In the shadow of the cane

I had a friend from college who was happy-go-lucky and free spirited. She moved to a different city after graduation but we remained faintly in touch. Years later, she came back for a few months and we decided to catch up at one of our favorite restaurants.

My friend was now married and had a young daughter, who accompanied her. There were three instances during our lunch that stuck with me. First, there was a moment when we were talking and my friend’s daughter interrupted us, asking her mother something relating to her doll.

To my surprise, I saw my friend immediately put her index finger over her lips and notion her daughter to be quiet. She then sternly reminded her daughter that it was not good manners to interrupt her elders when they are talking, and made her apologise for speaking out of turn.

I was amazed to learn my once fun-loving friend had actually turned into a strict mum, and I was equally amazed by her daughter’s obedience. The young girl apologised almost instantly to both her mother and me.

Several minutes later, the girl began playing with the silverware and dropped it on the floor. My friend turned to her daughter, grabbed her wrist and smacked the back of her hand a couple times. She then silently glared at her daughter for a few seconds and said ‘behave yourself’, swaying her index finger at the girl.

Once again, her daughter dutifully apologised and my friend simply turned back to me and resumed talking, as if nothing had happened. But she did comment: “You need to be strict with children, you know?”

Finally, towards the end of our meal, her daughter asked if she could have ice cream. My friend said ‘no’ but the girl insisted she wanted an ice cream and threw a teeny weeny tantrum.

At this, my friend gave her daughter another strict look. She widened her eyes, pursed her lips, and looking straight at her daughter, she asked: “Do you want the cane when we get back home?”

And that’s all it took. The girl teared up, shook her head and cozied up to her mum. My friend kissed her and let it go.

I did meet my friend a few more times during her stay, mainly in her house, and asked her about her parenting approach. She told me that she believed in a strict upbringing for children – though she herself was not raised in such a manner – and she kept a bamboo cane for her daughter. 

She scolded and warned her daughter whenever the girl stepped out of line. My friend’s first line of correction was certainly strict gestures and stern words, often with the threat of the cane. But when enough warnings had piled up, that little girl’s bottom felt the cane all right.

Contributor: Vinay

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