The Wild Card.
It was 1975 and I was five years old when I started to learn a very valuable lesson: Never, ever, play a game of psychological warfare with my mother because you will lose. The struggle to tame me actually started before 1975 and to this day no one has ever mastered it. Poptart even jokes of me, “You can’t stop her. You can only hope to contain her.” But my mother came the closest, and to this day she was the only person who kept me on my toes.
The first rule of combat is to always know your opponent. How do they fight? What is their style? And to what lengths will they go to achieve their goals? These are all very important things to keep in mind before entering into any sort of conflict. Will your opponent use guilt as a tactic? Manipulation? Will they degrade you? Are they straight shooters? Yellers? Spankers? Grounders? Do they threaten you with time outs, or do they threaten to call the po po on you? I have had experience in most all of these and have become a master at some. For instance, guilt is not going to work on me. I will deflect it and make you feel worse than you’re trying to make me feel. Manipulation is also a very bad one to use on me. I can smell it from a mile away and it only angers me. I myself am a straight shooter. Now straight shooters may hurt your feelings but you will always know where you stand with them. My mom was dangerous because she never fit into a neat little category. My mom was a Wild Card.
Discipline started very young with me, and in the early stages, my mom decided to let me pick my own punishments. This didn’t work out so well. Not because I was too easy on myself, quite the contrary. I was my own worst enemy. Take the now infamous Stacy vs. Wyatt battle of 1974. Wyatt was my mom’s boyfriend and I couldn’t stand him. He was rude to my mom and he knew that I knew it. I wanted Wyatt out and I was willing to do whatever it took. Whenever Wyatt came over I released my inner Hellion. I wanted him to know that if he decided to stay with my mom I was along for the ride. Don’t get me wrong: I was all for my mom’s happiness but even at 4 years old, I knew that happiness would never come with Riot Wyatt.
The three of us were having a nice “family” dinner one night and Wyatt was being his usual charming self and picking on my mom. So I pulled the ultimate act of defiance for a 4 year old. I stuck my tongue out at him. Needless to say my mom was not happy at how I was treating our guest and demanded that I apologize. So I sullenly apologized, and he just smiled at me like the cat that swallowed the canary. Oh silly Wyatt, don’t you know who you’re dealing with? The three of us were sitting in the dining room at a circular table and my mom was on my left side and Riot Wyatt was on my right. Strangely enough, for the rest of the dinner I developed a serious problem with my mouth. No matter what I did I couldn’t seem to get a bite of food in without getting some of it on the right hand corner of my mouth. Meaning I constantly had to stick my tongue out in Wyatt’s direction. It only took a few minutes before my mom and Wyatt knew what I was up to but I was able to stick my tongue out at Wyatt at least a good five or six times before I got caught.
“Stacy,” my mom said in a stern voice like only she could. “Go to your room and I’ll be up there to talk to you when I’m done eating.”
Busted. But the good news was I no longer had to look at Wyatt, so as far as I was concerned I had won the battle.
Wyatt went home which was what I was hoping for in the first place and my mom came into my room. “What you did tonight was very rude,” she began.
“I hate him,” I countered.
“ ‘Hate’ is a strong word, Stacy. We don’t hate anyone,” she said. What was she talking about? I don’t know about her but I really did hate Wyatt.
“I think you may learn your lesson better if you pick your own punishment,” she said. What the hell was this? Some kind of Jedi mind trick? Who lets a four year old pick their own punishment? I felt under pressure like I was in a game show and time was running out.
“Two months with no TV!” I blurted out before I really had a chance to think about what I was saying. Dammit!
“Okay, then that’s what you’re getting, young lady,” she told me. She kept her word. I went two solid months without TV.
You would think I would have learned my lesson from this, and low-balled my punishment the next time I screwed up. Nope.
After I threw Wyatt’s car keys in the trash: “I’ll be nice to Wyatt for an entire month!” After I “accidentally” spilled my milk all over Wyatt’s favorite polyester pants: “I can’t play with Barbies for two weeks!” What was I saying? Who was I? Someone please stop this madness!! Finally by the grace of God my mother stopped it.
“I can’t let you pick your own punishments anymore because you’re worse on yourself than I would ever be on you. From here on out I decide the punishment,” she said. Oh finally, sanity has been restored to the household. Now I could go back to plotting to destroy Wyatt instead of myself.
Back in the saddle, my mother tried using guilt. Back then guilt worked wonders on me. I was like putty in the guilt masters hand. I remember the day very well because I was not only in trouble with my mom but I also got my mouth washed out with soap at school. I had learned the word Bastard. Problem was, I had learned the word but I actually had no idea what it meant. Where did I learn this word you ask? Well it wasn’t from my mom or my dad. It wasn’t even from Riot Wyatt. No I had learned this little beauty from the magic box called the TV.
