Monday, July 23, 2007

Crime and Punishment

Three young children stand around an old freezer, out on the back porch of the house. They have been summoned there by an angry parent.

"There was a frozen cake in this freezer that is now gone," the parent accuses the children. "If no one confesses, then you will all be punished."

Two of the children have no idea what the parent is talking about. One of them does. But all remain silent. The accusations and the threats continue. None of the children say anything, but they are all afraid of the terrible wrath of the parent.

The parent looks into the faces of each child, trying by sheer force of will to get the information out of the one guilty child. The silence of the children enrages the parent. The parent slaps the face of each child once, the sound loud in the space of the small porch.

But nothing can shake a confession from the guilty, and all of them are afraid.

The confrontation ends with all of the children being spanked, one after the other, and then sent to their rooms.

The case of the missing cake is never solved, but the anger and humiliation of the event will always be remembered.

42 comments:

Nancy Dancehall said...

All that for a damned cake. *sigh*

Lynn said...

This parent should be very fearful, since it will be these humilated children who will choose the care they receive in their old age. (What goes around, comes around)... Did the child who took the cake ever apologize to the other two?

Mama P said...

That is chilling. It makes me realize how many children are treated this way today even.

Sally Forth said...

When I was 4 our housekeeper broke a lamp and blamed me. My mother said she'd spank me 'til I told the truth. I think it frightened her because that was the last time she ever took the word of another adult over mine.

Irrelephant said...

And yet in spite of all that fear and abuse you turned out to be a phenomenal parent to Em, a loving voice of reason and responsibility. It says a lot that you didn't follow the path that you saw as a child, as happens so often, says a lot for your inner strength.

QT said...

Whoa, I can totally relate to this, with the same thing having happened to my sisters and I, more than once.

What is supposed to be the motivator in confessing, again?

Airam said...

What a powerful post.

This really makes me sad.

I'd bet anything that had the kid confessed, the outcome wouldn't be any different.

Sober Briquette said...

I told my husband this weekend that I realized I undermine our parenting in situations where the kids are misbehaving in his presence. I was so afraid of my father (mostly because he was volatile - he would never speak, and then he'd blow), I'm absolutely convinced the kids will be terrified of Tony, all evidence to the contrary. So whenever they are misbehaving, instead of being the parent I would be if I were alone, or letting him be the parent he's trying to be, I switch into all-protection-all-the-time mode.

My Reflecting Pool said...

I remember a day when that was completely acceptable behavior. Not so much today.

AC said...

Imagine a similar scene except there is only one child who has just accidentally tipped over a glass of tea at the dinner table. Imagine a father who just keeps on eating while a mother grabs a yardstick. Imagine now that father dead and that mother in poorish health and the child's responsibility and that mother remembering a totally rewritten history. Imagine the grown child reading obituaries in the newspaper, comparing ages of the deceaased and feeling...envy for the freedom of orphanhood. Bummer, huh.

WNG said...

The older I get the more I thank my parents for their patience, love and support. One day I'm sure Em will do the same for you.

Marsha said...

My brother and I were in similar circumstances many times growing up.

Joan said...

When I read memories like this, I realize how lucky I am to have had such loving and rational parents. Oh...they punished us when we did something bad (yes, we were not perfect angels) but their actions always let us know they were doing it for our own good and with love. I'm sure Em feels this way about her mom.

ms chica said...

There are generations of parents, who learned how to parent, by experiencing first, how NOT to parent. I wish you hadn't gained your sage wisdom the hard way, though I wonder, if there really is an easy way to gain it.

amusing said...

So much anger. Expressed in such a harmful manner. So sad.

Sanjay said...

It has happened to me a few times growing up, not sure I carry any scars though.

Cheesy said...

Who had the icing around their mouth? Sorry for the woeful memory but I'm sure lessons were learned from it for the children of the future. In a way your kiddo is lucky you had to live this. You were not lucky to have to endure it though. hugs

Kelly said...

