Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Just the right words

Last night we had an episode at our house.

I was settling the kids in after Naveen’s Blastball game (think pre T-ball, pre-pre baseball) and an extra hour of play past bedtime because, well you know how hard it is to be a kid and agree to go to bed while it’s still bright and sunny outside, when we reached official episode status.

By the time we made it upstairs I was tired, and hot. And in no mood.
I was in no mood for the usual delay tactics:

Mom, I’m hungry,
Mom, I just want to say goodnight to Daddy one more time
Mom, I have to go find my Spiderman
And on
and on.
So when he asked me I told Deaglan he would not be allowed to go down one more time – it was bed time. End of bloody story.

“I’m mad at you Mommy!”

“I’m okay with that, now please go to sleep.”

“You hurt me and that’s why I’m mad at you.”

“Hurt you?? When?”

“A long time ago, you hurt me.”

“Hurt you how? Accidentally?? Or do you mean I hurt you when I spanked you?”


Have I not told you that we occasionally spank our kids? I'll wait here while you consider how that makes you feel. It's a polarizing statement, I know.  Go ahead and take your time. I'll understand if you decide this is no longer a place you'd like to stop by...
You still here?

When I say occasionally, I mean rarely. To be honest I’m not even sure why we do it. We get much better results when we send them to the time out bench or take away a toy or do the old "I'm going to count to three".

You know, sophisticated parenting.

A swat to their bottoms usually gives us no results. Sometimes we get a momentary pause before they carry on with what they were doing, sometimes a giggle and often a “that didn’t hurt”.

Let me tell you the long story that started it all.
Shaune and I agreed even before we had kids that we would never ever spank our children. It didn’t seem to make any sense for us to hit when ultimately we wanted to raise gentle, peaceful kids. We were strong in our position.

We felt good about it.
We were united.
We stood firm.

Then Deaglan turned three.

One hot summer day that June, I ignored the nagging voice in my head advising me otherwise, and took both kids for a walk; Naveen in the stroller and Deaglan on his tricycle. We’d been cooped up inside in the shelter of air conditioning out of reach of the stifling heat. But Deaglan was dangerously close to exploding if he didn’t soon get an exercise break, so we ventured out. 
In hindsight I should have taken my chances and stayed in.

Because, it was hot. It was hot and Deaglan was uncooperative.

He stopped listening to my instructions to wait at the end of the sidewalk before crossing, early on, which forced me to constantly park the stroller mid-sidewalk, run up ahead, and bring him back to where I was. The sun was unrelenting that day, nary a wind to be found, so that I had to stop every few minutes to offer the kids water.

Deaglan refused to drink.

Besides refusing to hydrate and heed my crosswalk directions, he also refused to keep his hat on his head which meant that every few minutes I had to back track and retrieve it. Twenty minutes into the walk, when I could see his face was flushed from the heat, I stopped to assess the situation. We were now far enough from home that his uncovered head and uncooperative demeanour had me panicking a little. I poured some of the water he wouldn’t drink over his hair and patted a little onto his shoulders. It felt right to try to cool him down. He didn’t agree.

He went ape-shit crazy.

He shoved aside the tricycle and ran out into the street wild and crying. Cars came to screeching halts. My heart rose up into my throat. I braked the stroller and ran out to grab him. When we got back onto the sidewalk I asked him why he was so upset. He told me he didn’t want water on his head. Before I could explain why I’d done it he ran again, a wee madman with no hat on.

I felt half out of my mind with panic and fear.

I  ran out again and grabbed him. This time I threw him over my shoulder and spanked his diaper-covered rear. On the sidewalk I put him down and spanked his bottom again, telling him that what he’d done was unacceptable. I plopped him into the stroller beside Naveen. They were squished together but at least they were contained.

I was shaking.

I slung the tricycle awkwardly over my back and pushed the stroller home, a caricature of the hunchback on a hot summer’s day. The hunchback who’d just spanked her child for the first time.

I texted Shaune when we got home. I told him what I’d done. Confession-style. The phone rang immediately. It was Shaune. We lingered in silence for a few seconds. Then he broke the silence with this, “Well it’s high time we started hitting that kid. He had it coming!”

Last night when Deaglan accused me of hurting him, I felt sick and wounded. I searched back for a time in recent history I might have spanked him. A time when he’d likely crossed the line in the sand I’d drawn out for those rare occasions. I couldn’t remember a time where he’d even flinched after I'd warned and warned and finally swatted him.

I asked Shaune to come upstairs. I needed backup for this.  It worried me that he kept saying I’d hurt him but couldn't pinpoint when or how. I was getting nowhere with the specifics. Shaune sat him up and asked him to explain what he meant.

“Tell me how Mommy hurt you D (He rarely calls any of us by our given names). When did it happen? Was it when she spanked you?”


“Did she accidentally hurt you?”


“Then what?”

“She hurt my feelings when she wouldn’t let me go downstairs tonight and sneak up on you.”

I breathed a sigh of relief. Even though I felt clear that I'd never hurt my own child, for a  few minutes I felt unsure. Had I done something unintentionally? Had I been rough in a moment of anger?

I apologized for hurting his feelings.  Yet I stood firm that it was bedtime. I asked him to let me in on his plans next time explaining that had I known he wanted to play a prank on Daddy, I would have helped him. Even then, he stayed angry at me, refusing to kiss me goodnight.

I lay in bed feeling something very close to awe. 

I'd only recently learned to express my feelings. Growing up, I automatically bottled up anything that was unpleasant or negative. I was always agreeable. Always pleasing. Always pleasant. Even now I struggle when I must tell someone I’m angry or hurt. I grew up around people who rarely expressed themselves properly or appropriately.

Yet here was my five year old with just the right words.


  1. The "hurt feelings" of a five year old eventually turn in to the "hurt feelings of a mommy"....right about 8 or 9!!!

  2. I absolutely love you...
    Love your honesty, Love your writing, Love how we have similar things happening in our hearts when it comes to our boys, Love how I can read your writing, cry and smile in the same sitting. I...Love... you KIM!! xxO
    Oh, and well done, I gave Noah his first spanking after he refused to stop peddling into the road and was almost hit by a truck. Devin's response? "It's about time..." haha

  3. It is hard to express feelings.

    I have never spanked but whew there have been some moments that they sure deserved it.


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