I was talking to a friend — — and she was saying that spanking kids is child abuse. I’ve never had someone inadvertently imply that I was a child abuser, so I sarcastically replied, “Oh, I don’t believe in spanking,” and I paused for effect, “except when you’re angry.”
My friend was aghast. She went on a long spiel: “No, that is exactly when you shouldn’t because you will only hit harder and blah, blah, blah.” I rolled my eyes and wondered if my friend had no sense of humor, or was hitting innocent children really not funny? (My sense of humor lies pitch-perfectly between raunchy and lame, so it had to be the former.)
I tried to explain why I said what I said. “I’ve only spanked two times (that I’ll admit to) and it was when I was extremely overtired, overwhelmed and out of my mind."
“Well, that’s child abuse” my friend reiterated.
If that’s abuse, call DCF, because I’m guilty.
Like my friend, before I had kids, I said I would never spank. Not that there is anything wrong with it. I was spanked. I never felt abused (lie). My parents thought they were being easy on me because they didn’t use a switch or a belt (just a wooden spoon). And their parents thought they were being easy on them because they never sold them to a child labor camp. (And to be really honest, I think some teenagers do need to be slapped — a literal reality slap.)
Punishment is a personal choice. It should be discussed before you have kids and then re-evaluated when your kid turns into a demonic 2-year-old. (Because seriously, some kids only listen to spankings.) If you do choose to spank, the one thing that "They" always say is: Never Spank in Anger. Of course, I see the reason that They say this, but I could literally never conceive of hitting my child at any other time.
The first time I spanked my oldest son, he was 1½, and we were out of town. My youngest son was 2 months old and freaked out about being away. He wouldn’t nap. He wouldn’t let anyone hold him but me. He stayed awake until 10 o’clock every night, and then he would wake up every hour to feed.
I w a s l o s i n g m y m i n d.
I was tired and hysterical and trapped. Finally, on the third day, I got my baby boy to nap. All three of us — my oldest, the baby and I — were in the bed, but my oldest was still putzing around. The baby was sleeping in my arms, so I was afraid if I moved I would wake him. Instead I whisper-screamed, “Get over here. Come lay down. Please lay down. I am so tired. I need you to nap. Please.” Then he found the TV remote. “No! Don’t touch that! Get back here.” Then he turned the TV on — full blast. And woke the baby.
My eyes turned red, my head spun around, and Beelzebub screamed, “You lay down right now!” I grabbed him and spanked him hard on the back of the thigh.
I’ll never forget the horrific look of surprise in his eyes. The darkness of my actions swirled over me, slick like a thunderstorm. Never hit in anger.
My son lay in my arms and cried. I held him and cried. The baby cried, too. And nobody slept.
A few weeks later when we were at my pediatrician Dr. Jackson’s office, and she asked how things were at home. “We are surviving,” I guiltily joked, “but there’s some screaming.”
She looked at me without judgment and said, “It is OK to make mistakes with your children. One of the most important lessons we can teach them is that it’s OK to mess up and how to ask for forgiveness. Use your bad behavior as an opportunity to sit down with your child and explain to him that you did something wrong and ask him to forgive you.”
But I hate admitting I am wrong! I love to come up with the reasons why everything I do is right. At the same time, if I took my doctor’s advice, I could take a wrong and make it a right. Right? And then I would keep my flawless reputation of perfection. I only make mistakes to teach you humility.
Since the day in the doctor’s office, I try to practice her advice. Each time I suck down my pride, admit to being wrong and ask for forgiveness, I tell myself I’m demonstrating a valuable skill. I keep my fingers crossed that my many mistakes will fade from my children’s memory (Boys, if it’s 2032 and you are reading this after discovering an ancient portal to the fossilized Internet, please know this is all fiction. ... No. That is a lie. I’m sorry I lied. Please forgive me.)
OK. As I was saying, I can only hope my many mistakes will fade from my children’s memories, but accepting their own faults and asking for forgiveness will become lifelong habits.