This story reminds me of my grandmother. She had 6 kids, and she told stories of lining them up for one swat a piece when none of them would confess. Not sure I like her methodology, but I sure understand her frustration.

meno said...

nancy, and i didn't even get to eat it!

lynn, oooh, good point! No one has ever apologized. I'm not sure anyone else remembers.

mamap, or treated even worse.

sally, she blamed YOU? How cowardly.

irrelephant, I think there are lots of us who learned how NOT to parent from our parents.

qt, good question. And it feels so random when you have no idea about the infraction.

airam, i bet you are right. It's just a power play.

de, Wow, what a great thing to realize. Now comes the harder part, trying to behave differently.

my pool, i saw a woman outside a store yesterday with three kids. As i passed by i heard her say, "I don't care who did it, i'm gonna spank you all as soon as we get home." Hopefully it's less common.

ac, i can easily imagine that, very easily.

wng, i hope you tell them too.

marsha, i think this stuck in my mind because it didn't happen all that often. Usually it was clear who had done it. But it sure felf massively unfair when it did.

joan, i hope if your parents are still around that you tell them these nice thoughts.

ms.chica, well, i'll never know. And god knows i'm not perfect at it, but i do know how to apologize.

amusing, i think it was about control. They would get infuriated by not being able to intimidate us and get the information they wanted.

sanjay, were you guilty? And if you were would you confess? Just curious.

cheesy, it wasn't me, dammit! And i love cake.

kelly, oddly enough, i can understand the frustration too.

Bob said...

keerist. right out of Dickens.

my dad had a temper but he NEVER slapped us. (he could yell and reduce us to tears, though). but - he was always fair in his punishments. I cannot remember ever being spanked for something I didn't do.

liv said...

and to think I stopped in shock at the notion of a frozen cake. and then the feelings flooded. it made me think of how many times i got hit for no apparent reason with everything from a hand to a flying lamp.

Maggie said...

How utterly sad that so many of us have memories like this one.

And so many children are still being given memories like this one.

I wish I could make the world stop and reteach it love for all its children.

Em said...

Sounds a little too familiar. I've never believed in punishing the innocent in an attempt to get the guilty.

thailandchani said...

Sometimes I find it incredibly sad that the only thing necessary to have children is a roll in the hay.

Some people shouldn't be parents.

That is one method I find particularly disturbing.


Peace,

~Chani

flutter said...

I'm just sorry.

TTQ said...

My parents would have likely gone out and bought three cakes and made each one of us sit down and finish it before being excused from the table and no sharing was allowed.

Something like that happened over a squabble over ice cream...

I was upset and crying that my mean two older sisters ate all the ice cream and didn't give me any..so off to the store and three containers were bought and yep we had to eat it all or never ever get ice cream again.
You wanted it you got it now whatcha gonna do with it???

Mrs. Chili said...

You are an excellent storyteller, Meno. I recognize the truth in this: it is sparse and eloquent and told exactly as a story like this should be told.

Sadly, I have stories like this in my own arsenal. I, too, learned how NOT to parent from my parents...

jen said...

it breaks my heart the unnecessary pain and confusion we can cause in children.

crazymumma said...

It sounds familiar.

The joy is? I get to NOT be like that to my children.

I wonder why so many parents were or are like that. Why do we sometimes forget to laugh about the forgivable?

meno said...

bob, this was not the usual, which may be why i remember it. But really, over cake?

liv, i'm sorry, that sucks. Now if it had been a flying carpet....

maggie, the worst part for me was the fear. I had no idea what was going on.

em, no, me neither. that is a military tactic i think, to build teamwork.

chani, i know! Believe me, i know!

flutter, well, i did learn something. What not to do. Of course poor Em has no siblings, so i would never have had to use this one anyway.

ttq, that's pretty Draconian too. Although...a whole cake? for me?

mrs.chili, thank you! I was only about 6 at the time and i very clearly remember the incident and the fear and confusion i felt.

jen, me too. And really, on the scale of cruel things that can be done, this ranks pretty low. Sad.

crazymumma, really, over CAKE? Although as you say, it was a great lesson in how not to be.

