Me? Maybe…read on.
I whined and complained the week before last about not getting enough sleep. I’m still only getting a few hours here and there and it’s not nearly enough. I feel sometimes like I’ve met my breaking point. Wait – I did meet my breaking point yesterday and had a meltdown because Theo fell backwards and hit his head on the side of the coffee table. He wasn’t even hurt. He cried for about .5 minutes. I cried for about 15 minutes and could.not.stop.
Damn hormones. Damn lack of sleep. Exhaustion. Delirium. Whatever you want to call it. I can literally count on one hand the number of times I have slept more than 7 hours continuously since before Theo was born. That’s sad, right? Sadder – I really only need half of a hand. And I could probably count the number of times I’ve actually slept 7 continuous hours since he was born on both hands.
Before I had kids, I was a great sleeper. I didn’t know that was an enviable trait to have back then, but now I do. I fell asleep easy. I stayed asleep til it was time to get up. I could sleep in but not to the point of wasting the day away (unless I wanted to). I wasn’t impossible to wake in the morning.
Now, I lie down and toss. And turn. And think. And worry. Stare at the clock. I’m too tired to get up and do anything productive but not sleepy enough to drift off. I’ve tried counting sheep, singing the alphabet in my head, daydreaming about nothing, and whatever else you can think of. Nothing works. When I do fall asleep, the slightest noise or movement wakes me up.
Before Theo, I worked normal human hours and slept next to my husband every night. Now, most of the time, I sleep by myself during the day. So the nights that I actually get to sleep next to him I spend elbowing him to stop snoring. Or waking up when he comes to bed. Or wishing we had a bigger bed because there’s not room for the three of us (me, my body pillow, and him). Once I’m awake – forget it. I lie there for hours. Literally hours. It feels like years.
So you’d think I would sleep good during the week when I get the whole house to myself. Nope, it doesn’t make a difference. I have to eat so much at work because of this gestational diabetes, that I’m also drinking all night at work, which means my squished little bladder can only make it a couple of hours at a time before waking me up. So I wake up to pee. Then I toss and turn, etc. You get the point. If I’m still counting things on my hands, I only need one to count the hours of sleep I get on any given day.
I didn’t mean for this to turn into another whine session about my sleepless nights (and days). And I don’t mean for it to turn into me making excuses for my inexcusable behavior. But this is what I’m leading up to.
Friday I was home with Theo all day. We are entering the toddler phase for sure. It is so exciting in so many ways but I am already seeing how much more challenging life is about to become. Forget the part about how we are adding a newborn into the mix in 6+ short weeks. My kid is walking now. I mean really walking. Way more than he is crawling. He’s walking too far to count the steps anymore and his confidence is growing by leaps and bounds every day. So, when I’m home with him I spend a lot of time following him around as he explores his environment so independently. He’s of course discovered some things that he is not allowed to touch, play with, etc. Naturally, those are the things that he enjoys the most.
Like that big Peace Lily next to the desk in the den. Friday he was touching it with his fingertips and looking at me, smiling and shaking his head “no.” Then he’d even say “ohhh” – his version of “no.” I told him “no,” “stop,” “not a toy,” and everything else I could think of. My voice got more stern each time he teased me by touching the plant. I wanted him to do the right thing. I wanted him to listen so bad. He started pulling the leaves and tearing them off of the plant, all the while shaking his head “no,” laughing, and saying “ohhh.” Obviously he knew that he was doing something he was not supposed to and I snapped. I sternly said “mommy said NO!” again and grabbed his tiny, soft, sweet hand and smacked the top of it. It stung my fingers so I know it stung him. He instantly sat on the floor and put his head down and dissolved into a million huge tears, that were streaming down his bright red cheeks. He let out the worst cry and I stood there in shock for a second at what I had just done.
I’ve never said that I wouldn’t physically discipline my child. I’ve never judged others for doing it (within reason) and I see how it can be effective at times. But my heart shattered like glass when I saw the reaction that I had created in my innocent baby. Maybe there’s a time and place for physical punishment when verbal attempts fail, but I think 12 months is way too young. I don’t think he really knew that he was doing anything wrong. He knew I’d said “no” to touching the plant before, but he doesn’t understand why. He certainly didn’t know to expect that kind of reaction from his mommy when he was just having fun and testing his limits. The better choice would be to put him in a time out. Or move him away from the plant. Or move the plant away from him. Pretty much anything, except for what I did.
I immediately scooped him up and started begging for forgiveness and telling him how much I loved him. He continued howling in protest. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt worse about a single act in my life. The image of his little face won’t leave my mind and I’ve been beating myself up about it ever since Friday afternoon.
Shortly after I got him calmed down, I strapped Theo in his car seat and went to Target to grab a couple of things. I was trying to catch his eye in the rearview mirror whenever he would look up at his mirror and say “I see you!” which almost always elicits at least a smile. I sung songs and talked to him. I felt like I was insulting him by pretending that nothing had happened so I changed my tone and continued my apologetic plea for forgiveness. He just stared quietly out the window. Maybe he would have done that anyway, but I couldn’t help but feel like it was a response to what had just happened. He’s usually such a happy boy. I changed his spirit. I made him so sad. I hurt his feelings. I wondered what he was thinking and if it changed our relationship somehow.
I know that these things will happen as parenting gets more and more complex and challenging, but this was a first. By the time we left Target, he was pretty much back to his normal self but I can’t help replaying the whole scene over and over in my head. Friday night, as I lie in bed wide awake, I started googling things about physical discipline. I found a short piece on physical punishment that hit me hard.
The idea is that we strike our children when we want to gain control of a situation. This is done out of anger, not concern for the child’s well-being. The author says that if we could/would take a few minutes to think about the best approach, we would never choose to strike a child. The author questions why it is that we only strike children for discipline. Adults don’t strike adults for misbehavior in the workplace or for running a red light. Why is it okay to hit children? It’s an interesting thing to ponder. The author also makes the comment that the parent’s misbehavior (striking) is often worse than the child’s misbehavior (tearing the leaf off of a plant), intentions considered.
Doesn’t it make sense that it makes a difference when the child is old enough to understand the threat of being spanked? At least a 2 or 3 year old understands. Theo didn’t know enough to make a choice. He didn’t know that if he didn’t stop tearing up the plant, he was going to feel physical and emotional pain.
Would I have done that had I not been so tired and so near the end of my rope? Who knows. Has Theo forgotten about it completely? I wish I knew. Is he scared of me now? God, I hope not.
One thing I do know is that I learned a lesson from all of this, whether Theo did or not. I’m ashamed of myself and I’ll be spending a lot more time thinking about my views on physical discipline.
embarrassed and ashamed,