Be Gentle With the Girls

Something that was said to me during the family reunion last week is still running through my mind.

I was talking with the dad of the cousin Little F was playing with. The boy was about ten months older than Little F, I’m not sure how old the dad was but I would guess in his early thirties. The dad and I were talking about how we were glad to have little boys instead of girls. I said that I had been hell as a teenager and fought non-stop with my mom. I was happy that statistically speaking Little F and I were bound to get through his teenage years easier than he and Big E were. The cousin’s dad said, “Yeah, and you can smack the boys around harder to keep them in line. You need to be gentle with the girls.” I just kind of gave a little half-smile and then changed the topic.

I’m still not sure if he was kidding or being serious. I’m sure there was some truth in it because there is always some degree of truth in a joke. But I didn’t know him well enough to know how much truth was there and I didn’t feel like getting into it in front of my husband’s extended family. I will say that I never saw him lay a hand on his son while I was around them. And I will say that his son was very well-behaved and seemed like a genuinely nice, sweet, high-energy kid.

But I will also say that I don’t ever plan on hitting Little F and I know that Big E feels the same way.

Little F is in a hitting phase now. When he gets mad or frustrated or is feeling over-powered he hits. And I seem to get the brunt of it. When we left the reunion on Saturday afternoon Little F didn’t want to leave. He wanted to stay and run around and have fun. He also was very tired and hadn’t had a nap that day. I was very tired and mentally drained from being around so many people. While I was trying to get him into his car seat and explaining to him it was time to leave he smacked me in the face. When
I put on my mean face and sternly told him he wasn’t supposed to hit me, he did it again. At that point I handed him to Big E and I sat down in the passenger seat of the car and fumed. Thursday morning Little F and I were playing under the blankets in our bed. After a few minutes of that I told him it was time to change his diaper and that when I counted to five we would stop what we were doing and change his diaper. He kept telling me no as I was counting and then tried to hit me when I told him it was time to stop playing and change his diaper. That time I was too quick for him and caught his hand mid-hit. The thing is, I completely get where Little F is coming from.

He doesn’t want to stop playing or having fun or whatever he’s in the middle of doing when I come and interrupt him. And he’s telling me that as I’m telling him what’s going to happen, he’s trying to get me to understand. To him, I’m totally disrespecting him and his wishes by making him do something he doesn’t want to do even after he tells me he doesn’t want to do it. So he gets frustrated and hitting is the only way he knows to make his feelings known. After all, telling me “No!” or “Stop!” hasn’t worked. I’m working on giving his feelings names so he can use the words instead of his hands but until he gets a little older I don’t expect him to be able to express himself verbally, only physically. I mean, when he gets really excited about something he sometimes stutters a bit trying to find the words he’s looking for and that’s with good emotions running high. It’s that much harder when it’s a negative emotion. Think about it as an adult, trying to name your emotions while you’re in the midst of feeling them. It’s hard, especially when you’re frustrated or angry. And he’s only two for god’s sake! And it’s not like I let the hit or attempted hit go unpunished. I just don’t hit him back.

But, I know a lot of people who would disagree with my philosophy on this. A lot of people would tell me I’m spoiling him or letting him rule the house. From what I’ve heard about Big E’s childhood, Big E’s dad was a hitter. My mom spanked me when I was a little girl and I still remember defiantly telling her she couldn’t hurt me, then holding my tears for as long as possible while she spanked me, forcing her to keep hitting me if she wanted to win the power struggle. As a parent I can’t imagine having my child talk back to me like that and staying controlled enough to hit them but not beat them. And maybe that’s what it boils down to for me. We all have our reasons for doing or not doing things. I guess that’s the cut and dried reason for me not hitting Little F: If I was so angry that my inclination was to hit someone then I would be so angry that my intention would be to hurt them. I don’t want to hurt my child in that manner. I don’t want to teach my child that it’s the right way to deal with anger. And I don’t know if in the middle of a situation like that I would be able to keep enough of my cool to walk the fine line between hitting and beating without crossing it. I’d much rather not put myself into the position to find out. Set yourself up for success, not failure, right?

There was a Facebook meme floating around a few days, maybe weeks ago, about how you can get in trouble for beating an adult or an animal but the smallest, weakest ones who need the most love from you are okay to hit. It’s a little over the top and not quite accurate, but again, there is some degree of truth to it, as there always is.

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