Like ADD and Colic, I think a lot of children get lumped into The Terrible Twos unfairly. Sure, there are plenty of children who actually have ADD, colic, and completely unexplained tantrums. But, for the most part, a lot of patience, research, communication, and coaching can go a long way and allow you to remove the negative label you’ve given him or her.
But then, a couple of weeks ago, Avi momentarily changed all that.
She entered The Terrible Twos. And I labeled her with gusto.
She threw herself on the floor screaming for no reason.
She looked me in the eye, dropped food over the side of the table and then innocently asked, “Is Avi being naughty?”
She screamed inconsolably.
She pushed buttons I didn’t even know I had.
And one terrible and fateful lunch hour, I slapped her. Yes, I slapped her. Not hard enough to hurt; it didn’t leave a red mark, it didn’t make her cry. But it did make her stop. It wasn’t planned. It wasn’t wanted by either of us. But out it came.
I was heartbroken, ashamed and horrified.
I never knew I could feel so much anger at such a little person. I never knew I could hit her. I had become the parent I never wanted to be: I threatened, I screamed, I fumed, I forcibly stuck her in chairs, I hauled her out of stores. We were both miserable.
So I gave myself a time out.
Everyone I spoke to reassured me that “it happens.” In fact, the first person I called was my girlfriend, L__, who had just admitted to hitting her son the previous week without really meaning to (he’s just about Avi’s age) so I knew she would get it. My mom admitted to slapping me and also reminded me that my dad spanked me several times and I’m perfectly fine, and I don’t remember it.
I let them make me feel better, because I needed it. But, the thing is, I don’t really believe that. I don’t believe Avi cries for no reason. She always has a reason, even if I think it’s silly. I don’t believe she would push my buttons just to irritate me. I don’t believe in only one-sided anger: it does, after all, take two to tango. I don’t believe that this hit will not affect her even if she doesn’t consciously remember it.
So I’ve started reading. In fact, I stayed up reading far into the night because I found this book so helpful that I kept telling myself, “I need to read as much as possible right now so I can put this stuff into practice!” Eventually, I did go to sleep. But, even being tired today, Avi and I had the best day we’ve had in weeks. Not a single tantrum. Oh, there were disagreements and irritations. But no anger. No screaming. And no hitting (by me, at least. I can’t say the same for her…yet).
And, just so you know moms, the hardest part of all this? Admitting to her dad what I’d done.
And admitting it to you.
I’ve committed myself to revealing, in this blog, all the bits and pieces of honest-to-goodness parenting that no one is willing to admit or talk about. But this was by far the hardest thing to state publicly. For those of you who do spank, maybe it’s not a big deal. But it is to me. I will carry the shame of the betrayal of my daughter’s trust forever.
I may forgive myself, as she has already forgiven me. But I will never believe that I made the right choice at the moment.
I made the wrong choice.
So now I’m trying to fix it.
And, in the process, I think I will discover what I have believed all along: that a lot of children get lumped into The Terrible Twos unfairly, including my own daughter.
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