Okay, here’s one for you. Think back to when you were, oh, maybe two or three years old.

What’s the name of that finger action your mother used to do when you’d been naughty? It consisted of her right forefinger sliding down the length of her left forefinger (three times), and was always accompanied by a look of sad disappointment and the words, “No, no no!” or sometimes, “Shoo, shoo, shoo!”

Being the perfect child, I never saw such things often myself. (Insert smirk here.) I always figured, though, that if that’s the worst punishment Mommy could come up with, I wasn’t going to worry about it. Besides, after the first couple of times, I was miserable to think I’d made her unhappy.

Other kids might get spanked in those days, but for Sisty and me, punishment usually meant standing in a corner with your nose right up against the wall. It was a timeout fifty years before that became the psychologically correct thing for parents to do. It was also pretty effective, because for normal children the enforced inactivity was almost unbearable. We didn’t even get something to read! Our timeouts probably didn’t last more than a minute or so. It didn’t take many instances for us to learn that yelling “I’m sorry!” would get us freed to go outside and play, usually with a forgiving hug thrown in. Still, “Go stand in the corner” always loomed if we strayed far from the rules.

In our home, actually, the rules were pretty simple, and consisted mainly of:

  • Don’t hurt yourself.
  • Don’t hurt anyone else, by words or actions.
  • Don’t leave this block without permission.
  • When Dad or Mom calls your name, you immediately answer, “Coming!” and head for home. NOW!

That was pretty much it. We didn’t need today’s warnings about talking to strangers and things like that. For one thing, all the neighbors knew each other. Can you believe it? Most moms were home during the day, and all of them watched out for all the kids. That meant that a stranger on our block was noticed right away. If he turned out to be the Electrolux salesman making his rounds, all was okay. If not, he’d by God better have a good reason for being on the street with our kids!!!!

I like to think that our moms would have handled the situation with, if nothing else, “Shoo, shoo, shoo!” and “Go stand in the corner!”

That’d teach them!

I’ll see you again, after the commercial.