The Bean is going to be 1 year old soon and will officially be a toddler after that. She's hit every milestone with flying colors and my husband and I are so incredibly proud of her. I feel so humbled by how giant my love is for my daughter and husband. I am truly blessed.
It is sometimes difficult to maintain a state of utter awe and happiness when the structures of daily life need to insert themselves. Sometimes I am so intent on getting things done that I don't have the patience for anything that prolongs the task getting done. After several attempts at getting the task done and failing, I have snapped. In between her 8 and 10 months, I have tapped/spanked/basically brought a hand to her 5 times in her very short life here. Each time I did it, it didn't hit me until after the act of how much it wasn't worth to do. In the short term, it helped me get a task done. But the long term was agonizing for me. I hated, and still do hate, myself for these moments I let myself lose control. I can't tell you how heart-breaking it was for me to know my daughter was crying or confused about me because of me.
Here are the instances that have tested me and where I've failed my daughter:
Diaper changing and rolling over
In all the diaper changes I've done (nearly every one of them since birth), I've lost my composure twice and tapped her leg. She didn't, and still doesn't, stay still enough for the diaper to be changed and put on. Normally, I can accept this as part of her being a curious almost-toddler who wants to stand, walk, and play more than she wants to attend to diaper changes. But I lost my composure these 2 times when every diaper change those days were a struggle and we had peeing accidents on the bed.
Meal times and spitting/blowing food out
I've been feeding her solids since she turned 5 months. It was great for a while, then around 8 months she started spitting out nearly every spoonful. I had already begun the process of weaning her at 7 months so if she wasn't breastfeeding as much and she wasn't eating, then I was worried if she got enough food for the day. It wasn't just one day that she did this and the next day she didn't. It came and went in weeks and I was worried if she was getting enough to eat, if she was hungry during the day or while she was sleeping. I tapped her arm to make her focus on eating but all that did was to make her cry one time, and look at me confused the other time. Once on a different occasion, I held the spoon at her lips until she opened her mouth to take the food. I fed her 2 spoonfuls of food that way. I didn't know if it was worse to force her to eat a few bites (knowing she can guzzle up to 6 oz of solid food in a sitting) just to have something in her stomach or to take away her food because she didn't want to eat.
Each of these instances are burned into my mind as a source of shame because this is not how I want to treat or bring up my child(ren). I don't want this to be a part of the legacy my child(ren) will remember me for. I don't want my child(ren) to distrust me. I can't forget the look of confusion in my daughter's eyes when I tapped her arms or refused to move the spoon away from her lips.
It's the look that asks, "Mommy, don't you love me anymore?"
It's the look that asks, "Mommy, do you love me only if I am good?"
When my confidence is shaken by my own actions I go online to the Babycenter forums to see what other moms are going through. I'm relieved to know I'm not the only one struggling with these issues. I'm relieved to know that I'm not the only mom who slipped and messed up. I'm relieved to know that there is still time to correct my actions.
My conclusions are:
When it comes to spanking/tapping/raising a hand to a child, NEVER EVER EVER EVER do it in anger or impatience. Otherwise it is an adult having a temper tantrum and taking it out on their kids.
When it comes to spanking/tapping/raising a hand, it should NEVER EVER EVER EVER be the first line of punishment or reprimand. Utilize time-outs for the child and for the adult so that the situation doesn't have to be escalated.
Model the behavior you want your child to exhibit. It's not fair to my daughter to tell her not to throw a tantrum when she can easily see me losing it and throwing a tantrum. I want her to be kind and compassionate, so I need to model that behavior so she knows what kindness and compassion are.
At work, we have policies that state how offences will be dealt with. Maybe it's not a far fetched idea to have policies like these at home.
It's been 2 months since that 5th time I lost my composure. It's been hard to maintain calmness when my buttons are being pushed but I want to be a better mom so much more that I've had to take a hard look at myself and force myself to stay calm and collected. At first, it was so hard not to lose it when she peed on the bed because I couldn't get a diaper on her in time. At first, it was so hard not to throw (like a baseball) the spoon in the sink when she pushed her food out and mashed it in her fingers and wiped her hands on me. I've had my nostrils flared like a raging bull and my lips set so grimly it was just a line, dragging in deep breaths and letting them go, counting my breaths until my frustration subsided in time for me to remember why I was not going to lose it. But it's getting better and easier to handle. I tell myself the bed can be replaced later and we can put a towel over the wet spot for the night. I tell myself that she'll swallow if she's hungry; she's only exploring her food and textures; she's (very importantly) communicating to me what she's in the mood for and what she likes and dislikes.
I hope I will be able to continue making good on my wish to be a better mom each and every day!