Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


February 18, 2013

TIDBITS: Testing my boundaries

CROSSVILLE — Growing up, my parents expected every adult around me to help provide discipline. If I was out of line and they weren’t around, my aunts, uncles, grandparents, teachers, school staff, Sunday school teacher, babysitter, and neighbors up the street were authorized to tell me what I’d done wrong and correct my behavior. This went double if I’d done something I shouldn’t that could put me in danger.

And because it was a small town, you could always bet that, even if I was sure I’d gotten away with whatever it was, I’d likely be ratted out by someone, like the family friend that recognized my car running down the road in excess of the speed limit. I didn’t get a ticket. Instead, I got a lecture and that “We’re disappointed in you” look from my parents when that family friend called to report on my roadway shenanigans.

It kept you on your toes. But, like all kids, I’d test my boundaries, and I found there were various levels of disobedience I could get by with, depending on who was around, and varying levels of punishment.

Take my grandfather, Poppa. He loved having his grandkids around at the barn and the cousins would run and play and have a great time. But, the barn could be a dangerous place with horses and a hay loft and electric fences. And cousins could easily get on each other’s nerves when a game didn’t seem exactly fair. Poppa had two rules: don’t cry unless you’re hurt and don’t do something to get hurt. Pretty simple. He didn’t want to referee our squabbles and wanted us to work those disagreements out among ourselves, which we did pretty well.

I broke one of those rules once. Poppa had this stud horse that had its own fenced area behind the barn. This also happened to be my favorite play area. I’d run around looking at bugs and picking flowers. I’d pet the big horse and he’d just ignore me. But this was a dangerous horse. I knew I wasn’t supposed to be running around him without Poppa there. My cousin was helping at the barn that day and spotted me. He quickly turned me in. Poppa didn’t spank me, but talked about how dangerous my playtime had been. I was about 7 years old at the time and I didn’t really get it. I knew the horse paid me no attention. To him I was less annoying than a fly, and about as much a threat. But, I was on a short leash at the barn for a little while.

My grandmother, on the other hand, was much more strict. I don’t recall her having any rules that were different than those at home, but I do remember the consequences of doing something like pinching my cousin for “cheating” at hide-and-seek. Granny would send you out to the driveway that was lined with huge bushes. There you were to select a switch and bring it to her. Then, you’d get your legs switched and sent on your way to play.

The switch stung a bit, especially during the summer when she was sure to hit bare skin, but the cousins and I have all agreed the worst part was being sent to collect the implement of our punishment. Psychological warfare, we called it, and we knew better than to return without a proper switch. The oldest cousin recounted that trying that trick just meant Granny would get her own switch and it would be worse when all was said and done.

Now I’m all grown up and I see how these rules are being used for the next generation. Somewhere down the line, the folks have all mellowed. My nephew, the only grandchild, got away with “murder,” I would state in indignation as I observed an infraction that would have landed me in time out laughed off by my mother. Granny hasn’t sent a child out for a switch in years. They actually have to prune those bushes now. Back in my day, with six grandkids running around, the bushes didn’t have a lot of time to grow before a limb was broken off.

I suppose the switch has been passed to the next generation. My sister, cousins and myself are now charged with disciplining the young folk. My nephew is now 15, so there’s not a lot of disciplining left for me to do, though my sister is holding her breath to see what these teen years will bring. I don’t recall ever switching my nephew, and I’m sure I let him get away with a lot more than his mother would. I’m an aunt. It’s my job to buy him the drum set and Play Dough his mother didn’t want him to have. It’s also my job to cut him a break when he breaks little rules. But when he veered into dangerous territory or was being disrespectful and out of line, he knew he wouldn’t get a free pass from me.

I suppose all this makes me think of discipline as a group effort. Parents can’t be everywhere all the time. As kids grow and stretch their boundaries, they need to know and trust that all the adults in their life will provide guidance and, if necessary, correction. They might not appreciate it at first, but down the road, probably when they’re dealing with establishing boundaries for their own kids, they’re going to remember you and be thankful for what you did. I don’t even have kids and I’m thankful.

• • •

Heather Mullinix is assistant editor of the Crossville Chronicle. Her column is published on Tuesdays. She may be reached at

Text Only
  • Tidbits: Taking a low-tech break

    Feeling increasingly strangled by my electronic leash, with phone, text messages, email, social media and a variety of other forms of communication always at my side, I took the weekend off.

    July 28, 2014

  • Stumptalk: Governing before and after mass corruption

    Laws in America were originally written simply. Every citizen could read them quickly and understand their meaning. The founders wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Northwest Ordinance and the Constitution of the United States, none of which was longer than 4,500 words.

    July 28, 2014

  • We the People: The last dance

    Charlie Hayden’s last recording session with his early partner, Keith Jarrett, was in 2007.  The songs they played were mostly melancholy.  The second album coming from that session includes Weil’s “My Ship” and Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye.” The dark ballad “Goodbye,” by Gordon Jenkins, was the final track.

    July 22, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Living in a pressure cooker

    The Gaza Strip, a small Palestinian territory about the size of Washington, D.C., has been in the news almost every day.  Its key location at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea has attracted a number of occupying powers over the years, and it has  been at the center of much Middle East history.

    July 22, 2014

  • Tidbits: The excitement of election day

    On March 12, 1996, there were 427,183 votes cast in the presidential primary election. Among those votes was mine, the first vote I cast in an election, just two days after my 18th birthday.

    July 21, 2014

  • Raising the minimum wage

    My first job from which FICA was withheld was a minimum wage job, seventy-five cents an hour. And yes, even then no one could live on that little money. However, I was a high schooler living at home where my father provided room and board. The job gave me pocket money to buy gasoline, to take my girlfriend out for movies and burgers, and to buy tickets for baseball games.

    July 21, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Children on the move

    The news this past week has focused on the humanitarian crisis developing on our southern border. Thousands of unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras seeking to escape from the violence, human trafficking and extreme poverty in their countries have been entering the United States.

    July 15, 2014

  • We the People: Memo to gun rights groups

    The recent incident in California helps us understand why we cannot rely on mental health services alone to solve the problem of gun violence.

    July 15, 2014

  • Tidbits: Make the best of your road trip

    I didn’t care for road trips when I was young. It was so confining to have to sit in the back seat, staring out the window for hour after hour, hayfield after hayfield. And when you’re a kid, time doesn’t pass like it does when you get a little older. Just the trip from Jamestown, TN, to Crossville, roughly 30 miles, felt like an eternity!

    July 14, 2014

  • Stumptalk: Biased climate agenda will cost trillions

    For anyone who has been educated in the history of science and scientific method, this whole issue of “Global Warming” or “Climate Change” is an embarrassing and painful exercise.

    July 14, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Weather Radar
2014 Readers' Choice
Graduation 2014