It was a perfectly nice day at the Christian Preschool I attended and all of us kids got to go outside to play. Yay! There I was with my shiny new word when it came out of my mouth just like a person says hello. But my hello sounded something like this, “You’re a bastard!” I said to the poor little boy I was playing with. Now I don’t think he knew what it meant either but he decided he should go tell on me anyway. Next thing I know it’s naptime for everyone else and I’m eating soap. There would be no nap for Stacy today, and she would also not enjoy the Mickey Mouse Club when it came on. Because my mother was on her way to pick my bastard-saying ass up and take me home.
My mom got to school and she looked like she was going to bust a blood vessel in her forehead. Once she got me out of the school and safely far enough away so they wouldn’t be able to hear my screams she turned to me and said, “Where on earth did you hear a word like that?”
“You were watching that show on TV last night about that guy who was a basta…”
“Stop right there,” she warned me. “Stacy, I am so disappointed in you. Do you have any idea how hurtful that word is?”
“No, I..” I tried to speak but she just kept on talking.
“Stacy, it’s a horrible word that people use for someone who doesn’t know who his father is. Would you like it if someone called you that?”
“No,” I told her now in tears. I had really upset my mom. I hated that. I cried and cried the whole way home. “Mom,” I finally said.” I didn’t know what that word meant. I’m so sorry.” I was now in full on hysterics and was sobbing. “Calm down,” she told me. “Let’s get you some McDonalds. Would that make you feel better?” Hell yeah it would!!!
“Um yeah…” I told her. We went home and I never said that word again. But I had learned a valuable lesson. Screw up, tearfully apologize, and I get a milkshake. Score!
A couple of weeks later I screwed up again and she tried the guilt thing and I turned on the waterworks. After about 20 minutes of me crying she realized what I was up to. “You’re not getting McDonalds this time,” she told me. Dammit! My plan was foiled.
We soon moved on to spankings. Not my favorite punishment. The first two were successful and I cried and my ass hurt but it didn’t take long for me to devise my own plan. On number three she called me into the bathroom and I pulled my pants down to my ankles and assumed the position. My mom sat down as I bent over her and she spanked me with her bare hand. But this time instead of crying I didn’t make a peep. Not one sound. I also didn’t cry. When she was done I stood up, pulled my pants back up, looked her in the eyes and told her, “That didn’t hurt,” and walked out of the bathroom. I have only seen my mother that mad on one other occasion. She didn’t say anything but you could see it in her eyes. She was planning my death and I should probably start saying my goodbyes to my friends now because I was never going to see them again.
Things were pretty normal for a long time. I stayed out of trouble and no punishments had to be enforced. I was pretty sure my plan had worked and I had officially put the spankings to a halt. One day I was outside in the neighborhood playing with my friends. I had very strict boundaries where I was allowed to go. We were living in La Habra California at the time. It wasn’t a bad area but it wasn’t an area that you want your kid to go roaming around in either. It was the city and needed to be respected. I had a large group of friends in the neighborhood but was only allowed to play on my street. I was allowed to go to the end of my block to the right of my house and to the left of my house, but under no circumstances was I allowed to cross the street. EVER! So what did I do? I did what any kid with a death wish did. I crossed the street. That’s when she came out of the house. “STACY! GET YOUR ASS HOME! NOW!” Ooooooooohhh nooooooo.
I went back across the street as my friends said their goodbyes to me. “Can I have your bike when she kills you?” my next door neighbor Gretchen asked me while I made my way up to the house. I walked inside and began to apologize, “Mom I’m so…”
“Stop right there,” she said. “I’m so mad at you right now, I can’t even look at you. You know you’re not supposed to cross that street. Go upstairs and take a bath,” she told me while standing at the kitchen sink doing the dishes. Thinking I had somehow beaten the system I ran upstairs and got into the tub and started playing with my Barbies. I was in there for about 10 minutes when she busted through the door with a plastic ruler and a look that was a combination of “escaped mental patient” and “predator about to pounce.”
She grabbed my little ass up and tossed me over her knee. She spanked my butt so hard with that plastic ruler I swear I saw what can only be described as a tunnel with a white light at the end of it. She then plopped me back down into the bath and asked, “Did that hurt?” That was the fourth and final spanking. After that she used a modified hybrid of “Straight Shooter” with a pinch of guilt thrown in for good measure. But you never knew what to expect, so it was best to try and stay out of trouble. I never underestimated my mom again. She was unlike any other opponent I have ever come across in the field of battle. She was a Wild Card. The most dangerous opponent of them all.
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