John Kinnear of Ask Your Dad resisted the urge by stepping away, though it wasn’t easy
I passed another parental milestone a few days ago. I had the urge to spank my daughter. This isn’t a proud moment for me.
I didn’t spank her. Instead, I got up, walked into the other room, clenched my jaw and made this guttural angry uurrrrggggggggg sound that started in my knees, crept its way up through my stomach and chest, then exploded out of my mouth in a collection of consonants and vowels that would probably not have been appropriate for network television.
|I looked just like this, only I had a shirt on.|
What did Duchess do to cause this rage bubble in my chest? The whole lead up to it doesn’t really matter. I said yes. She said no. Rinse. Repeat.
She’s a kid. She is getting smarter. She is getting more manipulative, and she is getting really repetitive. She is testing boundaries. She’s like a Velociraptor in Jurassic Park poking the edges of her enclosure, testing for weaknesses. And she remembers.
What concerns me is that after 60 minutes of trying to find a way to convey my seriousness about something, after following every super nanny/attachment parenting/patient parent technique of explaining “why a behavior is bad”, I found these words crawling up and out of my mouth through my clenched teeth: “Do it again and you’re going to get spanked.”
Then Duchess looked at me, laughed, and threw a book at my face. It hit me square on the bridge of the nose. It made my eyes water. I wanted to spank her.
Let’s pause at this point in the story—since that is what I did in real life.
My history with spanking (abridged):
When I was four I peed in our neighbor’s basement window well. I had recently learned from some of my other friends that the world is a boy’s toilet. I took this new found freedom and did what most kids do with any freedom they are given. I pissed it away. (HA! Piss. I make myself laugh sometimes.)
|I promised myself I’d never use this picture…|
While I was focusing on peeing in our neighbor’s window well, my dad was focused on walking up behind me. What he managed to see before I did was that the neighbors, whose window I was currently peeing in, were in their basement looking directly at me with a mix of anger and what I like to imagine must have been admiration for my boldness. My dad was not amused.
He scooped me up, still peeing, pulled my pants on and carried me back to the house under his arm – but not before giving the obligatory “sorry my kid pissed on your window” wave to the neighbors. They never invited us over for dinner after that.
When we got home my dad put me down, crouched down to my level, looked me in the eyes and said in his very best Dirty Harry voice. “Go up to your room and wait for me. I’m coming up to spank you.”
I ran up the stairs of our duplex and hid in my room sobbing for the next hour and dreading the worst. I vividly remember sobbing until I eventually started doing the stuttered gasp thing over and over. I remember burying my face under my pillow and peaking out the crack of light at the door every time I heard a sound, waiting for my dad to come through the door.
Here’s what is weird. I don’t remember if he spanked me or not. I slightly remember him coming up. And I know I ended up in his lap. And he may have lightly patted my bum. But mainly I remember burrowing my face into his neck, the rough feeling of his day old stubble and the smell of Old Spice aftershave.
During my self-imposed time-out after I grrrd and urrggged my rage bubble into the ceiling, I was embarrassed. And I was guilt-ridden. And I was scared that I might have that type of violence in me. That’s not who I want to be. I love my kids. I even love them when they’re assholes.
I don’t want to teach them that violence is a proper reaction to anger or frustration. I don’t want to teach them that violence is something they need to fear from their dad. And not only do I not want to hit my kids, I don’t want to want to hit my kids. (I use hit, because who are we kidding. Spanking is just a nice word for hitting.)
I didn’t hit her though. I walked away. I took a minute…well ten minutes. I gathered myself. And sometime after my barbaric yawp, and after my guilt spiral, I realized that even though I may have wanted to smack her—I didn’t. I left her in her room, just like my dad had left me.
I could picture my dad pacing the living room. I saw him clenching his fists, his jaw, his eyes and letting out his own tortured argggg. I was him. He was me. It was a Shyamalanian twist!
Up until this point I thought he’d just left me up there for an hour to torture me. Now I just think he needed that time to calm down. So there it is. I am my dad. Duchess is me. And she’s just pissing in metaphoric windows. Mind. Blown.
Anyway… when I went back into the room I had the energy needed to continue to be patient (much more energy that it would have taken for me to smack her bum.) We talked about not throwing. We talked about taking care of our things. We talked. And it worked.
I know there are tougher times ahead. My patience will be tested more than it is now. I’ll need to be the adult. I can just see those of you with older kids snickering and saying “Oh just you wait…” I know. I know. I am a very young parent. I am work in progress. So are my kids. It’s a strange journey, this dad thing. Sometimes it fills me with pride and self worth. Sometimes it scares the shit out of me.
I still feel guilty for having the urge to smack her. I don’t know where it came from, and perhaps that is something worth exploring. But I’ll make you all the same promise that I made to Stevie that evening when I told her what happened.
I will never hit our children. Ever. Even if they are being complete jerks or throw books at my face.
I will utilize every tool I have at my disposal to make this happen. I will separate myself from the situation. I will ask for help from Stevie if I am overly frustrated. I will be honest about my feelings and try to explore where they come from – because we can’t always control our feelings, but we can control how we react to them.
—this essay first appeared on Ask Your Dad Blog
—photo by Ephemeral Scraps/Flickr