Even decades later I remember the birthday “paddy whacks” we would dole out on the schoolyard at recess. When we were little it was cause for hilarity. When we were just beginning to “like” boys or girls it was an awkward/embarrassing excuse for a group of one sex to grab hold of one of the opposite sex (single sex liking was not socially accepted on schoolyards then, sorry).
Then, there would be lots of teasing and laughing while someone was put through the mill of whacks — imagine a line up of kids swatting the birthday kid scrambling as quick as possible past their “friends.” But even if I put quotes around friends, because it wasn’t always your closest buddies doing this, it was always your classmates. Peers. People of your own age.
Principal Paddy Whacks
In Texas, an elementary school recently made the news after parents complained about a principal’s practice of offering birthday spankings “along with a birthday/special day pencil and a piece of candy.”
The principal said in a letter home to parents that no more than five pupils had requested “something other than the birthday swat” over her past eight years. Plus, she said that the spankings were on camera and there were “always other adults in the office celebrating with us all.” (UHM, them being on camera helps her case how?).
Students who rejected the spanking had the option of a birthday hug or high five. Yet now, based on a few parent complaints, the practice has been cancelled in favor of the hug or high five options only.
In one report of parent reactions, “one said it was done in a playful manner, while another said it was a fun tradition and her kids ‘always look forward to it’.”
A NY Daily News report quoted parent Jessica Moore telling a local TV station, ”If it was a big deal to the kid, they would’ve brought it up way before now.”
Parent Heather Redder suggested the distress was due to a lack of understanding. “They’re not used to a small community,” she explained. “And that’s what we are. People that move here from the big city, they don’t realize, and they’re not used to this.”
Mine was not a small community, but in Canada and Britain the paddy whacks are admittedly more common. Still, even being the nerd I was throughout all my schooling, I can’t imagine having the principal swatting my bottom being something I would enjoy on my birthday. In my world you tried to steer clear of the principal at all costs! Admittedly, I probably would have been pretty excited about that special day pencil though.