A Flag On The Play

Mrs. Lion is a very kind soul. She is also very careful, to be fair. I think that the need to avoid unfairness gets in her way as a disciplinary wife. She knows how bad it feels to be treated unfairly, and she works hard to prevent that from happening to me. The problem is that when one is working very hard to be fair, the only offenses that are comfortable to punish are objective failures. Failing to set up the coffee pot is a perfect example.

It’s binary. The pot is either ready to brew coffee, or it isn’t. If it isn’t, I get spanked. Easy-peasy! My new rule is also binary. If I spill anything on the comforter, I get punished. The spill is either there, or it isn’t. Binary. She gets into trouble with the offense is subjective. She discussed this problem in a recent post (“Listen To Me“). She talked about some things that annoyed her. She weighed them in her mind and decided it would be unfair to punish me for them.

We instituted “Just Because” spankings to address the offenses that Mrs. Lion couldn’t bring herself to punish because they might not be all my fault. She could have been upset with someone from work. The dog could have been getting on her nerves. I may not have heard what she said—lots of reasons to avoid spanking me.

This is a problem all parents face. It is always easy to punish rule infractions but very hard to punish “soft” misdemeanors. The problem is even more difficult for a disciplinary wife. I’ve been giving this a lot of thought. It’s been nearly a month since Mrs. Lion got out the spanking bench.

It boils down to a couple of choices. She can choose to err on the side of a sore bottom instead of letting things go because they may not be entirely my fault. Or, she can become like the NFL and have a 400-page rule book. There’s a distinct advantage to working out rules for subjective infractions. It makes enforcement easier. Flags drop on the play without a need for nuance. The challenge is how to define the rules so that we avoid subjective ambiguity. That’s the real problem.

For example, Mrs.Lion set a rule that I get spanked if I interrupt her. She’s written about many offenses but almost never punishes them. She doesn’t trust her call on the play. Maybe I thought she paused to let me respond. Maybe it wasn’t all my fault. Nothing binary there. She’s not alone. From what I’ve read, almost every disciplinary wife has a struggle with subject fouls.

I think there is a way to help correct this. Why not an “always his fault” rule? The way that works is very simple and binary. If I interrupt, I get punished. It doesn’t matter why I did it. I get spanked. This is good for both of us. It makes the “catch the lion” game more fun for Mrs. Lion. More importantly, it teaches me not to step on her lines. This will help me with others as well.

Another very difficult annoyance to enforce is not listening. This is the easiest offense to overlook. It’s almost trivial to rationalize why I didn’t hear what Mrs. Lion said. I was distracted. I had the TV on too loud. I was listening but didn’t understand. The problem is that all of these are reasonable excuses. We’re talking about flags on the play. If the ref, Mrs. Lion, sees it, she needs to throw the yellow flag and get out the spanking bench.

What’s the worst that can happen? I get a spanking I don’t deserve. Wait! I like the idea of being spanked. We both believe that frequent spankings are good for both of us. Win-win, right? The struggle to be fair reduces opportunities to spank me. We both agree that she needs more opportunities, not less.

“Oops, you interrupted me” is no worse than, “Oops, the coffee pot isn’t set up.” The same is true of, “Oops, you weren’t listening.” It isn’t very important why I failed to do what I should. I did it, and we both know what that means. We’ve also learned that over time my behavior changes. I learn. I do need reminders. Mrs. Lion is happy to provide them.

It’s time to be as binary about “subjective” offenses as she is about the concrete rules. We will both profit if she is.