Is It Ever Okay to Hit Your Baby?

Michele Zipp

angry cartoon toyI think we've all done something we've regretted or wished we did differently and I don't just mean having sex with that arrogant jerk in college after too many shots or the hairstyle you crafted for your senior portrait I mean mistakes in parenting.

It's inevitable. It happens. We are human and we screw up but we have to reapply the lipgloss and go on and learn from it.

But what if you did something that was really damaging? What if you hurt your baby?

I did. But it was before I had kids.

I love animals. Some may even say I have had unhealthy attachments to pets that I've had. Fur babies. Mostly of the feline variety.

And no cat ever tested my patience more than Louie. Louie is a mischievous kitty. He somehow got himself stuck in the refrigerator overnight once. He was fine. Cold, but fine. He is undisciplined no matter how hard I've tried to guide him on what not to do. But he's a fantastic cat -- plays fetch and is a little love muffin.

After a particularly trying day, I made myself dinner and left the food on the counter for a minute when I went to get some water. I turned back around and Louie was eating the food off my plate. I yelled. He kept eating. I grabbed him and threw his body to the ground.

I am not an animal abuser. I made a mistake. I lost my temper and I feel so horrible about it.

There was silence. Followed by Louie's body slightly convulsing. He let out a cough. And then ran under my bed.

I followed. Gently pulled him out and held him in my arms as I cried and apologized and pet him to tried to calm him.

Cats cannot understand words. Neither can little babies. Both are quite defenseless. I would imagine being in mama's arms feels like being in King Kong's grip when you are an itty bitty cat or an itty bitty baby.

And this moment -- which happened before my kids were even faint lines on a pregnancy test -- made me realize that I would never want to get to this point again -- never let my anger get the best of me, never hit my baby, fur or human, ever. I learned from it. Learned about my temper. Learned how to manage it even when I am tested.

When I wrote about seeing a mother being rough and screaming at her baby who was maybe 12-months-old in the pediatrician's office, I don't think I stressed the part that she was being rough with him enough. Being rough means shaking, manhandling, holding something or someone with such contempt and anger that there should be steam coming out of your ears like what happens in a cartoon and the character's face turns beet red and the defenseless crying character in the angry character's hands just gets even more upset. Or worse. Dies. Because that can happen in cartoons. Only unlike cartoons, it was a real moment. A snapshot of a mother losing control for whatever reason.

Similar to the mother who slapped her baby on the Southwest flight.

Similar to me when I was very rough with Louie, my fur baby.

Different scenarios, yes, but both include anger and hitting, which is never good ... even in adult situations.

I was spanked when I was a child. I've had the belt. I turned out fine -- or so I think. I love my parents. I don't have repressed issues (well not too many) and my parents' choices were their choices.

But I never want to hit my children. I do not want to have a moment where it comes to that and to the moms who say something like "You'll see, wait until they get a little older and start acting up ..." I say no. I don't want to see that day. No, I cannot guarantee that it won't happen. That in a moment of poor judgement, I make a mistake that I will regret. It will be a moment where I will call myself a bad mother, I will learn from it, and pray that it will never happen again. It's not how I want to parent my twins. It's not the form of discipline that my husband and I want to do. Because I see how fragile we are -- all of us -- not just physically, but mentally, emotionally. And I personally do not think it is right.

I never want to be King Kong or a cartoon version of myself.

Is it ever okay to hit your baby?


Image via herval/Flickr

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