me to change and I didn’t want me. You asked me to think about what would happen if plans change, if something spontaneous happens. What if I may think I am just running out for an errand and something comes up that demands I arrive somewhere formal? Then what? Wouldn’t I be embarrassed at the way I am dressed? That was the example you gave me and I never forgot. You will be glad to know I have never been embarrassed anywhere.

I cannot enumerate your many lessons, things learned directly, and indirectly watching you, inadvertently studying you and mimicking you as a child would do.

You have never lied to me, and taught me to be more honest than may be good for me. You praised my talents, and simultaneously reminded me of my shortcomings. Thank you for never deluding me into believing I am good at everything, or worse, at the very things I don’t have a calling for. Thank you for helping me develop those things at which I excel, even when you could not give me the answers, but guided me to find them elsewhere.

Now you have grandchildren who learn everything from you second hand through me. So far I cannot say I have taught them any great life lessons, but they see, and have probably gleaned more than I think.

Mom, from you I have learned patience, defiance, wit, charm, decadence, passion, stoicism, strength, and my own weaknesses.

I love you like I love my own children. When you had me you gave me life. Since then you have given me your life in pieces. Thank you for giving me everything, and teaching me how to find those things you could not give.