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Domestic CP - November 2001

Otago Daily Times, New Zealand, 2 November 2001

The Oz Files

No more glass, nor brown belt

By Murray Kirkness

MY DAD had a pretty low-key system when it came to disciplining my brother and me.

cuttingUnlike with Mum, there wasn't a lot of screaming or yelling, no arm-waving or finger-pointing, no black looks with accompanying scolding sounds from a frustrated woman pushed too far, no threats of being locked in a bedroom.

In fact, as far as I remember, there was little outward sign of emotion at all as far as Big Ronnie was concerned.

But when this giant of a man - at 68 he still stands 1.88m tall and weighs more than 114kg - slowly rose from whatever he was doing and started to unbuckle his belt, you knew you were in big trouble.

B-I-G T-R-O-U-B-L-E.

And as that faded brown thick leather belt slowly fell from each loop of his faded blue jeans, you also knew there was nowhere to run, and certainly nowhere to hide.

Forget about that time-honoured phrase "This'll hurt me more than it hurts you". Take it from me, that belt stung each time and every time it landed on a headstrong young boy's tautly clenched buttocks.

Very occasionally, Mum gave us a whack on the behind with a feather duster, but that was almost laughable compared to Dad's technique with the strap.

My old man's belt-swinging ability became legendary with Brad and me, even before I hit primary school. Twenty-plus years later, and it still is. Brad and I laugh about it now, but Dad really knew how to land that thing.

So there's no other way to say it. It hurt. A lot.

Yep, "Getting The Belt" was a tearful, fearful experience.

But don't get me wrong, I don't have any emotional scars. I don't have nightmares. I don't feel the need to talk to a counsellor. Hell, I've hardly even mentioned it to my wife, and I love it when she beats me.

Please don't get me wrong, dear reader. I abhor child abuse of any kind, and am certainly not condoning violence in the home. I didn't, and still don't, see Dad's punishment as abuse. Some youngsters may be kept in place with a cocked eyebrow or a raised voice, but I certainly wasn't one of them. I was always keen to see just how far I could push things and, even as a kiddie, I recognised that whenever my Dad reached for his belt, I'd pushed too far.

Like when I broke about four lengths of newly laid PVC sewer pipe by throwing rocks into a freshly dug trench. Even as the first stone left my hands, I knew I was in the wrong, but it seemed a pretty cool way to impress my friends. Several hundred rocks later, Dad didn't agree.

Then there was the time I stole my brother's motorbike as a nine-year-old. I thought I was Evil Knievel, you see, but sadly Dad didn't see. In fact, all Big Ronnie saw was a pile of broken weatherboards and a damaged house frame from where I crashed it into the side of our home.

Brad and I both copped a hiding one morning when we were trying to emulate the wrestlers we'd seen on TV the night before. It was pretty early - about 5.30 - and we were on holidays, but I'd discovered a hold called the Squirrel Grip, and there was no way I was letting my big brother off the mat even if Dad gave us a quiet warning for making too much noise. I decided to ignore him, just like I had ignored Brad's increasingly high-pitched cries for help during the past three or four minutes.

Big mistake.

I should have known better. So should Brad. Somewhat recklessly, instead of being satisfied with the punishment Dad dealt to me, big brother decided to get some of his own back. Good old Ronnie came to my rescue almost immediately . . . and I've never been so pleased to see that damn brown belt.

Of course, I can remember plenty of other incidents which saw that same belt emerge. I shot my brother's helmet once. Luckily, he wasn't wearing it, but the .22 Magnum sure made a mess of the back of it. Another time, I set fire to a gumtree-covered hillside. About 2ha of paddock were scorched, but didn't get as hot as the cheeks of my bum that night.

I could go on and on. I'm blessed with plenty of attributes, and one of them is certainly stupidity. In fact, just a year of so ago, my father looked at me, shook his head and said "I'm lucky enough to have two boys with plenty of brains. It's a shame they don't use them very much." That comment came in response to me bogging a four-wheel-drive on a beach near his home. No real problems there, except for the fact it was below the high tide mark and I had a six-week-old baby in the vehicle. Did you know Nissan Patrols float? At least, they do for a while.

All these thoughts flooded through my mind last week when my wife rang me to inform me she'd "had a bit of trouble" with our four-year-old son. As it turned out, a bit of trouble was probably an understatement.

We have a commercial-sized glasshouse at home, you see, which measures 5m wide by about 20m long. On Wednesday afternoon, Luke and three of his mates decided there were far too many windows in it, and, using only their hands and feet, smashed 85% of them.

To give you some idea of the devastation, the first quote to repair the damage was almost $3000. No wonder our home has become known as "The Crystal Palace".

Fortunately, there was no serious injury to any of the boys. In fact, not one received so much as a scratch. Just how they managed this is beyond me. Some would say it was more glass than class.

Anyway, like father, like son, they say, and I'd have to agree. After all, Luke really is turning out just like his Dad. I reckon he's lucky that I'm not yet old enough to understand just how these things happen. But he's even luckier I don't own a brown leather belt.

Murray Kirkness is an Australian employed at Allied Press.

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