A line-up for paddling

I was born in the 70s and raised in the 80s – a time in the American midwest when corporal punishment was still common in schools and parents were all but expected to spank their children when and how they saw fit.

My own mom was no exception to the rule and used whatever was in reach to chastise her brood – and her hand when nothing else was easily accessible.

In most cases, the spanking was immediate, fast and without regard for where you were or who else happened to be around, children or adults. However, this was always better than the alternative, which was when Mom made you wait for your ‘whoopin’ with the belt she kept in a kitchen cabinet. 

There are a few stereotypes about how quick to paddle kids school teachers once were. Gym teachers in particular were at one point in time both feared disciplinarians and the most heavy-handed with a paddle. Another not unknown is that ‘Christian parents’ are more inclined to spank their kids, and do so more often than the average American. We got a double whammy, in that my dad was both a gym teacher and very devout Christian, who saw the paddle as an essential part of raising well-behaved Godly children .

So it was something of a shock when he and Mom divorced when I was nine and my sister Liz was eight. My Mom remarried quickly and Dad was awarded custody of us.

Two years later, he also found a new spouse. The courtship was short and the subsequent marriage brought two more kids into our household, from our new stepmother’s previous marriage. At the time, Grace was going on 10 and David eight. 

Once they had all moved in, it was made clear to us that our stepmother had every right to tan our behinds at any time as she saw fit. As for our new brother and sister, it was also made clear that Dad was going to raise and discipline them just like us.      

Our new mother was quick to spank with her hand or the wooden spoon, which was definitely feared by our new siblings. Even in the early days of being a family we’d tell them they were lucky. 

A few weeks in, David was the first of the pair to get the board from dad. We teased him about it afterwards but inevitably my sister and I also got in trouble a few days later, and were duly lined up and thoroughly paddled. Our new stepbrother was nicer about it than we had been to him, but he had overheard our beatings and knew we had both gotten far more swats than he had.

We also saw Grace spanked a few times by her mother. She made a big fuss during each punishment, and we knew that if we acted like that during a spanking from Dad it would have been much, much worse. 

In the meantime, life ebbed and flowed and we settled into a new routine. Sometimes our new housemates were our best friends, at others annoying, sworn enemies. One afternoon we were outside playing and crossed the road to retrieve a ball.

Now, where we lived was not a city street, but by no means a quiet suburban neighbourhood route – it was a two lane county highway. There were not that many cars, but many of them did go through far faster than the speed limit – we’d lost a few cats and a dog to cars. Under no circumstances were we to cross it without an adult.  

David crossed over and back again, looking in both directions and being cautious, and retrieved the ball. Moments later, I knew we were in real trouble. Dad came out and asked calmly but in a tense voice: “David, did you just cross the road?”  His new stepson nodded.

Dad turned to me: “Benjamin, did you put him up to it?” I shook my head emphatically. “Did you try to stop him?” Less emphatically this time, I shook my head.

Grace, as we would all come to learn, loved knowing that other kids were going to be punished – it was just in her nature, at least as long as she wasn’t in the mix. She came up to Dad and supplied without prompting: “Liz was on the garage roof.” While not nearly as serious an infraction as crossing the road, this was also (naturally, on reflection) never allowed. 

Dad turned to Liz, who blushingly admitted that she had gone up on the roof for the ball, and that her errant throw in retrieving it had caused the ball to cross the road.

Not that it needed to be said, but we were summarily all ordered to head inside, go to the basement and immediately line up for a paddling. Grace grinned – until Dad informed her that she was going to join us and get two swats for tattling. 

Grace’s protest started immediately. Dad gave her short shrift, telling her that she knew the rule that anyone who tattled got swats unless it was about someone’s safety. She wasn’t being disciplined for making him aware of the road crossing – it was for ratting out Liz for being on the roof and being the one that threw the ball. Grace’s protests grew but all she did was to seal her fate – and then some.

Moments later, with Grace and Dad still discussing what was about to occur, us other three kids were stood along the wall in a position we knew all too well.  

