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  • Writer's pictureTerry Groves

B.R.A.T.S. Forces Kept in Line

Mom was a small woman compared to the sons she raised, but she was big enough to keep us in line. She had to be with dad being called away as often as he was and us boys all being such brats.

One of the equalizing forces she had at her command was an eighteen inch ruler that she kept in the junk drawer. My bowels still loosen at the sound of my own junk drawer opening, even though I know there's no ruler in there. As feared as Dad's words, "Go fetch my belt," that rattling drawer could ice the blood of any of us boys.

We tested her though. As growing boys do, we couldn't help but see how far we could push things. Checking to see the limits of rules and behaviours was something Mom faced pretty much daily. And she couldn’t let up or we would have taken full advantage. We wouldn’t have learned the important life lessons that sustain us in our old age without her firm hand on the family discipline.

I recall one morning while getting ready for school. I was in grade six, one of my especially rebellious years, getting myself prepared for being a teen. Mom told me something I didn't want to hear and my big mouth got to flapping as it was known to do. Dad was away at his new posting to Kingston while we waited in Clinton for a PMQ to come available. Feeling emboldened by his absence, I chose to push things further than normal.

After some smartass or just plain improper remarks, Mom said something that upset me. I no longer recall what, my hot temper may have left that memory in ashes. I ran out the backdoor, down the steps, then turned and stuck my tongue out at her. To my horror, she saw me and before the door slammed shut, I heard that junk drawer rumble open.

"You get back here," she commanded waving the ruler at me.

Not on your life I thought, but years of consistent discipline forced my legs to move me toward her. Are you crazy? Screamed my mind. She’s going to use that thing on you and it hurts. My legs carried me up the steps, bringing me face to face with her.

“Stick that tongue out again.” The ruler had grown to about four feet long and six inches wide in my vision. Working to preserve my life, I just gave my head a little shake. Every fiber of my body was trying to contract into the smallest target possible. “Stick it out so I can smash it off.”

To this day, I am uncertain what would have happened had I allowed that offending appendage to appear beyond the protection of my lips. With another quick shake of my head I awaited my fate. “If you ever…” she waved the ruler mere millimeters from my face, firmly ensconcing her control over my fates. She didn’t have to finish her sentence, my mind showed me a picture of myself with my tongue on the ground in front of me. Message received.

Seeing her comment as a dismissal, I turned and ran to the side of the house, out of her sight before she changed her mind about releasing me with all my part attached. Sheltered from any possibility of her seeing me, there were no windows on the side of the house, I stopped, turned and prepared to display my control of the situation by performing the forbidden action, sticking out my tongue. However, the last vestige of my common sense grabbed hold of me and I decided to just leave that organ tucked away where it was safe and sound. If you do that, some tiny part of brain said, she will know. I don’t know if she would have, but I did not want to find out.

Although my parents were not opposed to corporal punishment to help us learn lessons, it was never their preferred method of reinforcement. I was wielded when all other efforts failed and was doled out with restraint and fairness. When I think back on the extent they went to instill decent values in us, I can only thank them and love them for it. I still trust their guidance in my decision making.

How unruly a child were you? What methods did you parents utilize to reinforce their messages and how effective were they? Feel free to share how you tested them.

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Do you love to read? Check out my books, Down the Tiger's Throat, a collection of my short stories, and The Summer of Grumps, a novel.

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