The Urge

This is hard for me to talk about.  Especially on a day that was supposed to be filled with rainy thunderstorms and is instead filled with sunshine and pleasant, well-behaved, loving children.  But I want to come completely clean.

I have had a strong desire to hit my kids.  On more than one occasion. Many more.

It is so horrible to see that in black and white.  But it is the truth.  And if I am keeping honest chronicles about my experience as a mother, this is part of it.

My husband and I spoke at length about this before having kids.  We both felt strongly that we did not want to hit our kids.  We put plans in place about how to deal with misbehavior.  We did research. We made pacts.  We made this decision together and concretely.

However, I had NO IDEA how difficult it would be to stay on the non-violent path.  No idea.

Kids know how to push buttons.  There is the not listening.  The defiance.  The eye-rolling. (It does not just afflict teenagers, folks!) The stomping.  The slamming.  The yelling. The crying over silly things.  The begging.  The grabbing.  The pouring of liquids.  The pouring of solids.  The emission of gases.  The hitting.  (Yes, their hitting makes me want to hit them and say ‘No hitting!’  Figure that one out.) The kicking.  The stubbornness.  The refusal to go to bed.  The refusal to eat.  The refusal to go.  The refusal to come.  The temper tantrums.

And the apex of all things that make me want to lose my mother effing sh*t?

The Whining.

I know that this is all on me.  I am the adult and the mother and I know better.  They are just kids being kids.  Just trying to figure it all out.  Trying to learn how to be good little people and live happy and productive lives.  They are supposed to test, in order to learn.  And it is my job to guide, support and love them.

I do my absolute best each and every day.  But honestly, some days are harder than others.

One night, before Xavi was born, I was trying to get Carlitos to go to bed.  My husband has been getting his graduate degree after work ever since we moved to NYC, so this was a night that he had class.  I was alone with Carlitos and he had been refusing to go to sleep for almost an hour.  I had nobody to pass him to.  No way to take the break that I needed to cool off.

And then he started laughing.  This little, barely three-year-old started laughing defiantly in my face.  If I was a cartoon, my eyes would have bulged out of my head with asterisks and exclamation points drawn on them, my face would have been beet red and steam would have been pouring out of my ears.

I was livid.

After shutting the door, (let’s be honest, I probably slammed it), I called my parents.  I didn’t know what else to do.  My dad answered and while holding back tears I asked him how to not hit your kids.

Dad, how do I keep from hitting Carlitos.  I’m going out of my mind.  He won’t go to sleep and I’m all alone and I feel like I am about to hit him.

How horrid is that?

Luckily, my dad was able to calm me down and I don’t even remember much after that.  I know that I didn’t hit Carlitos.  But I have no recollection of how he ended up finally falling asleep.  In the perpetual Murphy’s Law that is parenthood, it probably happened on his own while I was on the phone figuring out how to get him to sleep without using physical force.

Shockingly, it hasn’t gotten calmer with two boys.  I know, it truly is surprising, right?

The other day I found myself swatting Xavi on the butt.  I am pretty sure I actually said the words “Don’t hit!” as I did it.  Is that not the dumbest thing you have ever heard?

He had been hitting and biting me all day.  Usually he just swipes at my face when he is upset or angry and can’t express why.  But then he close-fist punched me in the nose.  It really hurt and I just didn’t hold it together any longer.  (Please notice that I said ‘didn’t’ and not ‘couldn’t’ – I understand it is on me to keep my cool no matter what.)  I do have to say I managed not to do it hard, but I still reacted all the same – I smacked his butt. (Thankfully through sweatpants and a diaper)

My hands – in anger – have still never come in contact with either of my children’s flesh.  I have yet to spank, slap or hit.

But I swatted Xavi’s butt harder than a love tap.  I have put them both in their Time Out chair more forcefully than is necessary.  I have held on tighter than they wished to their wrists while reprimanding them.  And I have called my parents to prevent myself from truly hitting them because I was *that* close to doing it.

