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Handing in my “I’ve never hit my child” card

Yesterday things got out of hand and I hit Bunlet. Since detail matters, it was a slap, hard enough to make him cry, on his shoulder. I could tell you all the shit that led up to that moment, and oh, it was endless, but ultimately it’s not important, because nothing excuses it. I believe hitting children is counterproductive, and also wrong, but I did it. I was completely out of my mind with anger.

The sense of shame is so heavy that I feel like I can’t breathe. I did something I never ever wanted to do. It’s been this line that I could tell myself I had never crossed when I was feeling awful about yelling at them or being mean to them. I honestly never thought I would hit my child. I feel like there’s no one I can tell, but I have to tell someone, or else I’ll just suffocate under these horrible feelings. And I have a lot of work to do, so no time for suffocation.

I also know that it’s not the end of the world. I have apologized to him and explained that what I did was wrong. I am not now a person who hits children. I hit my child, and now I  have to make sure it never happens again. Feeling horrible about it is actually going to make me more likely to do it again, not less. So I have to forgive myself.

The making sure it never happens again, though, that fills me with despair. I know how it works, in principle. You figure out your triggers for anger, you get better at recognizing them, you find other responses that you can plan for before the situation arises. I know this because I went to a therapist to help me deal with my anger. I feel so hopeless. I put in all that work and I’m still this angry, hurtful monster. It’s almost like it’s an ongoing thing that can’t be cured by a few month’s work.

I’m not sure I want to post this, because I know some people will be horrified. People who will never do this…and people who will, but just don’t know it yet. Like Yesterday Me. Some people may even say hurtful things. But I don’t want to write if I can’t tell the truth about shit like this. So I’m putting it out there, banking on those of you who have my back to, you know, have my back.

30 Comments Post a comment
  1. Hugs. My dad hit me once, after I called him an asshole. I’m not sure about the details but I guess we both realized that wasn’t the right thing to do. And turned out fine (if I may say so).

    January 20, 2015
  2. Nicky #

    I’ve been there, too. Hitting is counterproductive, but it is only damaging if it’s a regular occurrence. You did great by apologizing, it’s what I do if I lose my temper on a tired, angry, horrible day. You’re human and make mistakes. Anger issues ARE an ongoing thing and you can start to fix them in a few months, but it’s like losing weight. You work really hard for a while, and then need to maintain things. You can never *stop* paying attention or you’ll slip into your old bad habits.

    Still love you. You’re not a horrible person.

    January 20, 2015
  3. Hello GB. I’m not sure I’ve ever commented here before but I’ve been reading you for a while (I think I found you through the Round Up some (many, actually) months ago). I only say that so you I know that even though you don’t know me, I do, in some ways, know you.

    And I’m here to give you a HUGE, MASSIVE hug and to tell you that I understand your feelings of self loathing and offer nothing but empathy. It took some serious courage to put this out there and I commend you for it. We need to have more conversations about these moments because they happen more than anyone thinks, and by not talking about them we don’t diminish their power, but strengthen it.

    I honestly can’t remember if I have hit my child. I think I must have at some point. You see, she hits me. A lot. Hard. Across the face, on the arm, over the head. Sometimes she punches me. Hard. I see red when she does these things. A primal place of rage opens inside me and I react without even thinking. I’m not sure I’ve hit her, but I’ve definitely grabbed her, hard and held her even harder. I’ve dug my nails into her arm, wanting to reflect the aggression she aimed at me right back at her. I’ve done these things and I’m not proud of it. I’ve apologized after and still felt like a monster.

    So while I have never been you, right now, I have been me in those moments after I’ve hurt my child and I know what it did to my heart, and I’m sorry you’re feeling those feelings, because they are dark and sorrowful.

    And I just want to be here, offering a little light.

    January 20, 2015
  4. I haven’t hit my sons, but I have yelled at them. . . more times than I’d care to admit. . . something I always swore I would never do. 😦

    We all make mistakes. You are right that the only path forward is to forgive yourself.

