A bunch of parents sit in a circle at an elementary school function discussing their parenting methods. Some are holding little Dixie cups of red, sugary liquid. BILL , apparent of Tommy and Susie, begins his story.
BILL: I’ve never beat my kids. Never, not once. Not a single, solitary hand have I laid upon them with any sort of aggression or malice whatsoever. It’s not that I don’t punish my kids; I do. I have instilled in them a very keen sense of ‘Action and Consequence’. If little Susie breaks a toy of her brother’s, then I break a toy of hers. If Tommy defecates in his sister’s hat, he’ll have to wear it. Action, and consequence. And I also make the victim of each young caper sit and watch their sibling go through the punishment so that they understand exactly how hard it can be to regret a bad decision. This has left my children far more attuned to each other’s feelings.
But more to the point, at least as to why I don’t hit my offspring, is because physical violence is simply not enough some times. Children, like small puppies, will often overlook any kind of abuse you put on them because their love for you is just so strong. I’ve always felt this is a kind of injustice to the child, that they should at least start to hate you after you’ve beaten them.
Instead, I opt for the path of mental scarring for the effects are ones that can not be so easily cast asunder. Now, it’s nothing like making my boy wear dresses every single time he walks into the house (unless he wants to), or calling my little girl, “FATTY FATTY FAT FAT,” even though she is somewhat plump for a six year old. These are the acts of an insecure parent who projects their fears and emotional complexes on their children as a way to escape from them. No, my acts are random and creative, leading not just to scarring but to cherished memories as well.
For example, whenever Tommy comes up to me and asks me for money, I sit a while in silence as I ponder the question. Then I jump and quickly hog tie him. I use the softest rope and comfortable, yet sturdy, knots. Then it’s into the “Money Hole” as I like to call it, although it is really just the closet in the upstairs guest room. It’s not hot or stuffy, nor very cold. It is just quiet and dark, illuminated by whatever light can make it through the bottom of the doorway. The closet is by no means empty; we keep our skiing coats and other winter gear in there, as well as many old photographs of the wife and I’s trips before we had children. There is enough room in the closet for him to move about, although because he is hog-tied, he doesn’t move much.
A young mother to Bill’s right gasps slightly.
BILL: Now you may be thinking I’m a monster at this point, but I put some pillows in there for him.
How much time he spends in the Money Hole is dictated by how much money he has asked for. If it’s a quarter, say for ice cream or a gum drop, he’ll be in the closet for no more than five minute. Ten dollars will have you sitting in the dark for a half hour, and anything above fifty and we begin talking about days. This is just for when he asks me for money, you understand? If he came and asked for a new pair of skates, why then to the toy store we go, but when it comes to hard cash there are hard prices to pay. Once again, I am no monster. If he is in there for longer than five hours, I will feed him and let him drink water, and mayhap go to the bathroom as making someone soil themselves is demeaning.
I will have to keep fit though, because when he reaches into his late teens I will still have to be able to perform my duties. This is an act I will continue through out Tommy’s life, until the day he realizes it is just easier to make the money himself instead of having to contend with my wrath. But this is not the end of the scarring. No, the end truly comes when HE has his own kids.
“Don’t ask grandpa for money,” he’ll warn his children as they pull up to my house, “or else he’ll tie you up and stick you in the closet.”
“Yeah right, Dad,” they’ll cough as they exit the car. Then they’ll come running up to me and all the hugs I have saved up for them. Once I am all hugged out, I shall take out my wallet and hand each of them a twenty-dollar bill, and tell them ‘there is more where that came from, but only if you eat all your vegetables.’
“Dad’s crazy,” they’ll giggle as they run off to greet their grandmother.
My son, who I can only assume will be flabbergasted, may think that I have turned over a new leaf in my old age, or perhaps that I no longer have the energy for the Money Hole. “Dad,” he’ll ask with optimism in his face, “can I have $300 for some new tires?”
And I will pause once again and ponder, and then it’s to hog-tying and the closet, although I suppose I will have to bring my taser along just to make sure he doesn’t overpower me. But then he’d be an adult and can probably handle it. This will leave him with a sense that the world is somehow unjust to him and him alone, which would be the truth I guess.
Is it a longer job, harder than hitting them? Yes, but I dare say my method would be more gratifying.
The other parents are all shocked and silent. Bill’s notices his wife has gathered the children and is preparing to leave. Bill stands, looking at the other parents.
BILL: If you still think me a monster, then all I can say to you is fuck off. I love my kids with all of my heart, and will be there for them every single day I have left to live. I am devoted and only interested in making their lives as rich and full of love as possible. But they do some fucked up things and this is the way I have chosen to deal with for better or for worse. I mean, honestly, who shits in a little girl’s hat?
Bill walks over to his family.
BILL: Who wants to go home, play Uno and eat ice cream?
Tommy and Susie cheer in agreement, and then they each hug a leg of Bill’s and he walks off in a waddle, singing a song about pirates, his children and his wife laughing as they exit.