This is my truth.  (In the wise words of Carlitos.)

Thanks for letting me share.

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17 Responses to The Urge

  1. Jess Wilson says:

    That was brave, Annie. And well done.

  2. Thanks, Jess. It was truly very hard to share, but I just felt like I needed to.

  3. Thank you for posting something so honest. I’ve totally been there with The Urge. But instead of feeling guilty, I think we should feel good that we recognize the feeling and don’t give into it. We also took time to educate ourselves on this choice, which is a a gold star, too. Mothers are humans, and our buttons are pushed. We do the best we can. And that best changes every day.

    You are a wonderful mom, and your boys are lucky to have you! xo

  4. Julie says:

    I don’t know any parent who has not felt these feelings.
    This is where you have to dig deep and work at Developing
    Patience. There has to be ways to remain in control but not be abusive.
    The times when things are going well is the time to think of strategies to
    Use for the tough moments. Try to be prepared.
    Annie, this really was a brave blog. I know you will find
    Strategies that work because you Want to. It’s a goal.

  5. Erin – Thank you. Those are fabulous words: We do the best we can. And that best changes every day.

    Very true.

  6. Julie – Thank you. Brave feels like a kind word and although I felt nervous to post about this, I don’t feel GOOD about it.

    The amazing part is how consistently you have to revisit your ‘parenting goals’ and remind yourself (and each other) what your choices were. In the heat of the moment it can be hard to remember sometimes.

    You are right; We need to continue to use all of the wonderful and calm moments to re-group and prepare for the hard ones.

  7. Nichola says:

    Amazing post!

    Brené Brown is one of my favorite authors. In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, she writes about authenticity, vulnerability, love, belonging, connection, and shame. Here are few quotes that came to mind as I read your post:

    “Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”

    “Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage.”

    I happen to agree with her. I also happen to believe that you are authentic, REAL, honest, able to show vulnerability, full of courage, and a wonderful mother. Oh, how lucky your boys are!

  8. Oh Nichola – You know how to make me all gushy. You are so sweet.

    I have never read her. I will certainly be looking her up now!

    Thank you for taking the time to put quotes on here. Thank you for always supporting me. Thank you for your thoughtfulness and amazing friendship…even from afar! (You know you were my +1 from Boulder in Mexican Feast post, right????) 🙂

    You’re the best. Miss you. xo

  9. Zoë says:

    I have slipped up once per kid, and the one with Cleo she didn’t even realize what I was doing (she was running away from me, and I barely grazed her). For me, the head trip isn’t thinking about what it’s doing to my kids, because really, a few very occasional swats in reaction to terrible behavior are not at all the same as spanking as a regular punishment or straight-up abuse.

    For me, it’s the “oh my God, was that really MY hand?” aspect of it that makes my head spin. I am not one to lose control basically ever–you seem pretty grounded too–so the realization that you lost control of your hands for a second sort of jolts you into an alertness that things have gotten more intense than you intended. I know that you said “didn’t” not “couldn’t,” but both times I swatted my kids, it was instantaneous and instinctual, and I couldn’t stop myself anymore than I could have stopped myself from sneezing.

    Anyway, that’s my perspective! Guess you won’t be asking my to babysit anytime soon (j/k–I think 2 swats in almost 4 years is a pretty good track record, and I’ve never hit someone else’s kid).

  10. Zoe – Thank you for being so incredibly honest on here! That is just as brave as me writing this in the first place, if not more so.

    You’re right. A big part of it is the realization that these little beings that you love more than life can actually have you acting THAT OUT OF CONTROL. How is it possible?!? And just the realization that you can be that out of control. Period.

    Oh, you’re so wrong. You’ve opened up the floodgates by even mentioning babysitting my kids. You available next Thursday? We will be home by 10:30. And June 23rd, 6-11 pm? Yes? Awesome. Thanks! 😉

    Seriously, thanks for being so candid and supportive. 🙂 Your kids are lucky they have such an excellent mom!

