Spare The Rod...

Growing up in central Alabama I have been no stranger to a “whooping” every now and again.

There were times when I was out with my family at a movie or at the grocery store that I “acted up”. That’s a southern term for misbehaving not to be confused with “acting a fool” which is a whole lot worse. If the “acting up” occurred in a public place it would usually mean a lick. If the offense happened in a restaurant where people were trying to enjoy a meal it might have meant two or three licks. If I was brash enough to “act up” during church then the punishment was usually at least five licks and it was probable that I was going to get them in the parking lot.

My dad had a big, thick leather belt that hung on the inside of his closet door. Now, he had a whole lot of belts. Many of them were dress belts meant to be worn with a suit on Sunday morning. Some of them were way out of style and he hadn’t worn them in years but they still hung there. But that one belt that he wore most of the time was the one that was referred to as “The Belt”.

If I had “acted up” then chances were that once I got home my dad would look at me and say “Go get The Belt.”

There were times that I tried to be a little sneaky and I went to get one of his more flimsy belts that was made of some kind of cloth. That didn’t do anything but add another lick to my sentence. But once my dad had his belt in his hand he would hold my arm and we’d do the dance. The dance was where I ran in a circle while he spun in one place and wore my little tail out.

The only thing that was worse than getting a “whooping” with The Belt was getting “switched”. This was usually done by my grandmother. She had a big bush in her yard that was known as the “Switch Tree”. If I “acted up” at her house then she would go over to the bush and pull off a switch. A switch is basically a branch. They’re usually about a foot long and very thin and flexible. And while a “whooping” was usually aimed at your butt…a “switching” was aimed at your legs, especially if you were wearing shorts which I usually was.

And, of course, in school we would get a “paddling”. That was when you “acted up” at school and the teacher would take you out into the hall, make you bend over and touch your toes, and then hit you on the behind with a flat piece of board about eight inches wide. Usually there was an echo in the empty corridor and most of the school would hear when somebody got one. One teacher in particular had the shop teacher make him a special paddle with holes drilled in it to cut down on air resistance. He stuck a cork in one of the holes and made game out of seeing if he could hit a student’s backside hard enough to pop the cork out.

Are you horrified yet? Take it easy. This wasn’t abuse. I’ve heard stories of abuse and that’s not what we experienced. No one was hitting us with their fists. No one was making me take off my shirt and whipping me on my back with anything. I wasn’t burned with cigarettes.

This is the way our parents were raised. It was what they believed and it was a belief that they passed down to me. I was raised with the belief that if you “spare the rod you spoil the child”. When I grew up and had children of my own I did it as well. When one of my kids “acted up” they would get a swat on the behind or if it was bad enough I would use “The Belt”.

And I regret it.

I regret every “whooping” my kids because now that one of them is eighteen and the other is fifteen I realize that none of it was necessary. None of it made my kids behave more. None of it changed the way they acted. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure that if I hadn’t done it then I would have been a much better parent.

I’m saying all of this today because I read a story where Pat Robertson of the 700 Club made a comment about “sparing the rod” in which he said that kids that aren’t religious need to be taken to the woodshed. It got me thinking about that old saying.

First of all, being raised in a church environment I was told that it was in the Bible. It’s not. Nowhere in the Bible does it say “spare the rod and spoil the child”. The closest that it comes is in Proverbs where it says something along the lines of "Those who spare the rod, hate their children, but the one who loves their child disciplines them diligently." Then I thought about the passage from Psalms that says “Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me”.

I’m something of an internet guru so I did a little Google search and I’ve come to this decision. Those passages have nothing to do with “whooping” your kids. The staff that a shepherd used to use had a hook on it to grab a sheep and pull it away from danger. The rod was used to corral the sheep where they needed to be. It wasn’t a tool used to beat sheep.

In other words, we’re supposed to discipline our children…not hit them. All those years growing up that I was taught that suddenly seem so fruitless. And all those times that I took a belt and struck my children instead of finding another way to discipline them have me feeling remorseful.

I’m mourning the absence of my parenting skills. I’m wishing that I could have done better by my kids. I love them with all of my heart and I see now that I could have been a much better dad. I could have used my brain to come up with better ways to cope with their misbehaving and actually taught them something. Instead, I took an easy route and used a belt or a switch. It was lazy parenting and caused nothing but hurt feeling and fear.

So, yeah, if I had it all to do over again I wouldn’t do it. And I truly regret every time that it happened.

Happy 50th Anniversary To Star Trek

To say that I’m a Star Trek fan is a bit of an understatement.

When a person is growing up there are a lot of things in their environment that leave an imprint on them. People, voices, smells, and sounds leave their fingerprint on your brain as they surround you in your formative years. Decades later you might catch a whiff of banana bread baking in an oven and have a synapse fire off deep in your brain that carries you back to your grandmother’s kitchen when you were six. You might see a picture of a statue that your family visited when you were twelve and suddenly remember that vacation with perfect clarity.

One of the things that has been a part of my life from my earliest memories was Star Trek.

Even before I called myself a fan I remember seeing the images of a man with pointed ears come across my TV. I remember the sounds of the computer beeps and boops and the phasers when the Enterprise was firing on an enemy. I never sat down and watched the whole thing but whatever adult was watching might stop me now and again to watch an especially interesting special effect.

