When a wooden spoon is a threat

When I was a kid I would sometimes wonder, in certain situations, why grown-ups didn’t do something. Now I’m asking myself, should I do something.

My daughter’s friend, S., had a sleepover with us last night. We went to a movie, did a little bit of shopping, made breakfast together this morning – simply had a nice, time. S. felt comfortable and relaxed.

So she started talking about her mom.

“She smacks me with a wooden spoon,” she said.

What to say? “How does that make you feel?” I ask.

“It hurts,” she says. “And even when I stop crying I feel like I want to keep on crying.”

I nod. She pauses.

“It makes me want to hurt my mother.”

Her father, she says, yells at her mother to stop. “But my mother says it’s a cultural thing.”

Sweet Jesus.

Am I going to report her? No. I know the family. I know spanking isn’t illegal. I know hitting kids, to me, is immoral. I know it’s making S. sad. I know that I don’t know all the facts. I know that, all my daughter and I use a wooden spoon for is to cook with together. I also know that, sometimes, the family and parents you have are the luck of the draw. It’s not a dire situation, it’s just not a perfect, happy one.

One day when my daughter was about 5 or 6 years old, she was having an absolute hissy fit meltdown  over something – probably about what to wear or my saying no to staying up later or something. It was summer and she was screaming at the top of her lungs.

“Would you be quiet,” I said, exasperated. “The neighbours are going to think I’m beating you!”

She looked at me quizzically – and obviously stored away that little nugget in her mind.

A few days later she said to me, “Mommy, the neighbours never would have thought you were beating me.”

“Why not?”

“Because parents don’t beat their kids,” she said, comfortably and knowingly.

Bless her heart.

But S., the poor kid – her father’s got cancer and is once again having chemo. S. doesn’t know this – but perhaps it’s put her mom under stress. Perhaps it explains the frustration. The putdowns. Can I judge?

And, as an adult, I realize, sometimes all you can do is watch and offer a friendly shoulder, a different perspective. Perhaps keeping our door open to the child – and offering her mother a break – is the best we can do.

Anyway, this morning her mother came to pick her up.

“Oh, I’m so proud of your daughter, playing hockey,” she gushed.

“S. pick up your bag – look, it’s not even packed yet,” she said toward her own child.

“And her teeth,” she said, looking back to my daughter. “They’re growing in so beautifully,” she enthused. “Look at S.’s teeth. They’re growing in all crooked. She’s going to need braces.”

I gave S. a hug. “Thanks so much for coming, sweetie,” I said. “It was a real pleasure having you – and you’re welcome any time.”

She smiled and walked to the car with her mom, eager, eager to please her.



  1. Difficult – if only we could make it better for every child, but we can’t. Seems to me like you’re giving S an alternative view of how a caring adult should be. Maybe when she’s a Mom with a naughty child she’ll remember that.

    1. It is difficult. We don’t know all the details of what goes on inside someone’s house. And while I think the mother is very negative toward and hard on the child, I’ve also seen her be quite generous toward her. The only lesson, really, is that life can be sad – and we can only work to try to make it less so.

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