Do you know what I think is absolutely adorable? Pregnant women -or women with tiny, tiny babies- telling me how they are going to parent when they are still all full of optimism and flush with knowledge from freshly purchased parenting books by acclaimed authors. I don’t mean to glaze over with a condescending smile on my face…but I do. Because the one thing I want to say, but never do, is that you have zero idea of who your child is going to be or what is going to happen. Raising kids is much like life. And life, in the wise words of everybody’s favorite guy, Mr. Forest Gump, is like a box of chocolates and you never know what you’re gonna get.
Take me, for example.
I said that I would never -ever- spank my child. I wasn’t beaten or traumatized, though I was raised in East Texas so I have had cut my own switch y’all, but I thought of myself as a highly evolved and educated woman that had plenty of other tactics in her arsenal. I was sure that all of those knowingly condescending looks that I received when I said that were just people that weren’t on my level. This is a new age and I was enlightened.
Then my child had a receptive language disorder.
Okay…well, that changes things. When you can’t vocally hammer in 100% of the time what the time-out is about or what it is for or how to avoid it…how effective is it, really? Jp is a smart kid. His level of cognition is great. But his ability to absorb complex ideals and cause-and-effect situations is a bit iffy at best. It is just not his forte. But he does know what getting in trouble is and knows to avoid it if he can.
He gets little swats here and there, only to back up a threat of, “Do you want a spanking?”, every now and then. Nothing hurtful, nothing scary, just a nonverbal (the best way to get through sometimes when the language is lacking) reminder to stop pushing his limits. It’s a 30:1 ratio probably, too. One swat for every 30 threats. Usually, he listens. He may not know why you don’t want him to do what he’s doing and explaining it can be pretty fruitless…but he doesn’t like the spanking so he avoids that. No harm, no foul, and silly me for thinking that I knew what the future would hold when he was just a dream and the size of a fruit in my womb.
Fast forward to this rainy afternoon on a Wednesday just like any other.
Ever since Jp had a little cold last week, he hasn’t been sleeping at night very well. And by not well, I mean he gets up three or four times and screams like a banshee raised by wolves. Did I mention that he’s not napping, either? So he’s in a great mood – let’s just leave it at that.
So, today I decided he was taking a nap whether he liked it or not. His crazy little temper tantrums are obviously because he is over tired and I want my child back, darnit! So we laid down in his room in the dark and needless to say…he wasn’t thrilled with me. He was thrashing around and yelling, not that I can blame him since I can’t explain why I’m enforcing the nap time (though I tried, I promise) and to him I am simply being mean, and he thought that if he just was loud enough, I’d let him get up (toddler logic…woe is me).
I patiently explained over and over why I was making him nap and that I would nap with him (even though I was going to sneak out and do laundry, of course) and kept laying him back down when he sat up over and over (and over and over and over). Then, he sat up again and, as I moved my arm to lay him back down, he balled up his tiny fist in what I have to say was slow motion. I thought, “No, he wouldn’t….”
Right before he punched me full force in the face.
I sat there for a whole second while the time in the room completely stopped. He looked at me, I looked at him, and I could tell that he knew what he did was way the heck out of line. I wasn’t quite sure what to do for a moment. We were in the time out area (which is his room and yes, I know you aren’t technically supposed to do that, but it’s what works) and secondly, he punched me. He didn’t slap me, or accidentally headbutt me in a fit, or just get frustrated and lash out. He balled up a tiny little fist with intent and punched me in the face because he didn’t want to take a nap.
So over the knee he went and got his first real spanking from mom.
Now, dad spanks and deals with tantrums and he has never been punched in the face. In fact, the tantrums that happen with dad are milder in nature overall. And while I am not advocating for spanking in all children, in that moment, I did what I thought was best. Yes, I know the arguments against it. I know everything that could ever be said about it because, I, myself have said it. But I also know that not everyone is raising a child like my son so before you judge me…keep that in mind. If I could have told him why we don’t do that and knew in my heart that he would have understood me, maybe that would have played out differently. Maybe, if I had spanked him one of the 5000 times he has smacked me with an open hand, he wouldn’t have thought it was okay to punch me. I don’t know. All I do know is that he is over half my size and getting bigger by the second and getting punched in the face isn’t cool. Just know that you never know what you will be as a parent until you actually have to parent a child. A specific child. Not just an ideal or a dream, but a real life tiny human being that has a personality, a voice, and conscious actions.
Maybe, don’t be like me and jinx yourself by saying you would never do something, so that later, if you have to, you don’t feel so bad about. Just say that you will do the best you can to be who you want to be and won’t beat yourself up (or get beat up) if things don’t go your way.
Raising children is a marathon, people…not a sprint.
I'm just living minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day.