Monday, August 31, 2009

Spanking Doesn’t Work

I had to spank my 5-year-old son last weekend for bad behavior. He asked me, “Is that it?”

I don’t like the idea of hitting my son. But I know it has to be done in certain circumstances, especially when timeouts aren’t working.

I now understand the saying, “This is gonna hurt me more than it’s gonna hurt you.” Without a doubt, it really hurt me to want to hurt my son. But I know he’ll experience more pain if he’s not disciplined.

My plan was to spank the kid just hard enough to sting, but not hard enough to bruise. I gave him a gentle spanking, but with enough force to make him think twice before doing something bad again. When my spanking failed to startle the boy, I took it up a notch, delivering a swat that I knew would sting.

I hit him harder than I intended. I felt horribly guilty. I asked if he was OK. He laughed. I gave him a timeout.

While my son was in his room thinking about his bad behavior, I decided to do some spank tests on myself. I smacked my bottom a few times to see what kind of pain I was delivering. My son was right to laugh. I felt no pain at all. So I applied a little more power. Still nothing.

I hit my hand, thinking that’d be more effective. Again, I felt no pain. I did it harder. I’ve had breath hurt worse. I guess our elders used wooden spoons, rulers and belts for a reason.

So I went to the kitchen, got a wooden spoon, and I practiced a few smacks on my left hand. Still, I felt no pain. I turned up the heat and, finally, I felt a little sting. But it wasn’t enough to scare my kid into being good. I wound up and swung that wooden spoon again, this time like Barry Bonds swung a bat during the steroid years -- WHAP!

My hand lit up like a bright red “Eat at Joe’s” diner sign, and it throbbed like Sylvester the Cat’s hand when it got caught in a mousetrap while trying to snatch Tweety Bird from his cage.

“Yeeeeeeowwwww!” I yelled.

I took a second swing, but with a little less power -- WHOP!

“Yeeeeeeowwwww!” I yelled once more. By this time, I was developing bruises on my hand. So I switched to hitting my right hand. A few swats later, my right hand was bruised up, and I still couldn’t deliver a painful smack that wouldn’t leave marks.

I had to switch targets again. I took the wooden spoon and swung it at my behind.

“What are you doing?” my wife asked when she walked in on the scene. I froze while in mid-swing at my butt.

Our son yelled from his room, “He’s spanking himself to see how hard he has to spank me so it hurts me just a little bit but not a lot.”

“You’re supposed to be thinking about your bad behavior,” I yelled back to the kid, “not talking.”

When I explained to my wife that I had to spank our child, she asked if it was necessary.

“It was necessary,” I said. “The timeouts aren’t working anymore.”

Our boy chimed in from his room again, “Then why am I still in timeout?”

That question lead to an argument between my son and my wife. And that argument resulted in my wife spanking our boy. WHAP! WHOP!

“Is that it?” the kid asked Mommy when she was finished.

My wife said she was afraid to hit our child any harder for fear she’d leave marks and be reported for abuse.

“You’re not gonna be reported for abuse,” I said.

“I just want to be sure that if we hit him any harder, we won’t bruise him,” she said.

So she asked if I could continue banging myself around until I found the perfect spanking intensity for our son.

Now I can’t walk.

-May 2009

Just Call Me Reverend

A few weekends ago, while waiting for a table at Chili’s Grill and Bar, a Hell’s Angel-looking dude practically yelled the Lord’s name in horrible vein over and over again. I asked the dude if he could lower his voice, or not blaspheme in front of my very impressionable 5-year-old son -- who just wanted a Chile’s grilled cheese sandwich. The dude said he earned the right to blaspheme. He was a reverend, he said.

A reverend?

He showed me his reverend card as proof. It was official. He said he got ordained online for $35.

How does a guy like this, with no respect for God, become a “man of the cloth?” I was taken aback. I wanted to know how I could become a reverend online for just $35.

The blasphemer gave me the web address for a church that ordained pretty much anyone interested in becoming a minister. When I got home, I went online and, within about 10 minutes, became Reverend Michael Picarella.

“Reverend who?” my wife asked me. She thought I was abusing the online ordination service.

“No, no, no,” I said. “I’m going to take my ministry seriously.”

And that’s exactly what I did. I started collecting donations immediately for the new Michael Picarella Church.

No longer would people lie to my face. Rather, they’d be obligated to confess everything to me.

No longer would cops give me speeding tickets. I’d make sure to “accidentally” hand over my reverend card when the arresting officer asked to see my driver’s license. (A cop who gives a ticket to a holy man can’t have a conscience.)

And no longer would friends and family have to pay $300 a pop for someone to officiate their weddings and baptisms. I would be more than happy to offer my services free of charge. I’d only ask interested parties to tip me extremely well for my efforts and to be prepared to foot the bill for my room and travel.

