So things have been running fairly smoothly around here since we got back from Florida. We’re all still in a relatively relaxed mood, and tonight the girl went to bed quietly after only 3 minutes of crying.
“Goo nat, Mommy!” she called as I walked past her room.
But on Wednesday, for some unknown reason, I found myself really short on patience. I had just wrapped up 3 weeks of no yelling, and I didn’t want to start now, but I knew their margin for error was slim that night.
The boy, so uncharacteristically, started giving me attitude at dinner. We were having pasta, and he wanted a crunchy noodle. As in, uncooked.
I didn’t have a problem with this, and told him he could have one after dinner. I didn’t particularly want his sister to get any ideas, because there’s a chance she might choke on a raw pasta.
“But I want it NOW,” he bellowed.
I was so completely taken aback.
I told him not to talk to me like that, and if he did it again he would get a time out. Long story short, 5 minutes later he was in time out.
I didn’t raise my voice at all. I spoke calmly but firmly to him. And he looks at me and says, “You’re hurting my feelings.”
It kind of made me feel terrible. Until I realized this was just something he was saying because he didn’t want me to be upset or angry with him.
He later even told me that his teachers hurt his feelings, and I know for a fact they love him to death and thinks he’s a great kid. So it must be that.
By the time I went to put my daughter to bed, I was pretty much done for. While I was changing her diaper, she started to hit me. Hard. I told her, again in a calm yet firm tone, that she should stop.
She smiled and hit me again.
“Little girl, if you keep doing that, I’m going to show you what it feels like. And I’m in just the right mindset to do it.”
She smiled and hit me again.
I grabbed her wrist with one hand and slapped her arm with the other.
The look of complete shock and disbelief and “who the hell are you?” that crossed her face nearly bowled me over.
Then the lip started to quiver, and the girl began to wail.
The perfect mother, having taken into account that her daughter only gets aggressive when overly tired, would have spoken to her in a calm and soothing tone. Would have explained why not to hit instead of actually hitting back.
But I’m not the perfect mother.
In fact, I’m not convinced she exists.
In hindsight, I should have taken her hand and slapped her with that, so she would at least understand what I was trying to show her. From the scenario that actually played out, she probably took away that maybe she should be scared of me.
But we don’t live our lives in hindsight.
I didn’t hit her out of anger. The action may have been tinged with frustration but it’s really annoying to be swatted by a 2 year old. Seriously.
I mentioned the incident to a friend and he told me not to worry about it. His mother had hit him once or twice when he was a kid and he vowed that she felt so much worse about it than he did.
He’d forgotten about it minutes later, and she carried the guilt around for days.
So I’m not going to be that mom. I know what I did was wrong. And I do wish I could take it back. But I’m not going to punish myself for it. Why should I? She’s certainly not punishing me.
At least not yet.
And while there may be long term damages and complicated issues involving fear and self-esteem somewhere down the road as a result of one slap, I just can’t be bothered to worry about it.
I’ll leave that to the perfect mother.
Update (01/08/10): Thanks to Her Bad Mother who, through her own writing, gave me the courage to write this post.