It seemed like hours before Dad walked in with Grace, and very firmly told her where and how to stand at the end of the line. “Hands on the wall!” he ordered as he walked past her and got out the two boards. Both were about four inches across with identical handles, the difference being that one was thicker and far more painful than the other.

Dad announced that Grace would be getting her two swats for tattling first and then, after the rest of us had been punished, she’d be spanked again for back talk and her attitude. 

He stood behind the girl, took aim and let her have it good with the first swat. The crack of the paddle against Grace’s bottom made us all jump. I saw Liz tense up, knowing what was coming.

Meanwhile David, who had been told he would be the next to be spanked, began to sob softly even before Grace took her second lick, which set the tone of just how hard we were all going to get it.

Coming to the boy, Dad reminded David of the rule about the road, and the seriousness of the safety risk he had taken, so there was no doubt as to what he was being disciplined for. Then the swats were delivered in an effective and business-like manner – tears, sobbing and apologies got David no mercy at all. Newly spanked, he was told to stay in position.   

I was next and after a lecture, I took one of the hardest punishments Dad had ever given me, with the board landing over and over again on my backside. 

There was a brief pause while Dad delivered me a lecture about being a responsible older brother, which was followed by four more swats on an already sore and well spanked butt. I tried my best to take the punishment as stoically as possible, but the spanking made tears roll down my cheeks, followed by a few more once Dad was finished with me.

Liz was next to be punished. Her lecture followed the outline of mine, about being responsible for keeping the younger kids safe. Dad also told Liz she would be getting extra swats for being on the roof of the garage yet again. This was not a new thing for her and she’d been caught and spanked for it a few times already. Every kid has a line they push and can’t explain – Liz’s was climbing.

Dad definitely didn’t go lighter on the girl – he laid the paddle across my sister’s backside with as much purpose and intent as he had mine. Liz tried to take it without crying – a lot of the time she could and would do exactly that. 

However, today was not one of those days, as Dad used a gentle line about expecting more of her and being disappointed that almost always brought her to tears. He went on to scorch Liz’s bottom with several more extra swats as she sobbed. Her nose ran and tears streamed down her face.

Three of us were still bent over, hands on the wall, but if we behaved in those moments our punishment was over with.

This left Grace. Her bottom was undoubtedly hurting a lot from her two swats for tattling – but rather than taking her remaining punishment obediently she again protested about the unfairness of it all. 

I stole a glance at my stepsister’s face – it was filled with indignation and defiance. Then I looked at Dad, and for a split second I felt bad for Grace. I knew the look on Dad’s face all too well, and also knew that compared to us Grace was really going to get it now.  

Dad began to spank her again. At the beginning, Grace protested at every swat. This gradually diminished to protesting every two or three licks. Dad beat her systematically and very soon the protests ended and Grace took the rest of her punishment obediently with gasps, audible sobs and a streaming river of tears. On occasion, Dad would make an example of us for the benefit of the other children, and that was exactly what happened here.

After that memorable spanking, I was sore for days. Liz told me that she had marks on her bottom for a week. As for Grace, who knows how long it was before she could sit comfortably again. She would go on to spend the entire afternoon and dinner time with her nose in the corner. Over dinner, the rest of us kids would look over at her and we could see her obvious discomfort.

That was the first time all of us kids were lined up and paddled as a group, but it wouldn’t be the last. Over the coming years, there would be countless variations of kids, or all four of us, lined up by Dad and soundly spanked. Some were just a few swats, others were more memorable like this one.

Over those years, Grace rarely took her punishment without debate and protest – with one exception. She had learned that if you are getting two swats for tattling, just take them and let it be done. Unfortunately for the rest of us, she became more than willing to accept her two swats for tattling knowing it was a fraction in comparison to the swats the real offenders would be given. 

Grace was always the tattle tell. A characteristic that set up a rivalry for years and truthfully still exists – not that she or the rest of us didn’t get ourselves in plenty of  trouble on our own.

Contributor: Ben

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