Unsanitary is a series inspired by the brilliant Sarah Bessey and this post in particular on how we sanitize the stories we tell. I am really great at laughing at myself and turning the hard, scary, embarrassing, vulnerable things into good stories with happy endings and lessons learned. That won’t happen here. This will be all very unsanitary. I’m not going to wrap these things up with a bow for you or me, I’m just going to share. I won’t walk through the thought process after or reasoning or even rationalize, I’m just going to share.
My oldest son, Shepherd, is at a fun developmental stage. It seems like nearly every day he learns a new word or some trick. He mimics us, wants to do things on his own and is just so affectionate. I legitimately have fun with him. I get how gushy parents can just sit and watch their kids all day (I get it, doesn’t mean I can necessarily, but I get it) and how they think their kid really actually is the smartest kid they know.
With this fun developmental stage comes independence and exploring boundaries and testing limits. Limits both of himself and his environment. Read: can this chair/end table/rock/stair/pole/toilet hold me up?, can I get onto this chair/end table/rock/stair/pole/toilet?, will my mom and dad let me get onto this chair/end table/rock/stair/pole/toilet?, or the like.
We have spent a lot of time reading and listening to other people talk about their methods of discipline for their own children, what their thoughts are on discipline and what they believe the Bible says on discipline. We’ve also spent a lot of time praying for and over our boys. Ultimately, we’ve decided that we will parent each child, not a herd. Meaning: we will figure out what works best with each kid. Will we discipline? Of course. Are the terms ‘discipline’ and ‘spanking synonymous for us? Not even a little.
That said, as we’ve parented Shepherd, we’ve seen and confidently know that kid is smart. He knows what ‘no’ means. We have several ‘no’ things in our house: lamps, smacking things, the water cooler, Valor’s nuks, the butt sprayer and the oven. Not too long ago, he started calling some of those things ‘no-no-no’. He would run over to them to do whatever it is he wasn’t supposed to do while singing ‘no-no-no’. And then he’d look at us and smile.
Once that started happening, we tried swatting his hand. Some thoughts on that: one, I don’t like hitting my kid so it was really hard for me (I also don’t like washing dishes but I do that anyway, but this is different. Some would say you have to commit to a method and just do it. Cool. Not for us obviously.); two, to hit him hard enough to actually hurt him wasn’t something I was ready to either gauge or do; three, he would just laugh and then hit himself; and four, it had zero effect.
After a couple days of this swatting situation we decided it was stupid. It was. We weren’t doing it effectively, we weren’t sold on it (our own dislike of it) and he was still Godzilla-ing the glass lamps.
Enter the Nose Flick.
I, in what I thought was a stroke of brilliance, thought of flicking his nose. It would sting enough to bug him without actually hurting him and it wasn’t something he could do to himself. #momboss. Stephen and I talked about it and we agreed we would try it.
So, probably thirty second later, Shepherd was about to pull the entire glass lamp over and I grabbed him, flicked his nose and held him.
I cannot tell you what the look on his face did to me.
We know he’s young, but we want to start the habit of talking to him through things, so we always pull him onto our laps when discipling. So there he was, sitting in my lap, a little startled because it all happened so fast and it’s never happened before, and just so, so sad.
He pulled his fat little hand up to his wide open mouth as if to hide and those big, beautiful brown eyes filled up with hot tears. And he wailed. Not like angry screamed, but wailed. He let out a wail, our eyes were locked and he leaned his entire body weight into my chest and threw his arm around my neck. The arm around my neck squeezed so tight while his other hand was over his mouth. He just sat there for a second, crying into my chest.
He pulled back, his arm around my neck went higher so his hand was on my ear and he buried his wet face in my neck.
I looked at Stephen and I started to cry.
I felt wave and after wave of shame washing over me.
What had I done?
What had just happened?
My sweet, chubby baby. The baby who had never done wrong and to whom I had never done wrong (intentionally that is). Now here we were: weeping over each other’s actions.
Something had entered our relationship and something had broken. Something changed.
Shepherd can choose to not listen to me and I can choose to hurt him.
I won’t soon forget the way he looked at me in that moment, and I don’t want to.