I grew up in Britain in the 1970s, and my mum thought nothing about taking down my trousers and pants (or those of my little brother) when she considered we deserved it.
The warning that painful discipline was imminent was usually signalled by her asking us: “Do you want a smack bottom?” Even as small boys, this babyish way of referring to corporal punishment used to embarrass us hugely. And not even a ‘smacked bottom’. A ‘smack bottom’ sounded like something a mother gave to her naughty toddler, not ‘big boys’ as we thought of ourselves.
Well, that didn’t matter to Mum. All through our childhoods, it was a ‘smack bottom’ when we needed it, and we both got our last at around 13 or 14, by which time it was mega embarrassing for your mum to take your trousers and pants down and see not only your bare bum, but your genitals as well. And it was no comfort, as she seemed to think it was afterwards when she lectured us, that she had seen our private bits many, many times when changing our nappies as babies.
Mum also used to discuss child discipline freely in front of us with her friends, which was just awful. “You’ll never guess what he did the other day,” she’d begin, and recount not only our latest misdeed but also – in detail – the punishment we had received for it.
“I took his trousers and pants down and gave him a big smack bottom,” Mum would say, and her friends would nod sagely in agreement. “Mine don’t sit down for a week if they cross me,” one would say. “A child’s bare bottom is the best place for discipline,” another would add. I would slowly sink into the sofa, melting with embarrassment, as I knew they were all picturing me over my mother’s knee with my underpants at my ankles and my bare bottom being soundly smacked.
Even up until our last spankings, Mum took us across her knee for the punishment, and my brother and I spent many hot minutes staring at the carpet, almost breathless with the sting on our backsides that our mother’s bare hand was able to produce. Some of my mates got the slipper, a few even got the cane off their dad. But though my brother and I just got Mum’s hand, it never failed to make us cry, both with the pain and the humiliation.
Mum was a very thorough smacker, and every part of our bare bum would be bright red by the time we were allowed to stand up again. Then we would be sent to bed for a while to ‘think about what you’ve done’.
Eventually, she would come up to see you, there would be another big lecture and, provided you were then ready to say sorry, there would be a hug and a kiss, and all would be forgiven and forgotten. Of course, we never dared to anything than say we were sorry, even if we didn’t feel like it at the time. We certainly didn’t want to be turned back over her knee for more smacks.
Looking back, it was a wholesome, effective way of correcting children. We never got anything we didn’t thoroughly deserve, and it made us respectful and well-behaved. Although I hated them at the time, I’m now grateful to Mum for every ‘smack bottom’ she gave me.