My toddler hits, and I’m done profusely apologizing for it.
As a teacher, I’ve dealt with my fair share of difficult students. I’ve worked in the poorest neighborhoods of the inner city, an orphanage in rural India, and a predominantly white middle class suburb. I’ve had students with a host of challenges, including struggling to follow directions, impulsiveness, and aggression. I’d always thought to myself, “What is their home like? They must certainly be ignored, pumped full of screen time, and lack any structure.” I made these assumptions because we, as humans, always want to understand the cause of something… or better yet, we want someone to blame.
I’d like to think that I provide one hell of a stable, nurturing environment for my son. I stay at home now, and provide a predictable routine, filled with outings all over town to various germ infested play structures. He goes to daycare once a week, along with a “Mom and Me” class to satiate his need to socialize and my need for peace. We have family dinners and nighttime routines, all to provide my son with the most loving and predictable environment possible.
In our home, we don’t hit. We don’t slap. We don’t push.
But guess what? He still managed to pick up that behavior. The past few months have been rough. And when I say that, I mean for me… not my 2-year-old. He gives zero f*cks about how his shitty behavior affects others. Every outing to a place with other children inevitably results in him hurting another toddler.
If you’re in his way, taking too long to go down the slide, or eating a blueberry off the floor that he decided belonged to him, then you’re probably going to be shoved or slapped. The old me would’ve profusely apologized to you as the parent of this tiny “victim.” I’d be red in the face, ashamed, and powerless against my embarrassing child.
But my recent epiphany has led me to throw my arms up in the air and finally come to terms with the fact that my son is a normal, developmentally appropriate child.
He is smart, fast as hell, loves fiercely, and he hits. Get over it.
He is not bad. He is not mean. He is not naughty.
He is learning about the world around him and, at his current stage, using his hands is far quicker and easier for him than finding the words. I realize that hitting is never acceptable. But for now, I will calmly correct the situation and move on with my day, no longer crying in the car, racking my brain and asking myself, “Where did I go wrong?”
Instead, I pledge to accept my strong willed, ambitious and eager toddler. I will take each opportunity to teach him alternatives to hitting, how to use his words and show kindness. But I will not feel guilt or embarrassment. I will not be forced to believe he is “bad,” because it’s my duty to be his biggest supporter and most loving teacher, and I will assume that role proudly.