Most of the time, my parents punished me in the normal ways. I’ve had to sit in a corner, eat liquid soap, eat bar soap, I’ve gotten a smack on the ass, I’ve been backed against a wall, sent to my room. I had to hold a penny to the wall with my nose for an hour, I’ve been told they’re disappointed in me, and I’ve been momentarily grounded.
I do not deny that I deserved every single one of those punishments.
They never made me throw away a toy or burn my rock and roll records, and they never threw me out of the house or abused me. They simply produced repercussions for my actions.
But there was one punishment that I will always remember, because it was the worst punishment ever.
I don’t remember what I did wrong. My guess is that I was talking back. Let me set a pretend (although probably accurate) scene for you. It’s a summer Saturday, and I’m young enough to be punished and old enough to care what my friends think. My dad is getting ready to go outside to mow the lawn.
Something has pissed me off–probably my father complaining about what a wreck the house is, or how my brother and I never help out. I say something mouthy, and all the sudden, he’s had enough. He grits his teeth and tells me that if I think that I do enough around the house, that I can also mow the lawn.
“I don’t know how to use a lawn mower!” I yell.
He glares at me. He’s probably upset that I actually do not know how to use a lawn mower and he probably thinks that I am spoiled rotten brat. He takes me by the arm and leads me into the kitchen. He pulls a pair of Fiskers scissors out of the drawer and says, “You know how to use a pair of these, though, right?”
I nod in my most sassy way.
He hands them to me and says, “Go cut the grass.”
I may not have been as old as this man, but I was certainly as grumpy.
I think of saying no, that this is ridiculous! That there’s no way I can cut the grass with scissors. But the look on his face, the furrowed brow, the red tint of his skin, the bulging eyes, tell me to shut the hell up.
I walk out the back door, which he slams behind me, and think, “He’s really gonna make me do it.” I look back up to the window where the kitchen sink is and see him staring at me. He points to the grass, and I exhale and drop my chin to my chest. All I can think is, “What if the cute neighbor boy sees me doing this? What if my friends stop by? What if someone, anyone, sees me?!”
My solution is to go to the part of the yard that is furthest away from the road. I drop down to my knees with my scissors and begin cutting the grass. I’m sure my father is enjoying this twisted punishment. I cut a line with my scissors and begin making a pile of grass clippings. I look at the window, and back down to my work.
It takes me about an hour to cut a decent sized circle patch near the shed. Eventually, my father comes outside, takes my scissors away from me and says, “Go do the dishes before your mother gets home.”
I gladly give my scissors and go inside. When I get to the kitchen sink, I see him stuff the scissors into his back pocket, look down at my circle, shake his head, and laugh.
Worst. Punishment. Ever.
As a return punishment, I never learned to use the lawn mower. I still, at 26 years old, can say that I’ve never mowed a lawn. Booyah, Daddy. 🙂