I sent a newsletter to family and friends (using my new reverend letterhead) informing people of my ordination. And I solicited my services. I expected a few laughs.

Would you believe it? Only a day after being ordained, I received several hefty donations, over a dozen requests to officiate weddings, and even a request to do a baptism. This was really happening. I was really going to be someone important for the first time in my life. I was going to be seen as respectable. People were going to listen to me.

What did I do?

“I can’t be a reverend!” I cried to my wife.

She was not sympathetic to my needs at all, and she certainly wasn’t going to help me out of the mess I got myself into.

“I told you it wasn’t a good idea,” my wife said.

One of my friends was equally supportive.

“You should’ve listened to your wife,” he said.

“Listen to my wife?” I asked. “Who listens to their wife?”

The hole I was digging for myself kept getting deeper. And there was only one person to blame.

“This is all your fault!” I said to my son. “If you didn’t have to have that Chili’s grilled cheese sandwich, I wouldn’t be in this predicament!”

But pointing the finger at my son did me no good. Eventually, I’d have to take responsibility for my actions. It was the right thing to do. I’d have to officiate those weddings and that baptism. I had donations to put to good use. And I had a new, respectable lifestyle to uphold. Indeed, I had to do what was right.

All I know is this: once I was blind and now I can see. Right or wrong, I withdrew from all my obligations and I sent the donations back. But I’m keeping my reverend card in case the cops ever pull me over and try to give me a ticket.

-May 2009

Family News in Brief -- April ’09

My wife and I attracted a talker at a neighborhood eatery earlier this month, and we couldn’t break away. Individually and as a couple, my wife and I often draw in talkers. “It’s like there’s a sign on my head that says, ‘Talk to me, and don’t let me get a single word in,’” said my wife. The recent talker, who talked and talked and talked and talked, started talking about the lovely weather after my wife and I said, “Good afternoon,” and then he transitioned into various subject matter, such as the University of Florida Gators and how they were the first football team to test Gatorade. My wife and I also learned that the Greek word “gymnasium” means “to exercise naked.” Did you know that the longest movie title in the world is 1991’s “Night of the Day of the Dawn of the Son of the Bride of the Return of the Terror?” Eventually, the talker made a crucial mistake. He left a tiny gap in the one-sided conversation, and my wife and I took advantage and told him we had to go.

On Sunday in my backyard, my 5-year-old son started laughing and couldn’t stop. My impression of a tiring bumblebee set the kid off. “It’s not funny anymore, but I can’t stop laughing,” my boy said 20 minutes into his laughing fit. Health officials said that while most laughter typically peaks in the summer months, it’s not uncommon for kids to begin laughing really hard in the spring. The real oddity in the laughter, however, according to sources, is that recent studies show that laughing fits have declined in the last six months due to a downward-spiraling economy. “The boy is lucky to be laughing at all,” said Dr. Luger P. Hart, a Southern California doctor of humor as medicine, “even if it’s inhibiting his breathing.” My boy has since lost all color in his face, and the constant flexing of his abdominal muscles during the laughing fit resulted in an “ab six-pack” that any body builder would be proud to show off.

Jewelry makers still haven’t produced a stable bracelet clasp that’s easy to hook together, and I’ve about had it. According to sources, the toggle bar clasps are “girly” and “come apart easily.” Consumers say the magnetic clasp is a good idea, but it too comes apart easily. The traditional clasps on bracelets, experts suggest, are still the best jewelry clasps -- though some people may disfigure the jewelry before ever coming close to hooking it together. “We can track our friends’ precise locations via Google and cell phone technology, but we can’t invent a bracelet clasp that’s easy to put on and that holds together,” I said in a statement yesterday. “Since I got a medical I.D. bracelet (which indicates my heart condition), I must allow an extra two hours each morning to wrestle with the clasp. I suppose I could tattoo my heart condition on my forehead.”

On Easter Sunday, my family drove down to Orange County to visit my wife’s relatives, and my 5-year-old son forgot to go potty before we left. As we pulled out of the driveway, I asked my wife if she took our boy potty. She said she thought I took him. “Did you go potty recently?” I asked my son. “Yeah,” he said. “Do you know what ‘recently’ means?” I asked. “No,” he said. After learning a new word for the day, my son ensured me that he did, in fact, recently go to the bathroom. About 20 minutes into the trip, stuck in bumper-to-bumper freeway traffic with no exit for another 5 miles (which translates to three hours of traffic in Southern California), my son announced that he had to go to the bathroom really bad. Soon after, I discovered Scotchgard isn’t bulletproof.

-April 2009