    January 21, 2015
  5. I am not horrified and don’t beat yourself up. Raising kids can be so hard at times. I have given Molly a slap and then immediately hated myself and said to her I am so sorry but in the moment I was so pissed and she was freaking defiant that it just came out. All you can do is learn from it and then try and take that emotion before it overpowers you. Things happen. Life happens. You can’t judge.

    January 21, 2015
  6. manapan #

    I’ve done it too. Tatoe ran into the street with oncoming traffic, and when I caught him I yelled at him and spanked him. I know it’s an unpopular opinion, but I had always said that I wasn’t against spanking in situations where (1) he could hurt himself or someone else, and (2) where his behavior required immediate negative consequences because of that risk of harm.

    He’s kind of a weird kid — he never wants to stop moving, so if you put him in time out he asks if he can just have a spanking instead. But that time I didn’t just spank him once, I kept spanking him because I was so scared and so angry. It’s terrifying to lose control like that, and really hard to keep it from happening again. Hugs.

    January 21, 2015
  7. HI. My name is Augusta. And I’ve GOT YOUR BACK.
    It was so painful to read this post. I could barely read all the words because I could feel how much pain you were (are) in. It seared my little heart.

    You are not an angry, hurtful monster. Your sense of overwhelm got the better of you in that moment. You did something you regret deeply. Parenting pushes us to the outer edges of our own limits. And then nudges us a little more, just for shits and giggles.

    I know that shame, the one that makes it hard to breathe. You are so wise to know that doing the opposite is what will be helpful, i.e. talking about your experience instead of burying yourself under a rock until, in the year 2147, a forensic team looking for a clues about a crime finds your bones. Tara Brach has taught us the valuable lesson of radical acceptance, and you are wise to remind yourself of it at this time.

    I have more thoughts, but I’ll write in another format. Sending love. xox

    January 21, 2015
  8. I haven’t hit my kids. Yet. Adding that “yet” in there seems so ominous, but it also feels like that “yet” is hanging over me. Often. Like I am often on the brink and my anger so close to the edge of the pot that it’s inevitably going to boil over. It’s kind of like I’m Yesterday You and you are Tomorrow Me. They say, “what a difference a day makes,” but really it doesn’t. What separates the two is more like a split-second, and what is on either side of that split second isn’t all that different anyway. I feel (like you felt) like I never “would,” and yet there are many moments when I know I “could.”

    I’m working on it. trying to do exactly what you mention – recognize the triggers and plan ahead, etc. Except, when the triggers are toddlers’ and preschoolers’ behaviors, planning will only take you so far, because they are so freaking unpredictable and also so freaking adept at pushing precisely the right button at precisely the wrong moment. That’s not an excuse. As you said, there isn’t one. But it’s something to remember.

    Anyway, you’re brave for posting this. It’s been months, I think, since I’ve commented (because phone commenting sucks) but I knew that I needed to come comment here.

    January 21, 2015
  9. Oh, Bunny. Oh, that must be so hard to bear.

    I’m not in the “I would never hit my child in anger” camp not because I would ever WANT to do this, but because I know myself too well to know that I cannot make that statement truthfully. When Gwen gets me really upset, I can be *this close*. So far, I’ve always managed to remove myself from the situation. And I will do my damndest to continue to do so every time in the future. But I know just how close that line is, and I fear someday I will cross it.

    If that happens, maybe you’ll be able to give some advice on how to bear the shame and figure yourself.

    January 21, 2015
    • Arg, typo: “forgive yourself”.

      January 26, 2015
  10. Megan #

    I’m one of those who would never hit my child. And I have. And it sucked and it sucks to think about. I was raised going to Quaker Meeting, for crying out loud. I suppose what I think is that this is just part of the ongoing work, the extra lesson that reminds us to keep doing our best, and when we don’t manage that, to ask our children’s forgiveness and to show them how to forgive ourselves.

    January 21, 2015
  11. SRB #

    I just want to tell you that I completely understand. All of this. All of it.

    January 21, 2015
  12. Honey, you’re not alone. I’ve done it more than once (about once a year) and I feel just as ashamed and angry with myself. And, while my goal, as yours, is to never do it again, I also recognize that I’m human and I will make mistakes and maybe, one day, it’ll happen again.

