It came out of nowhere and all that was left was a sharp stinging in my cheek.
My son had just slapped me across the face.
I sat there, stunned, for a few seconds while I let the initial shock wear off. My son is 18 months old–he didn’t mean it. I mean, he deliberately wound up, pulled his arm back, and slapped my cheek. But he didn’t do it with the intent to hurt me. It was done in a moment of play, and certainly not out of anger. He’s at the age where he’s learning boundaries and testing them every day, this being no exception. He needs to be taught what is acceptable and what won’t be tolerated.
Knowing what lesson to teach him was easy. It was moving on from the incident that was hard for me.
I never thought of myself as someone who holds a grudge. In relationships, I’d prefer to air grievances and move on. But this felt different, in more ways than one. I’ve never been hit by anyone before (I’m happy to report), and to be hit by someone I love so deeply and unconditionally–even though unintentional–really hurt. I know in the moment I must have looked shocked and surprised; after he did it, Lenny’s face mirrored my own. But what could I do? I couldn’t get too mad at him, and I didn’t want to show him just how upset I really was. Maybe there will be a time when I think part of the lesson learned will be for him to see me as upset as I really was, I just don’t think this was it. So, instead I firmly held the hand that had slapped me, told him the best way I knew how that what he did wasn’t okay, and gave him a hug. Problem solved, lesson learned.
Right? It felt so hard to move on that morning, though, and play with Lenny as though nothing had happened, and tell my husband about it as matter-of-factly as possible next time I saw him. It felt hard because I found myself wanting to hold a grudge. He had hit me. Hit me. I almost cried when it happened, but I didn’t. What good would any of that do? I tried hard to not get emotional in the moment, and it was hard to not let my emotions get the better of me later, too.
It’s hard as a parent to move unflinchingly through parenthood, and it’s not fair to think that I should always have to. It’s going to be hard as Lenny gets older to forgive and forget as the tantrums get worse, and we argue and disagree, and he does something bad enough that I have to ground him. Until then, and until he knows better his right from wrong, I think the best way to instill these types of lessons is to teach them, hug it out, and move on.