It was not a good Mommy day.
I had packing to do for our family vacation, the house needed to be cleaned up before we left, I’d developed an overnight head cold, and this was the day my 2-year-old decided to have a MAJOR meltdown.
Julia had recently been moved to a big-girl bed, and had done really well in it until that day. She had fought her nap, crying for about 30 minutes straight until she finally gave in. At least I got this cute picture of her during her nap – there was nothing cute about what was coming next!
When she woke up about 30 minutes later (a normal nap length for her) she was upset (also normal for her). I had been lying down myself since I wasn’t feeling well, and she was MAD about it. Her current way of expressing herself is by making demands. “I WANT CHEESE!” “COME DOWNSTAIRS NOW MOMMY!” “STOP DRIVING THE CAR! LEAVE IT!” We are generally patient with her and we don’t cater to her demands until she asks for what she wants nicely, but today I couldn’t take it anymore. She was ordering me to go downstairs and watch Pocoyo with her, and I told her firmly but calmly that I had to use the restroom before we went downstairs. She completely lost it. Screaming. Crying. Choking on her tears. And that was only the first 10 seconds.
After that it went downhill – fast. Realizing that she had post-nap crankiness I picked her up and tried to calm her. She completely freaked out, went all stiff, and tried to get down. So I put her down. Then she wanted up, but went all stiff and tried to get down again. This went on a couple of times (both of my girls have a very hard time knowing exactly what they want when upset), but the last time I picked her up she tried to hit me.
That was the start of it.
I put her down and told her, “No hitting.” She tried to hit me again – but this time running full force at me. I picked her up, set her down outside the bedroom door, and closed it. My head was killing me and I couldn’t handle her screaming in my ear. I watched the clock and opened the door after about 1 minute. She calmed down, so I picked her up, and she tried to hit me again.
Here’s where it gets worse. I yelled at her. I yelled at my 2-year-old daughter. And the second I did it my heart broke in a million pieces. Wo was I? Of course, it didn’t help at all – why on earth did I think it would? Next I tried a time-out. She only screamed louder. She would say sorry here and there, but the instant I picked her up again she would start screaming and fighting me to get down again. This went on for about 15 minutes.
Then I did something I’d never done before, not even with her big sister.
I spanked her.
Now, I have nothing against spankings. I was spanked, and while I’m sure every child thinks they were spanked for things they didn’t need to be spanked for, I’ll own up and admit that I probably deserved almost every single one. But for various reasons it’s just not something Jay and I have chosen to use as a discipline method.
If I thought my heart was broken before, I think those millions of pieces shattered themselves into millions more. It didn’t phase her one bit (thank goodness for thick diapers and ruffle-bottomed diaper covers), and I’m sure it was all in my head but I swear my hand hurt for 3 hours. I know that no parent who spanks with the right intentions enjoys it, but it was the absolute first time in 7 years that I had ever spanked one of my girls. I’m confident that she is never going to remember it, but I felt like a failure for the rest of the day. My actions were out of anger and frustration, and because of this they didn’t teach her anything. They didn’t demonstrate love or guidance. They didn’t shape her or mold her. They didn’t even put a stop to the whole ordeal. What they did do was teach me the importance of self control in the moments where it’s the hardest thing to have.
Sometimes I look at my Julieboo and wonder, how is she ever going to grow up to be a decent human being? How is she ever going to learn that the world does not cater to her every whim? How is she going to learn empathy and compassion when she only thinks of herself? It may sound silly to think of these things when she’s only 2, but with Emily all of those things were apparent. We never worried about any of that with her. I’m on unfamiliar territory now, and it scares me.
I think that’s where all that anger and frustration came from – pure fear that I’m not raising her well. I’m nervous that I’m doing something really important all wrong – that I’m missing some key component to parenting that will put a stop to all her tantrums, crazy screaming fits, and super impulsive behavior – all while keeping her beautiful spirited nature intact.
And then I realize something important. Something soooooooo unbelievably important. See, I struggle with being a decent human being every single day. I am selfish, stingy, spiteful, and above all else – sinful. And my poor, sweet Julia is 100% my daughter. From everything I’ve been told about myself as a child, she is all me. Why is this important to remember? Because I turned out okay. Despite the daily struggle, I know that I am a decent human being. With God’s help my parents raised me to have the ability to push aside the selfishness and think of others. And I have faith that God will guide our decisions as she grows, just as He did for my parents. Which tells me that there’s hope for my Julieboo, too.