I remember it like it was yesterday. I was a child, not even five years old, temporarily living in Mexico. I was playing with my cousins when their neighbor’s kids approached me and asked if I wanted to hang out with them to watch an amazing cartoon that I’ve never heard of before. My eyes widened in excitement and I began following the much older kids into their home. My cousins warned me that I was not allowed to interact with the neighbor’s kids, but I did not listen to them and my new “friends” did a good job of warding off my two, younger cousins (out-numbered by anywhere between six to ten, older kids) and we began marching towards their house to watch this mysterious cartoon. Deep down inside, I knew what I was doing might be wrong, but as an innocent child, I figured “what’s the harm in watching cartoons?”
I remember having a good time. Nothing bad was happening, at least not that I can remember. I did not feel any danger towards me. Until the danger finally appeared at their door: my mother. With a wry smile, she greeted the family and simply stated that she was picking up her son. As my mother approached the room where I and my newfound “friends” were currently situated, I began to see some of them disperse like hyenas when they sense a much bigger predator approaching. My mother patiently demanded that I get up because it was time to go home. I desperately objected, but my mother was not in the mood to negotiate. The older kids in the room attempted to reason with her, but my mother would not be denied, especially by children she did not feel should be telling her how to parent.
She calmly walked me out of the home and politely bid the family farewell. I noticed my mother had a tree branch on her right hand. I asked what that was for. She did not reply. She simply gripped my hand tighter and walked faster towards my grandmother’s house. She directed me towards the backyard of the house and… well, at this point, I will leave out that embarrassing portion of my story. My cousins’ neighbors were not your typical neighbors. They were distant relatives and were part of a highly complex, family feud. As my cousins had warned, I was not allowed to interact with those people. But I did not listen and because of my refusal to heed their warnings, I got what is commonly referred to today as a “whoopin’ with a switch.”
My mother’s point was made. I never stepped foot inside that house ever again. I never even played or interacted with those kids for the rest of my life. The whoopin’ did what it was intended to do in the first place: teach me a lesson.
So we have established that I am a product of corporal punishment. My parents, especially my mother, would regularly use this tactic of discipline for the majority of my childhood. But she always made sure never to hit our heads (this was before we found out about CTE and ALS being caused by blows to the head). She always aimed for the buttocks. Not our legs, arms, hands, knees, stomach, back, face, or chest. Always the buttocks because she knew that would be the one spot that could take the most impact without causing us bodily harm. In retrospect, her tactics were done out of a place of love and I can appreciate it now. The younger “me” did not at the time, but now, I can understand where she was coming from. It is simply amazing that despite the age difference, my life was eerily similar to comedian George Lopez’s.
However, my mother’s greatest achievement was not that her form of punishment of slapping and smacking us around endured all these years. My mother would go on to give birth to two more children in the mid-to-late 1990s. I can count the number of times she and my father gave both of my little brothers a “whoopin” with one hand; maybe even with one finger. The change in parenting style left me perplexed for many years. Not only was my mother not punishing them with belts and sandals, but she was able to convince my father to abandon the practice as well. To this day, my younger brothers have not been arrested, been to jail, suspended from school, have reported drug problems, or have displayed any of the behavioral problems that proponents of corporal punishment warn about. These people will suggest that hitting children is okay because it prevents crime, corrects behavior, and raises good, upstanding citizens.
Perhaps hitting children to correct behavioral issues might be effective. But when is that line crossed towards abuse? At this point, we’ve seen pictures of Adrian Peterson’s child with what looks to be scratch marks spawned from a demon of hell. Here’s a description of the horrific events, courtesy of Deadspin:
The beating allegedly resulted in numerous injuries to the child, including cuts and bruises to the child’s back, buttocks, ankles, legs and scrotum, along with defensive wounds to the child’s hands.
For those applauding Peterson for punishing his kid for pushing another child, now would be the time to stop:
The police report says the doctor described some of the marks as open wounds and termed it “child abuse.” Another examiner agreed, calling the cuts “extensive.”
I’m sure there are many that still believe that the doctor is just part of the “wussification problem of America.” Nevertheless, the only thing the victim knows at this time is that he now thinks his life is in danger:
The child also expressed worry that Peterson would punch him in the face if the child reported the incident to authorities…He added that Peterson put leaves in his mouth when he was being hit with the switch while his pants were down.
Unfortunately, no matter how awful the details of the story are, there will be people who will look at this story and roll their eyes and blame the media of overblowing a trivial matter. “It’s just a man being a good parent,” they’ll say, most notably by Atlanta Falcons’ wide receiver, Roddy White. Most likely the same people that were upset that the “liberal media” refused to let the Ray Rice domestic violence controversy go away, even as the NFL faces the potential to discipline more players, such as Carolina Panthers’ player, Greg Hardy, whose incident can be best described as sadistically gruesome. But for some people, these are private matters that should only involve the players and their significant other. It is none of our business what goes on in the private lives of these players’ relationships despite the fact these are public figures who are now appearing in court, which is a public domain. And then there are the “Joe-bots” at Penn State University that do not care about Joe Paterno harboring a child rapist throughout his tenure as head coach. They just want to see their beloved coach exonerated despite the major influence he had in keeping Jerry Sandusky running wild with young boys around campus.
The apathy towards these cases by a lot of folks in the general public is very disheartening as many will point out that “these are football players, let them play football.” But when is enough finally enough? Will it take a murder to finally get these people to see the importance of these events and the need to discipline players to correct their behavior? Oh wait, we already had a couple of players associated with murder in Aaron Hernandez and Ray Lewis. Did anything change after these incidents in terms of player discipline? Not really. Will anything change after these current batch of players are disciplined by the shield? Now would be a good time to raise awareness of the seriousness that is domestic violence, whether it’s against a woman or a child. Now would be a good time to make a stand against this kind of unacceptable behavior against football players and once again hold them to a higher standard in our society, regardless of how important said players are to a team: real or fantasy.
As for my parents, most notably my mother, I’m proud to say that I was never whooped to the point where “open wounds” would appear on my body. I’m also proud that my immigrant parents, anchored by strong, Mexican tradition that included a deep belief in corporal punishment, were able to adapt their parenting to a changing world and utilize alternate methods of discipline. Perhaps it’s time for the National Football League and the rest of America to follow suit and stop excusing themselves and the players and teams they follow.