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I like the way you worded it, "Spanking warnings don't only have to be given when they are starting to misbehave. They can sometimes just be a reminder of what can, and will, happen if something important cannot be followed." The part that I was second guessing was threatening to spank when she had not yet misbehaved at all yet, but like you said warnings can be of a preemptive variety as well.
You are also right that it can be hard to let to go. If it had not been one of the last days of summer before she went back to school, I would have been tempted to let her deal with the real world consequences of being late (pay cancellation fee with her own money, deal with rescheduling, etc).