    For myself – and I don’t know if this is true for you – aside from the obvious trigger of bad headaches which leave me with zero patience- I think some of it relates to “Anger is hiding an iceberg of buried fear.” Like I fear things won’t change, that the horrible behavior (anyone’s!) will never stop, or they’ll never grow to be kind, thoughtful adults, or even that I will just be late everywhere for the rest of my life, or that the trapped feeling of having small children (no matter how much the are loved and cherished) will last FOREVER AND EVER. Though sometimes it’s just anger: you wanted to do X, I am trying to get us out the door to do X, and now you won’t put your FUCKING SHOES ON. Pretty sure there’s no fear under there, just plain old irritation.

    So lots of sympathy and hugs. Your kids will be okay. Really. And you will be okay. Really.

    January 21, 2015
    • Ana #

      I really really appreciate this comment. Fear. I never even considered that.

      January 21, 2015
  13. I wish I could give you a hug. I think as parents we’ve all had our “failures”. We are human, we are fallible, and sometimes our kids are just not very nice to us, and we can’t always hold back. You’re not alone, please don’t torture yourself over this. The main thing is you realize you don’t want to do this again and you will do your best not to. We all make mistakes, but don’t let the mistakes define or defeat you.

    January 21, 2015
  14. My mom hit me when I was little. It was fairly common when I was misbehaving, and her anger got to a certain level, to be smacked or spanked. It culminated with her losing it while doing my hair one day and smacking me with the brush. It wasn’t all that hard, but it was with the bristle side of the brush and enough pressure to leave tiny little bristle imprints. It was enough so that my preschool teachers asked me what happened, and I told them. After that my mom started therapy.

    I’m not telling you this story to make the point that my mom was an out of control monster but then things got better, but rather to offer another perspective. Things didn’t get “better” (from my point of view) because they were never “bad”. I was a happy kid, I was loved, I was never abused, my mother wasn’t a monster – she was just a person with person problems who sometimes smacked her kid when she got overwhelmed. My mom has told me many times she hated herself for hitting me and I think the best side effect of what happened was for her, not me. Going to therapy made her much happier and feel more in control, though it probably did lead to her being a better mother in the long run.

    I think about those hitting incidents from my childhood and don’t assign any particular emotional significance to them. They aren’t difficult for me to think about or talk about, I don’t find them traumatizing, and I’m one of the more well-adjusted adults that I know. I’m not saying it’s ok to hit kids, I’m just saying if, at a low moment, you lose it and do The Thing You Were Never Going To Do, your kids will still love you, they will still be happy children who grow into functional adults and they will not think you’re a monster. The pain and shame you’re feeling is more about you, really, because for Bunlet it’s already begun to fade into the haze of childhood. There are myriad ways to mess up kids and an errant slap from a frustrated, but otherwise loving parent is pretty damn low on the spectrum. You’re a good mom, just writing this post is a testament to that.

    January 21, 2015
  15. I’m a usually-silent reader chiming in on this one too. I swatted mine for the first time the other day. She hits me often. Hard. And if I don’t react enough, she ups the ante. And the other day, I just instinctively swatted her arm after she hit me. Not hard but it made her cry. And now I can’t say the thing I always say to her, “I don’t hit you, so you shouldn’t hit me.” I hope realizing that the rest of us have moments too is helpful, but it probably doesn’t alleviate the guilt. 😦

    January 21, 2015
  16. Ana #

    Oh yes, I’ve done it too. I’ve hit B twice. Once was recently, when B hit me in the face. the other was a year or two ago, at the end of a long long day, while brushing his teeth. I left a big red hand print on his bare belly where I smacked him. Aside from that I’ve also had 2-3 incidents of really REALLY rough handling, not hitting, but yanking way too hard, or pushing him not-so-gently onto the floor (to sit down in time out). Its only with B, for some reason I can forgive L (even though he hits me a lot more) because he’s “so little” and its “just a phase” whereas B should “know better”.
    I really appreciate Jenny’s comment above about the fear. That explains why I only lost it like that with my older son. If he hasn’t stopped this behavior by NOW (at 5), then I’m in for 15-20-30? more years of this? I can bear anything for a finite period of time, but FOREVER is frightening.

