an anonymous confession
I hit my child today.
Just saying that sentence out loud puts my stomach in a knot.
I’m a writer. I’m pretty damn good with words. I can soften the blow of reality with a few adjectives or a kinder synonym. I can beautify a mistake so it looks like a powerful life lesson. But today my child deserves better than that.
Because I didn’t spank him, or discipline him, or swat him. I smacked him in anger. It was a visceral reaction to his sippy cup being thrown at my eyeball from an arm’s length away.
It struck my open eye and instantly my hand lashed out in response.
Smack. On the side of his leg.
The look on his face, my God, I’ll never forget it.
There was hurt, betrayal, and confusion, followed by tears. He screamed and wriggled out of his seat belt, reaching out tiny arms.
“Mommy, hold me! MOMMY, PLEASE!”
He wanted me to hold him, right after I hurt him.
I pulled my son from his car seat and carried him into the house. His tears soaked my shoulder. Through the kitchen and up the stairs, we made our way to the nursery.
I can’t believe I just did that, I thought.
I could see his eyes–his frightened eyes–looking back at me, and my soul ached. Because in those eyes, I saw the reflection of a little girl. Brown hair, green eyes, first grade. Her mom’s new boyfriend seemed like a kind man. A “good enough” fill in for an absentee father. He threw the football, smiled like a movie star and most importantly, he was there.
But two weeks after he joined our family, I threw a football he didn’t see coming. It thunked against cheek bone and as he sauntered toward me and grabbed my arm, his blue eyes raged.
His hand lifted and struck my face so hard I saw specks of light.
“HOW DID THAT FEEL?” my new step father screamed.
And I can now imagine the look on my face–the look my son had just given me.
As I settled into his favorite rocking chair, my little boy wrapped his legs around my waist. A pink hand print on his thigh screamed out at me.
Just like him. You are just like him. You swore you’d never hit your child, but you are just like him.
“Son?” I squeaked.
He lifted his head to look at me. I wiped the snot from his nose.
“Honey, I am sorry I hit your leg. Mommy shouldn’t have done that. I was wrong.”
My son looked at me inquisitively, and his face softened. He smiled.
“Dat’s okay Mommy, don’t be sad. Here! I have this sticker for you!”
He peeled the puppy dog from his shirt and pressed it against my forearm.
“Why are you sad, Mommy?”
I took a deep breath to compose myself.
Trust was not gone. I hadn’t ruined my son. I wasn’t the monster I feared so deeply. Yet. This was salvagable.
“Nothing is wrong, honey. I just love you. So much. I love my baby so much.”
My little man smiled and snuggled his head into my side, beneath my arm. We rocked until his breathing became a soft snore, and I laid him in the crib beside a stuffed penguin.
The hand print was already gone. There would be no more evidence of my terrible mistake.
But I will never forget.
As I closed the door to his nursery, a quiet sob escaped my lips.
I will not become the man that hurt me. I can’t. My children will not flinch when a hand moves quickly in their peripheral vision. They will never know to scan an adult’s for rage that precedes violence.
That won’t be our life.
I hit my child today.
He may not remember, but I always will.
And I swear, with every fiber of my being, that it will never, ever happen again.