When I was a pre-teen I started to spend a lot of time by myself. My dad was a firefighter. My mom was a nurse. Both of them had jobs that kept them away from home a lot. And at night they’d be so tired that it was not uncommon for me to be up after they’d already gone to sleep. And there was this show that started to come on every night called Star Trek: The Next Generation. By this point I had seen episodes of the original and had even gone on a binge at my local video store to watch the four movies that had been made up to that point. So, naturally, I thought that this was a show about the children of those characters.

Of course it wasn’t. And I can’t really say that I fell in love with the show on the first viewing. It had a lot of things that I liked. The ship was cool. They had a robot…a term for Commander Data that I would soon grow to hate and correct you if you said it. And I thought Q was the coolest things ever.

So, I started watching the show on a pretty regular basis. I won’t say that I saw it every single night, but more often than not it was what I was watching between 9:00 and 10:00 pm. By the time season 3 came around I was hooked.

By the time I’d become a sophomore in high school I had been baptized in the church of Star Trek. I watched the show every single night. I wasn’t reading anything but Star Trek novels. I wore a TNG t-shirt a couple of times a week. I wrote stories about the characters that often got turned in as creative writing assignments. I was a full on Trekker (not a Trekkie…that was condescending).

If you’ve read my blog before then you know that I had a difficult time in high school. I was picked on a lot. I wasn’t really accepted by my peers mostly because I was overweight. Of course the Star Trek novel I had my nose in at lunch didn’t help things. But by this point the show was much more than just something that entertained me. These characters were my friends. Their stories were important to me.

Star Trek has been there during some of the darkest times of my life. When my parents got divorced, those characters comforted me through it. When I had been picked on relentlessly at school, I felt better by watching the show. I had a crappy signal and most of the time it was one that I’d seen before, but it still made me feel better.

And the show grew and lasted well into my adulthood. I began watching reruns of The Original Series. And over time the entire franchise became important to me. I used to sit up late at night rocking my daughter when she couldn’t sleep while an episode of Deep Space Nine or Voyager would flicker on my TV screen.

For several years they were gone. I’d catch a rerun on TV every now and then, but the comfort I took in knowing that I could watch the show every night dissipated over time. But now, they’re on Netflix. All of them. Every episode of all five series as well as the first 10 movies are all there for me, any time that I need them.

Today is September 8, 2016. On September 8, 1966 the first episode aired on American television. It was very different from what we have now. The captain was different as was most of the crew. Spock was there, though he looked and acted a little different. But it was the beginning of something that would become huge. And if TNG was my first real friend…then “The Cage” was its grandfather. So that makes it important to me as well.

That show lasted three years and went away. It later came back in a second phase with several movies. Its third phase was the spinoffs which lasted about thirteen years in their own right. And now we’re in the middle of the fourth phase with the new films that JJ Abrams has put out and the birth of a new series that we’ll be getting in January. If you’ve been a Star Trek fan for life, this is a good time to be around. It’s like being an adult and being allowed to play in the ball pit at Chuck E. Cheese again.

My love for the show has led me to create a podcast all about the fandom. Through this show I’ve met a lot of people who love Star Trek as much if not even more than I do. I’ve been able to share my story as well as listen to the stories of other people who feel that Star Trek has been a very large part of who they are. I hope that show continues for a long time.

So, happy anniversary to Star Trek. But the show is not the one celebrating. We are celebrating. We are the ones that get to have this in our lives. We are the ones that have learned about the hope that could be in our future…a future where we don’t look at each other as colors or religions, or sexual preferences. We’ll be looking at each other as equals and joining hands to boldly go where no one has gone before.

If Our Marriage Were A Person

As I got ready for bed last night I looked at you and made a joke.

“Tomorrow our marriage will be old enough to drive.”

I said it to be funny, but it made me think. What would our marriage be like if it were a person?

Our marriage would definitely be a girl. I say that because it is strong…sometimes stubborn…but has a lot of moments of sweetness. She would have long dark hair. Women with dark hair are hardworking. They don’t back down when things get tough. They’re the ones that roll up their sleeves.

Her eyes would be as blue as the sky on a crisp and cool autumn day. The paleness of her eyes would seem to be able to look through you, into your soul. She would be able to see who you are and you would not be able to hide anything from her. This is because of the openness of our marriage. We don’t hide who we are from each other.

She would be emotional. When times were bad she would wear her heart on her sleeve. She would fly at you like a hawk if she felt threatened by you. If you hurt her she would sulk for days. But she would also be the most loyal person that you’d ever met. She would never walk away from you when you needed her. Even in those moments that you didn’t even know that you needed her.

She would be a funny girl. She would like to have fun and she would tease you all of the time. But when things were difficult she would be the first one to wrap her arms around you and tell you that it was going to be okay.

At sixteen years old, she would seem much older. She would have knowledge of things way beyond her years. The time that she has been alive has been wonderful. She didn’t know much during that magical time that she was a baby. But over the years she has learned so much. But she knows that she’s not an expert. She knows that there is still so much of her life left and so many things left for her to learn.

Most of all, she would still be very young. Even though so many things have happened to her and she’s learned so much she would only be sixteen. She’s still a child.

This year was very difficult for her. People that she loved have died. Other people that she depended on have let her down. She has had her heart broken in more than one way and wounds are still raw. But at no time during the pain did she feel weak. Her heartbeat is stronger now than it has been in her entire life.

If our marriage were a person she’d be one dynamite young lady!

Happy Anniversary, Baby. I love you.

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