Discipline and Punish (and little yellow boats)


family & parenting / Friday, February 11th, 2011

I don’t know why I wanted it so much, or where we bought it from. And I have no idea where it is now. But I can still feel the tummy churning yearning. The sweaty toddler palms, the quick breathing and anticipation. It was a little wooden yellow yacht, in a tiny perspex case. But oh, it was so much more than that.

When I finally had it, in my three year old hands, you could take the back off and twang the dark brown rubbery mast. A mast no thicker than a toothpick, tantalisingly bendy but immovably rooted to its plywood base. Best of all you could hold it tight, letting the plastic edges dig in, the corners eluding my chubby fingers, poking out, always one quick squeeze away from flying to the floor. If I close my eyes, I can still feel those corners over the edge of my grasp.
But mostly I remember it out of my hands and above my reach. Sitting on top of the wardrobe where it had been placed for a punishment. I remember standing below and staring, shadowed by the purple woodchip in my parents bedroom. A beacon of injustice winking in the shafts of sunlight, elusive and magnificently tiny.
I don’t know what I did wrong, or how long the boat was placed aloft. Minutes, hours, days, a week? I have no idea. And what crime I had committed? I close my eyes and nothing comes back. But I have an idea of how it must have been for my Mother.
An idea that comes back to me when I hear something in my voice. When I’m talking to Spider-boy as he yet again refuses to put his shoes on when we are going out. After playing with his spaghetti. And forgets his angelic, fervent promise (‘I will be good’ ‘I will get ready’ ‘I will get my socks’) because he’s seen a cast off tram or dinosaur or his special car in the hall. Baby screaming in the pram, me standing at the door, him STILL sockless and immediately immersed in a very important game just seconds after his pledge, I burn.
And I can feel a swelling inside. An end of my tether, quivering sensation as something forms in my head. A threat. It comes to me: ‘Spider-Boy’ I say, punctuating his names. ‘If you don’t come here right now I’ll take Lightening McQueen away and put him on my wardrobe and you won’t be able to play with him…’
He jumps and looks at me with wide eyed horror. Is it my threat or my raised voice which have burst the bubble? His lips look on the verge of trembling. He says ‘but how would I play with him?’ and I crumble. ‘QUICKLY’ I say, inside saluting my Mother and wishing I had her resolve as I fumble him out of the house, we are a shambles but on our way.
‘When I was a little girl’ I tell him sagely. ‘I was naughty and my Mummy took one of my toys away until I was good’. I wait for a reaction. ‘At my work’, he counters, ‘I took your computer away because you were naughty to me all day‘.

One Reply to “Discipline and Punish (and little yellow boats)”

  1. good idea for discipline, I may try it out. A particularly useful threat for when you're trying to get out of the house and the standard 'if you don't behave you'll have to go to your room' is far from ideal!

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