I don’t believe I was especially naughty as a child – at least, no more than any other boy of my particular age group.
Unfortunately my mother – of stern, unyielding Presbyterian stock – disagreed.
In her sincere and honest belief that to spare the rod was to spoil the child, she ensured that anything other than the mildest of infractions were dealt with swiftly and sharply.
More often than not, that meant applying her hand firmly to her son’s backside – vigorously and enthusiastically.
“I take no pleasure in this, Mark,”
she would observe to me closely as I balanced over her knee,
A sting growing from the force of the impact,
“but it did me no harm when I was your age and I’ll not have you turning into a hooligan,
even if I have to tan your backside every night for a year.”
‘Tan your backside was a phrase she was very fond of.
Often, it was posed as a question, as in:
“Would you like me to tan your backside?”
Other rhetorical questions included
‘do you want a spanking?’ and (more rarely but more ominously) ‘shall I give you a good hiding?’
In my experience, by the time these sorts of questions were asked, it was too late; my fate had been sealed.
Answering ‘no, Mum’ or ‘please no, Mum’ would not be sufficient to avoid what would follow.
Then would follow:
“Go to your bedroom – you know what to do.
I’ll be up when I’ve washed the floor/done the washing up/peeled the potatoes”, or whatever other job she had to do.
Arguing or pleading at this point was futile.
All there was for it was to do as I was told and go upstairs.
Once in my room, I did indeed know what I had to do and that was to sit on the edge of the bed and ponder my fate.
That corporal punishment would be administered was a given; it was simply a question of what implement would be employed to make my bottom good and sore.
That would depend upon how severe she deemed my misdemeanor to be, of course.
From my first spankings, the routine was always the same.
Mother would scold me, explain why she was punishing me, and remind me that the purpose of the spanking was to teach me a lesson.
Consequently, she intended that what was to follow was going to hurt, but that again was a given.
She had a horror of me turning out like the Matthews children from down the road – they were out of control and Mum often said she knew what she would do to them if they were hers.
Once the scolding was down with, I would be pulled straight off my feet and over her knee.
Then the spanking would then start – hard and fast smacks to both cheeks.
Mum’s hand was like iron and thanks to her days of playing tennis she hit with force, her right hand in the middle of my back holding me down while her left mercilessly hit my increasingly sore and tender backside.
The tears would flow and the only comfort she would give me was that I would be grateful one day and she was doing this for my own good.
I only knew the punishment was reaching its end when the smacks started landing on my upper thighs – Mum saved the worst until last to make sure I’d remember the lesson every time I sat down for a while afterwards.
If I cried too much, I was offered my father’s belt instead.
Biting back my tears and knowing better than to protest, all I could do was grit my teeth and pray for the end.
When it was finally over, Mum would hug me and repeat that the punishment was for my own good and that she hoped she would not have to do it again.
Even as she was saying those words, I’m sure she thought that unlikely.
Then I would be told
“Mark my words, young man, if you don’t mend your ways you’ll be looking at stripes across that bottom of yours – then you’ll have something to really cry about”.
Mum would then go back to her housework and I would go back downstairs feeling thoroughly sore and chastised.
And that’s how it went on, frequently and regularly until I got a little older.
On my first day at grammar school, resplendent in my new school uniform, Mum gave me a kiss and wished me good luck, but added: “You’re a big boy at big school now.
Big boys don’t get spanked over mummy’s knee anymore, do they?”
I was happy to agree and assumed that the pain and embarrassment of sore bottoms were now a thing of the past.
How wrong and naive could I have been?
I was disabused of this ridiculous notion about two weeks later.
I was late back from school and covered in mud – having taken a shortcut through the woods with friends and having an impromptu game of football.
Mum met me on the doorstep in a fine fury.
The predictable questions were asked:
“What time do you call this?
Didn’t I tell you not to go through those woods?
Do you expect me to wash those clothes in that state?”
This barrage of questions was rounded off with the classic: “Did you want a spanking?”
My stomach turned over but, perhaps because I considered myself a big boy or perhaps because of misplaced bravado, I shot back:
“Of course I didn’t, Mum. I was just leaving playing with my friends.
Anyway, I’m too old for a spanking now – you said so yourself.”
Mum looked momentarily puzzled and then an ominous grin of dawning amusement crossed her stern face.
“You silly, stupid boy!
That’s what you think I said, did you?
Well, you’ve got a surprise coming – get upstairs this instant.”
My bravado vanished quicker than my mother’s smile.
Years of training over her knee had taught me that arguing only made it more painful so I went upstairs.
She hadn’t said how long she would be.
Usually, she left me to stew for 30 minutes.
This time the clock ticked and there was no sign of her.
I started to reflect on what she had said and what I thought she had meant.
What did she mean?
Obviously, I was to be punished, but if she wasn’t going to spank me, then what? Then, the penny dropped.
In the spare room next door to my bedroom, reserved for occasional guests only was a wardrobe.
It was used to store winter coats and other items not in daily use.
I also knew that stored in there – because I had been shown them – were my mother’s old riding crop and my dad’s old leather belt.
Many times, indeed, I had been promised a ‘jolly good hiding’ with them.
More ominously still, Mum hinted that she was keeping a cane for me, for when I was really bad.
Surely I hadn’t been that bad, had I?
A bit late and a bit of mud?
That would normally attract a spanked bottom, but Mum’s grin worried me.
When she said that big boys didn’t get spanked over mummy’s knee anymore,
I thought she meant they were too big for corporal punishment.
What if she meant instead that big boys got bigger punishments?
At school, the cane was available for misbehavior – was that what she meant?
My knees went to jelly as I finally heard her steps coming up the stairs.
I prayed she’d come straight into my room and put me over her knee, big as I was.
It would hurt all right but it surely must be better than the crop or the belt – or, God forbid, the cane.
Even in my panic, I knew the decisive moment would be when Mum got to the top of the stairs.
Would she come straight ahead into my room, or would she turn right and go into the spare?
I imagined the familiar click of the wardrobe lock and the riding crop being brought out.
What was going to happen to me?