You turned 20-months-old today. The big 2-0. You’re becoming such a cute and wonderful little person who interacts and learns more and more as each day passes. Your also entering that toddler and sponge stage where you’re really testing your boundaries and your Mom’s and my reactions.
Lets see… new milestones this month: You’re starting to put together small sentences. You can say things like, “Daddy’s eyes”, “blue lights”, “go bye bye”, “Maly poop” and “is this seriously what I’m having for dinner? Seriously?!?!”
You love jewelry. Despite your Mom’s penchant for wanting to instill some kind of tomboy quality in you, you’re all about pink and everything that is girly. And I totally indulge you in your girly efforts. The further I can keep you from the fast-pitch softball field, the better. Not that there’s anything wrong with fast-pitch softball.
Nowadays you don’t go anywhere without your “beads”. You received some plastic beads from a recent birthday party we attended and also from trick-or-treating on Halloween. You LOVE to wear your beads everywhere we go. You insist on wearing your beads as much as humanly possible. This Christmas, I’m going to get you more cheap costume than you’ll know what to do with. And Elmo.
Elmo. You love Elmo. You point at the TV, even when Elmo’s not on and say, “Elmo. Elmo. Elmo. Elmo. ELMO? ELMO? ELMO?? ELLLLLLLLLMOOOOOOOOO!!!??!??!?!?” When we go to the store and happen upon anything Elmo, you point and insist upon engaging in Elmo. Elmo. Got it.
I love the fact that you seem to be preprogrammed to be a girly girl. But you also love watching football on TV. This past month your Mom has usually taken a portion of her Saturday for some “Mama time”, where she’ll either go shopping or just get out of the house for some alone time. This means you and I hang out alone at the house. Whenever you wake up from your nap, usually around 3 p.m., I pick you up from out of your crib and give you a big hug, kiss and tell you that I love you. You indulge me for a few precious moments and then pull yourself away and look at me with a big grin and ask, “ball?!?!” To which I respond, “Yes. Ball!!” And I take you into the living room where we both watch whatever college football game I had been watching while you napped.
And you sit there and watch football with me. It’s awesome. It makes me so happy to hang out with my little girl on a Saturday afternoon and spend an hour watching football. And whenever there’s a good, helmet-crushing, mid-field tackle on a pass reception, you exclaim, “BOOM!!!”
Unfortunately this month greeted you and me with some disciplinary issues. You’ve entered the “Slapping Phase”. And I’ve entered the “Am I a Good Daddy?” phase. Your Mom, you and I were at HEB earlier this month and while in the frozen foods section, you and I had some sort of altercation. I don’t remember the specifics, but I generally use my calm, best judgment and rectify hostile situations with calm, reserved and resourceful tactics. You crossed the line and deliberately slapped me. My gut instinct stepped in. I picked you up in my left arm and spanked you once with my right hand. I have spanked you maybe twice before but with only a tad bit more force than you are accustomed to while we play, so I don’t think you had known you’d been spanked prior to this occasion. This time I hauled off and spanked you so you would know you were spanked. You’re body jolted and froze. You cringed. You immediately screamed and cried. In HEB. In public. Your Mom didn’t say a word. I felt bad, but it was what I felt needed to be done. Your Mom was there and was able to console you after our altercation, which eased my burden to an exent. She urged me to explain why I had spanked you and to tell you that I loved you, which I did. But you weren’t happy with me after that incident.
Unfortunately that wasn’t our only “incident” this month. Just last week you and I were at the house while your Mom was out for the day. You insisted on pulling out the bamboo sticks that are used as guides to keep one of the house plants growing in a vertical direction. I explained to you, “Maly, please leave these sticks in the pot. They’re here for a reason.” After the third, calm request on my part, you hauled off and slapped me. I immediately grabbed the guilty hand and calmly said, “Hands are not for hitting. You do not hit another person unless you are defending yourself.” Yeah, it’s too much for you to understand right now, but I’m getting you started early and training myself to be consistent. You went back to the bamboo stick and pulled it out of the soil. I repeated the calm process again. And you slapped me again. I then decided to employ my “remove the child from the situation” tactic by picking you up, throwing you into the air and catching you while exclaiming, “weeee!!!” Once you came back into my arms from a quick flight, you arched your back, pulled yourself away from me and slapped me again. So I did what my gut told me again. I hated to do it, but I held you with my left hand and spanked you with my right. And I spanked you hard. Again, you cringed, your body jolted and then froze upon impact. You immediately started crying. And it was at that point where I came to a fork in the road. I decided to be firm with my decision and not cave to immediately nurture you and apologize.
With you still in my left arm out-stretched, I walked you to your room as if I had just cleaned the litter box. I sat you down facing your window and I said, “You’re going to take a time out.” I don’t know how I feel about the “time out” thing, but that’s just what I felt like doing at the time. So there you sat. For two whole minutes that felt like an eternity to me. I closed the door and quietly paced while I listened to you sob.
I walked back into your room after I had calmed down. I sat down next to you and put my arm around you. You were still sobbing. You were doing that sobbing thing where you inhale three quick breaths and then exhale in a long breath. You were really sobbing as you had been hurt. I felt like I was the worst parent in the world at that point. I felt as if I had done you wrong. There I was, your Daddy, the person who is supposed to protect you and yet, I was the one who hurt you. I felt like I was an inch tall at that moment.
I picked you up and rested your head on my shoulder. I told you that I loved you and again, that hands were not for hitting. Until you get your yellow belt in Tae Kwon Do and it is your job to pummel your opponent.
We quickly made amends. And you haven’t since slapped me.
Just wait until you’re a Mom and you’ll understand this dilemma. Until then, please know that I’m trying as best I can with the tools that I’ve been give and the undying love that I have for you. I’m trying to give you those same tools with my own interpretations and modifications. I want you to be better than me. Albeit, that’s probably pretty easy seeing how you eat better and bathe more frequently than I do. You get my point. Hopefully. If not, hopefully you will one day.
I love you, Sugar. More than you will ever know.