My parents did a good thing. Well, they did lots of good things – do I mention that enough? – but one thing they did particularly well was expectation.
Let me give you a scenario: I shanked this classmate of mine. No, I didn’t stab him; I shanked him like kids do, which means pulling down someone’s pants when he or she (God forbid she) least expected it. A group of us decided to do it on the playground, not in front of the other classmates, we weren’t animals. This kid though, he was fat and unpopular – dorky but not smart – one of those. We shouldn’t have done it. Well, he went ballistic and cried, and he ran to his Mom in the middle school (she was a teacher, what were we thinking?), and it was a whole ordeal. The crew and I got detention for a week, the only academic punishment I ever received in my entire life. But the real discipline would be saved for home…
My mother often used the “write it out” punishment, which involved copying down a certain word or phrase hundreds of times. You know, like “I will not lie or cheat” 300 times or so – the harsher the crime, the more repetitions owed. For this instance, she thought I needed to learn a big lesson, so she gave me a long line: “I will treat my classmates with respect and never ever shank anyone again.” Too long – brutally long. And 500 times.
Once the sentence was handed down, the strategizing began. How can I get through this as quickly as possible? Writing them out one-by-one causes cramps and seemed to take forever. First, I needed to take care of the “I”s, which was easy.
Think that’s just a line on the side? Just wait, I had a plan.
So much easier than doing one sentence at a time, and so gratifying. The paper was filling up already.
There. “Treat” was done. But this method was already getting tiresome. So I decided to vary it up a bit.
Damn it! Ran out of room! I probably should have seen this coming, as it took up two lines at the top to write the whole sentence out. And this was probably my mother’s plan all alone. So I tried to alter my plan.
Well this certainly could sustain. My mother would not accept this work; she would just make me start all over. Crap.
Eventually, I finished my sentence as well as served my time in detention and was ready to move on. But not yet, my mother said, her gaze stern. Now you need to write an apology letter.
This was the absolute worst punishment imaginable for several reasons, many of which you might be able to guess. First of all, it was embarrassing. No one elementary school student wanted to write out an apology, much less deliver one, and I maintain that my victim would also never want to receive one. Additionally, there was the time and energy factor. My hand was still cramped from all the sentence repetitions, and this was just unfair. But the final – and most important reason – it was completely meaningless.
Not like “I’m a kid and this sucks” meaningless. Like actually meaningless.
More on this tomorrow… including, you know, the Bible.