MOM:“Mete ou ajenou (Get on your knees)!”
ME: Kisa m te fe (What did I do) ?
Most Haitian parents will have their kids kneel on the floor as a form of corporal punishment. In my house, this was no exception. This was my parents go-to punishment when I was a child.
When you were told to get on your knees, it usually meant it was the prelude to a spanking, but not always, but what you did know is that you were going to be there for a while.
I was no stranger to spankings or having to kneel down for an extended period of time. Sometimes, I knew why I was being punished. However, most of the time, it would catch me off guard.
I would come home and she would say “ Mete ou anjenou” and I would have to recall the day’s events and try and figure out I forgot to do before I left the house. I didn’t bother wasting time debating the issue because that would only make matters worse. Again, kneeling only meant a spanking was in your future. I actually preferred the spanking only option because at least it was over faster, but not both.
In a kneeling position, after about 10 minutes, the circulation to the bottom half of my leg would start to feel a little compromised and I’d start to feel some tingling. I was tempted to sit on my butt. NO! NO! You can never do that. If I was caught sitting on my butt, it extended my time.
I had to find something, anything, to resist the urge to sit on my bottom. So, I would start doing what most people on their knees do: PRAY. Dear Lord, please let me remember what I did today so when she asks me, I have an answer. Amen.
My mom usually had me kneeling in a high traffic area house which stayed eerily quiet whenever someone was in trouble. When my siblings would sneak to see me they would wonder if they were next or try and tell me what they overheard my mom telling family members about my apparent transgression. That’s another thing, My mom would broadcast my business to anyone who called the house that day. My brothers would repeatedly beg for me to not give them up and that I should take it for the team.
If I came home while she was cooking, then I would have to kneel in the kitchen and wait while she cooked. I actually preferred the kitchen floor. It was linoleum which was kinder to the knees. The worst places to kneel were on the carpet and the plastic runner that ran throughout the entire house. When company would come over I would not get a reprieve. Instead, I would have to explain to company what I did and sometimes they would be kind enough to beg for me to be released and then I would have to immediately promise that it would never happen again. “ Sorry Mom, it won’t happen again”. I would quickly retreat to my room and stay because I was hot on the radar for the day and needed to let cooler heads prevail.
American parents have “time out” and Haitian parents have their children kneel in a corner. I don’t use this form of corporal punishment with my children only because times are so different now. I have a school aged child that I can only imagine him telling a teacher and well, you know the rest.
I recently received a forwarded email about a casting call for the show “SuperNanny’ and it got me to thinking about how we discipline today as opposed to when I was younger. How what we deem is excessive discipline today was the norm when we were younger.
Growing up, did you have to get on your knees? How do you view it? Do you see it as discipline or something worse? Do you use it? What were some forms of corporal punishment your parents utilized that today would be controversial?