Schmoopie said...

Someone's mother didn't choose her battles wisely. It was JUST a cake for God's sake!

lu said...

I remember my 3 sisters and I lining up in the hallway, waiting for our turn for a spanking. While we were filling our panties with golden books the youngest armed herself with a broom and charged my father.

I've no memory of what we had done, but there was some thrill at the rebelion.

Stucco said...

Was it really that big of a thing? No- I don't mean to be without empathy or tact, I'm serious- was it? I'm having a hard time relating on this one. I was hit pretty often and with sincerity, but that all doesn't stand out much. The psycho head games are the ones I recall.

Sienna said...

I can feel the fear and a little of the WTF??

It is all about power and control.

An adult, male or female (or both!) standing over and intimidating children is quite terrifying....the anger and hate...never knowing when it's gonna come, for whatever reason! and always a shadow over any interaction...

It is the greatest feeling in the world to break a cycle of violence and abuse...it stops here, now.

Sure you can frustrated at times, but I would chop off my arm rather then hurt a child or animal...the easiest choice in the world, and you wonder why was it not that easy for them?

The cake is just the tip of the iceberg isn't it Meno.

Over food, sweet jesus.

As Mama P says, it's just chilling to think children not having a safe, loving environment.

I think you have made an amazing journey.

Pam

Lee said...

I posted a long time ago about my entire first grade class being spanked because of one child's badness. I will never forget the moment I realized that life ain't fair.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

A sad and all too common story. I don't understand how a parent can fail to realize, ever, what a precious gift a child is.

I don't remember my parents ever punishing my brother and me because they didn't know who was guilty, probably because we were far apart in age and interests.

But teachers often withheld a special treat or outing from an entire class because of one kid's mischief.

Punishing the innocent out of frustration is never fair or effective.

Mother of Invention said...

Yes, I've seen many use this in their classes but mostly a long time ago, thankfully. I'm lucky to have just received the yucky end of a flyswatter the odd time, probably having deserved some sort of reprimand, and that was just the going method of that era. I really have no bad feelings about how I was disciplined.

Over a cake? I agree! At least, save it for the big issues.

Tink said...

Anger and humiliation of the parent or the child? Because I can only imagine the parent looks back on the moment with regret. Hopefully...

meno said...

schmoopie, i know! a cake. I hope it was a good one.

lu, that' a great story! Your sister sounds like a fiesty one.

stucco, no, of course it wasn't that big of a thing. Much worse things happen to kids, all the time. I just think of it as an abuse of power. In a way, this was a psycho head game, at least it was when i was 6.

pam, you know, i can't say that i was abused. I would call it neglect with random acts of inexplicable violence thrown in. I also think it was a common parenting method in that time. I'm just glad it's no longer used as much. And thank you. :)

lee, wow, that realy sucks. 24 resentful little kids and one guilty one.

hearts, i don't think my parents thought of me as a precious little gift, in fact, i'm sure of it. Even the thought makes me crack up. Which is sad in a way.

moi, i remember that tactic too. And in our house it was the belt, and in a friend's house it was the hairbrush that was the object of doom.

tink, i doubt if anyone but me remembers this event. And i will also admit that my memory of the event may be distorted because i was 6. I wonder if my parents would be unhappy with the memory. i wonder.....

holly said...

thankfully (assuming my guess is correct) the child grew up to be a much more caring and loving parent than the one she had

Ortizzle said...

I have never understood that "group punishment" philosophy that is supposed to make the guilty one fess up. It never does. It only makes the accused more united in their front.

Don't you just wonder how you ever turned out so sane and such a good parent?

Anonymous said...

I remember it exactly, only it was ice cream. There were 4 of us at the time (later 5), and what made me maddest was that the youngest was included even though she was too young to be capable of getting in the freezer and eating it.

It happened lots but I remember that time best because of the baby, and because I was old enough to not be confused and scared, but MAD. I yelled at my father knowing it would get me into more trouble but I didn't care. He should have left the baby alone.