I knew that if she called home, I’d get it for sure. My mom didn’t always spank but if someone else was the one to tell her we were in trouble, there was no avoiding the belt. She had many other methods of dealing with the little misbehaviours of her three boys but not if she felt one of us had brought shame on the family. And I knew I had.
“Please, Mrs Rosen, please don’t call my mom. I’m sorry it broke and I will pay for it, I promise.” “Young man, this is not about a broken clock – although you will pay for that. This is about you behaving like a five-year-old with no thought at all to the consequences of your actions. What was in your mind when you kicked a soccer ball inside my classroom?”
“I don’t know, ma’am – I didn’t think it would go that far.” “You didn’t think? That much is certain. Now, sit there quietly while I write your mother a note.” “Yes ma’am.””
“Ma’am?” “Yes, Bernardo?” She was already exasperated. “My mother doesn’t read English.” “Fine – you translate the note for her and ask her to write back to me in Spanish, and I will ask one of the other teachers to read her note.”
I carried the note home quietly, afraid to lose i, and equally afraid to read it to my mother. My mother was very angry when I translated the teacher’s comments about my immature and careless behaviour.
First, she had me empty my bank – only to find that I did not have enough to replace the teacher’s desk clock that had been knocked to the ground by my soccer ball. She told me that I would have to find small jobs from the neighbours to pay her back, and that she would give me money to pay the teacher.
Then she sent me into the bedroom I shared with my two brothers and told me to remove my pants. I did, and of course both of my brothers quickly figured out why. I knew they would be allowed to stay and watch; to learn from my mistakes. My mother came in, already holding the belt, and set our desk chair in the middle of the room. I was told to stand behind it and place my hands on the seat.
I did, and braced myself for the worst. She would hit two or three times, then stop to chastise me verbally, asking whether I planned ever to grow up, what I had instead of brains etc. I knew better than to attempt to answer them.
She then hit me three or four times, and stopped to lecture about responsibility and respect. A few more swats, a bit harder this time, and then another lecture, this one about embarrassing her and shaming my family name.
Then a few more swats and the final lecture, about wasting money we really didn’t have to pay for my foolishness. Then the five hardest swats of the evening.
Afterwards I was made to tell my brothers why I was being punished, then I was made to stand facing the wall for 10 minutes without touching my bottom.
My mother detailed the specifics of my punishment in her letter to my teacher, which I ended up showing to the principal of my school, who translated it for Mrs Rosen. He told me that if I had been his son, he would have punished me the same way – a fact I found very humiliating, as I’d never been spanked by a man.
Since then, I’ve never had the urge to kick a soccer ball indoors – though I still play outdoors whenever I can!