  11. Mary says:

    How hard it is to have a child in the 2000s, primarily I think because these ca. 2000s parents expect so much of themselves: perfection in parenting, perfection in life. We are imperfect people. All of us. The whack on the bottom does not/will not cause lasting harm. Ask you friend Nick who got a few of these whacks (not many). We regret the whack as soon as we deliver it, but imperfect people make mistakes, and our children have the capacity to understand their parents. They really do. Parenting is so, so tough and dear Annie, it STILL is and you know how old my children are!

    You are a wonderfult mother!

  12. Mary – Thank you. Your comments always mean so much. You are right: we are all imperfect. But man if I don’t want to try to be the perfect mom. I realized from the very beginning that it was pretty much impossible to never make mistakes with my kids; We made so many from day one! ha We definitely all hold ourselves to really high standards anyway though. As I am sure you always have, too, considering the success you had with all three kids. Especially how good their hearts are. Which I guess is ultimately what we want most for our kids.

    Again, thank you for sharing on here and for supporting. You’re the best. 🙂

  13. Zoë says:

    I’ll tell you about the time I smacked Rafa’s bottom in person some time. I ended up learning a lot from that interaction. At this point I can laugh about it (although Mig can’t).

    Mary said it perfectly. Most of us try our best, but when you are a parent for so many hours a day–and it’s such an intense, hard job–you are bound to make some mistakes. I’m definitely on the side of being honest with our mistakes, because we learn so much from them and others can learn from them too. So many people (not you, I don’t think) get depressed or self-critical about these sorts of things b/c they think others are judging them or they are judging themselves against an impossible standard. Nursing, healthy food, cry-it-out, getting into gifted programs–people feel like their behavior as parents can be the be-all and end-all for how their kids develop and if they do everything right their kids will be “perfect.” But when we look at these amazing little people we are raising, it’s so obvious that they have their own strong, sharp, instinctive personalities that will see them through even the biggest challenges life has to offer. And we’d never wish this type of perfection-seeking on them, right? I wouldn’t, anyway.

    I do agree that hitting or the impulse to hit is one of the more intense negative feelings you can have as a mom, though. When our kids are babies, it’s so impossible to imagine getting that angry with them. Then, when it happens it is so shocking and sad. I think the best antidote is to try to build up mutual respect by being logical and loving as much as possible when teaching kids to behave appropriately.

    OK–sorry for the long essay. Great post! Certainly got me thinking.

  14. Molly says:

    I think you feel guilty more about the feelings of anger you were having than your feeble attempt at corporal punishment. How do you discipline a kid who is biting and hitting you all day? How many “time outs” did he have? I don’t have an answer. I’m just a grandmother now, but I don’t see my own children ever expressing anger toward their kids. It does seem like a perfectly normal reaction, especially when your child is physically abusing you. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

  15. Zoe – Those are excellent points. It is so true that you can’t fathom ever yelling at them or hurting them in any way when they are babies. And you still can’t really fathom it even once they are kids but somehow it sometimes just HAPPENS. Like, POW, I suddenly feel like my head is going to spin off in disbelief/anger. Ugh.

    I really appreciate all of your thought, sharing and analysis!

  16. Molly – Thanks for offering the ‘grandparent point of view.’ I think our kids grandparents definitely get a lovely view of what type of parents we are, too. Funny, I’ve never gone bananas with an extra set of hands (or four) around! Only when I’ve been on my own all day.

    I absolutely feel disappointed in myself for ever losing my temper with my kids: by raising my voice OR wanting to hit. But putting this out in the open and knowing that I am not alone has been very, very helpful.

    Thanks so much for sharing!

  17. High Times says:

    […] The real bottom line is that parenting is tough.  When you are home all day with kids your nerves can feel as frayed as any denim Rihanna ever dons.  I can admit to yelling, putting them in Time Out and yes, even wanting to hit them. […]

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