Ah, the wooden spoon. Who among us doesn’t shiver with a sense of deep-seeded dread whenever we remove one from the dishwasher?
To be sure, it conjures up many memories of hard-handed discipline of our Irish parents from days gone by.
As luck would have it, I was meeting some fellow Irish American writer friends that night at the pub and I tucked my wooden spoon in my “man bag.” When the craic was at its peak, I lay the spoon on the bar.
“Discuss,” says I.
Within moments, wooden spoon stories dripped from the bar; some among us grabbed the utensil and took to demonstrating the backstroke their mammies perfected.
Everyone not only remembers getting walloped with one, they also remember which sibling’s backside the poor woman finally broke it on as well!
“Well, a broken spoon didn’t stop my mother and it doesn’t stop me now,” said one perky blonde gal defiantly, slurring her words as she guzzled her seemingly bottomless goblet of Chardonnay.
“When my mom broke it on me, she instructed me to sit still while she went to the junk drawer to fetch some black electrical tape. That’s a thrifty Donegal woman! She taped it tight and resumed the beatings.
“To this day, I have a taped wooden spoon in my junk drawer and I am not afraid to use it!”
There were a few hushed gasps of horror when this tumbled out of her mouth, and there is the
We all can acknowledge that the “spare the spoon and spoil the child” ethos of our parents kept us on the straight and narrow back then, yet we wouldn’t raise a hand to our children now.
Yeah, I know what you’ll say next -- good!
Studies show that this type of punishment ruins their spirit and that those studies weren’t available to our parents back in the day, yadda, yadda, yadda.
Anyone with teenaged kids has been tempted to reach for the wooden spoon at some point, and you are lying if you said “not me” after reading the first part of this sentence.
My 16-year-old rolls her eyes when asked to empty the dishwasher, and I am so tempted to make toothpick shards out of our wooden spoon on her Gap-clad rump.
When the 14-year-old doesn’t bother to look up from her phone when I ask her to walk the dogs, I’d love nothing more to whack the device from her hand and redden her knuckles in the process.
Sure, taking away the Apple devices or putting a moratorium on texting until a room gets clean is torture to a teen and might get the desired effect. But I’ll say it out loud now -- it falls flat for me.
There was nothing like the shock and awe that would ensue up when my mother would charge the room with the spoon, slicing the air of my pigsty of a room with each step for emphasis.
“I am sick of saying the same thing over and over!” she’d screech, the veins in her eyeballs morphing into the cracks of her sanity. I don’t actually recall many savage beatings with the spoon. Dad preferred the belt and I remember those more.
My brother was and is a tough cookie who wouldn’t give my mother the satisfaction of showing pain when the spoon came down on him.
Me? I would employ motor-mouth diplomacy and somehow avoid contact with the wood. That skill would come in handy later on in life because it taught me to be quick-witted, something that comes in handy during the selling process.
I’ve often wondered if I have the wooden spoon to thank for the ability to instantly make lemonade out of any lemon situation with a flick of the tongue in my business life.
Parenting nowadays is all about pouring measuring cups of disappointment with a pinch of guilt into the mix when your child misses expectations.
It is with a heavy heart that I place the wooden spoon back in the junk drawer because there is no place in the recipe for it.
(Mike Farragher’s book of essays can be found on www.thisisyourbrainonshamrocks.com)