Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Mama Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde (or, I Was the Best of Mamas, I Was the Worst of Mamas)

I was all proud of myself on Monday. Em was complaining of a stomach ache, but really had no serious symptoms. Still, something in her face resonated with me, and I realized that she just needed a mental health day. So I gave it to her. I made her do some writing, and some math and reading, and stuff like that--actually, I didn't make her, she asked for work to do, and I gave it to her. We had a good day, and she clearly felt better Tuesday, ready to face the jungle of first grade once again.

Pat, pat, pat on the back.

I was so utterly and completely disappointed and upset with myself on Tuesday. All four of us were outside in the backyard: Baroy was coaching Em on her cartwheels, while I was helping N with his somersaults. We were having a really nice time. Then I had to go off for a moment to attend to the bunnies, and N was apparently trying to get Baroy's attention while he continued to help Em. All of a sudden, I hear Baroy say, "OW! What was that?" and look all around him while holding his shin. Then he says, "N, did you just throw a rock at me?" And N gives him one of those defiant-yet-nervous looks that three-year-old have perfected, and says yes. Something in me snapped. I picked that kid up, shoved him under my left arm, marched him into the house. My intention was to put him in a timeout. But when we got to his room, I was so furious...I did something I swore I'd never, ever, ever do. I literally put him over my knee and spanked him three times on his diaper. Not hard, but I did it. And I did it in anger. Two big, major strikes against me. No Mommy Sainthood coming this way.

I'd like to say I immediately burst into tears and felt remorseful, etc., etc., etc., but the honest truth is that I didn't. I put him down, closed the door of his room, and walked into the family room to catch my breath and count to ten. I waited three minutes, went to get him, talked sternly to him about throwing things at people to get their attention (something he's been in timeout for in the past), and made him go apologize to his father. Which he did. And then went running off to play with his sister, returning within a few minutes to climb on my lap and say, "I happy now, Mommy," which is the way he always tries to get back into our good graces when we're angry with him. (And it always works, because it always makes us laugh, the delightful hubris of childhood that makes him believe that if he's happy, then we must be, too.)

In fact, it wasn't until much later, at bedtime, when we were cuddled up in his bed reading books, that I talked to him quietly about what had happened, and how serious throwing rocks at people is, but that it still wasn't OK for mommy to spank him, and how sorry I was. And I repeated my post-timeout mantra of "but you know that even when mommy is angry with you, I still love you, right?"

I was sorry. And I am sorry. But not as sorry as I expected I'd be. I expected this day, if it ever came, to be life-altering. You know, teaching me a lesson so deep and so shameful that I'd be transformed into a better person. I'm not. I'm not transformed, and I'm not a better person. And really, it wasn't until I sat down to write right now that I even thought about it. Spanking isn't suddenly going to become a part of my discipline repertoire, but not because of yesterday. Simply, it's not going to be part of my repertoire because I don't believe in it, and I never did. Yesterday neither taught me that nor changed that.

So I'm disappointed in myself. And a lot less smug about Monday's mental health day. One step forward, 16 steps back. Parenting is hard.

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