    January 21, 2015
  17. Ana #

    And to add to the above, my dad hit us on occasion when we were misbehaving. It was a cultural thing, there wasn’t spanking, but slapping on the face. It was infrequent but maybe 4-5 times? Between the ages of 5-10. I can honestly look on those incidents without any emotion. I wish they didn’t do it, but I still loved my dad, wasn’t afraid of him, and knew this was just a form of punishment/discipline that was actually preferable to the long drawn out losing of privileges.

    January 21, 2015
  18. kaseypowers #

    It happens. It sucks. I apologize we hug and move on. It will probably happen again (in my case). We all are doing the best we can.

    January 21, 2015
  19. Got your back. Lots of love.

    January 22, 2015
  20. Love to you. So many people here who identify and who have been there or will be there or can imagine being there. Be kind to yourself.

    January 23, 2015
  21. Andie #

    A big, giant, whole other side of the world sized hug, Bunny. Got your back.

    PS. That’s all, as there are many wise and supportive commenters above.

    January 23, 2015
  22. Misfit #

    I have come so close. I was only saved by a realization in that second of where my anger was headed. Roughly putting my kid in time out and some roar was the outcome. I rarely yell. I hate it. But it is usually enough of a release to snap me back from getting in to toddler level. The beasts will suck you in.

    Frankly, as much as I find hitting kids abhorrent, I say all the time how easy it is. Not hitting. Not losing it. That’s hard. Forgive yourself for taking that weakness. Strive to be the parent bucking conditioned responses to parenting from parents who were given no such qualms.
    And, shit, kids raised perfectly make really dull adults. Besos, tortured mama.

    January 24, 2015
  23. Like so many others, I said “I won’t be a parent that spanks.” And hey, I’m not. I’m actually a parent who has instead, more than once, slapped her kids on the bottom out of pure anger. Which is a thousand billion times worse than planned, non-angry spanking. So yah, I know the feeling of “I can’t ever let this happen again”, with a side of shame and guilt. Ya know, we beat ourselves up about these things, but the fact that we show our humanity, apologize for our mistakes, and work to be and do better means we’re better parents than we think we are. I’m glad there are a lot of people here who’ve got your back. I’m one of them. Forgive yourself… you’re right, it is easier to NOT hit again once you let go of your own guilt…

    January 25, 2015
  24. C #

    Coming out of lurkdom to say I’m sorry. I’d give you a hug if I could.

    January 26, 2015
  25. Jos #

    Just catching up on blogs and wanted to take the time echo the ladies above. This is a powerful, real post that SO many of us can relate to. I was never ever hit as a child – I don’t even remember my parents ever raising their voices with us – and I always try to emulate that. Then there are moments like last summer when I absolutely LOST it with my 2.5 yr old and slapped her for the first (and only) time. I think I cried harder than she did, b/c like you, I lost my “I’ve never hit my kid” card and I felt so horrible about it. So yes, you are not alone.

    January 26, 2015
  26. I spanked Jack a few weeks ago when he was going out of his mind during this epic fit that was absolutely crazy and pointless. I finally said “if you don’t stop I will spank you!” and then was at this bizarre torn mental state of “if I don’t spank him I didn’t follow through with what I said, but how can I possibly spank him and feel okay with myself?”. So I fought myself not to spank him and just be a liar, but then he kept going wild with his fit and I tried everything to stop it, I couldn’t think of anything else, so I grabbed him and bent him over my lap.
    I can’t tell you if it was that hard. He was crying uncontrollably to start with and the intensity didn’t get louder or softer. I like to think it was a wimpy attempt at a spanking. But I spanked him 3 times (once for every year old you are, like my parent’s rule). And then I sat him on the bed, realized it hadn’t changed the fit at all, and I then felt awful about myself…..long story short, I need to work on finding the tools for next time as well.
    We are all battling with figuring out what the right responses are. Hugs friend.

    January 28, 2015
  27. Your commenters are wonderful, kind and brave, it’s true. They make me feel there’s hope for humanity.

    I hope you are feeling better now, bunny. We women are too hard on ourselves; we are only human. Be kind to yourself.

    January 28, 2015

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