This made me so sad, I wanted to burst into tears and had to hug my daughter tight for, like, a full 10 minutes.
Oh, uh… hi. Yeah, this blog still exists. I, uh… I had my daughter. On the 4th of July, if you can believe it. (And she’s absolutely perfect and wonderful and pictures can be found here and the most adorable video ever is here. That is all.) And I know I probably should have updated sooner but, well – there’s this newborn baby, see, and it occasionally eats my brains. Anyway.
So after my knee-jerk “smother my child with affection” phase passed, I started thinking about why precisely it bothered me so much. Other than, y’know, the advocating of baby-hitting, which is totes enough to bother someone.
I get the “riot instigator” face, really I do. It looks a little like this:
It’s actually rather awe-inspiring, the first time you see it. This tiny baby, who five minutes before you’d swear was the happiest infant on the planet, suddenly looks at you, screws up her face into a terrifying picture of rage, and lets loose this solid blast of yell – not scream, not shriek or cry or wail, yell – which Spouse-Man and I are pretty sure does 2d4 sonic damage, because we are nerds. I can understand why someone, seeing that for the first time, would draw the conclusion that babies are tiny psychopathic hate demons who must be “cured,” must be tamed and broken by any means necessary lest they destroy the planet when they come into their full strength.
But here’s the thing. Babies, little children, literally do not know you exist. They are aware that sometimes arms happen and sometimes bouncing happens and sometimes singing happens and sometimes smiling happens and sometimes (if you’re breastfeeding) boobs happen. And maybe they’re even aware enough to put all that together and conclude that there is a thing called Mama and Mama makes all those things happen. But they don’t know you’re a person. The idea that people other than them are real, actual people who can feel pain and sorrow and fear and happiness and comfort just like them isn’t a concept that they’ll even begin to grasp for at least a few years, and fully understanding the idea will take… well, hopefully they’ll figure it out before college, let’s put it that way. (Or possibly not, but hey that’s ok, they can just run for president.)
Which, ok, yeah, technically makes them sociopaths, but the parents’ goal should be to teach them not to be, to teach them that other people exist and have wants and needs just like they do, rather than simply training them to obey a higher (read: stronger) power without ever quite grasping that lesson. (Wrath of ye gods, now that I think about it, the “hit your child when they act up” method of parenting seems MORE likely to create a sociopath. Think about it: the kid never has to learn how to relate to you or anyone else as a person, never has to learn empathy – what they learn, instead, is how to act so as to avoid punishment. How well do you think that’s gonna translate when they have to deal with people who aren’t in a position to punish them?)
(…No, I don’t think everyone who grows up being spanked or “switched” is going to be a sociopath, calm down. I just think there are more effective teaching tools, in the long run, than pain and fear.)
I find Libby Anne’s take on this to be absolutely fascinating – that post, I suspect, is one I’m going to come back to often as my daughter gets older. I believe it works. I know it works, because it’s very similar to the methods my parents used on me and my brother, and I’m egotistical enough to think we came out ok. I also believe it’s going to be incredibly difficult – I have a very strong streak of selfishness and confrontational nature, and if my daughter is anything like me, she’s not going to put up with that shit. (She’ll also probably be a brat who’s convinced she’s smarter than me, and worst of all, she might actually be right.) And she shouldn’t. She has every right not to put up with someone being selfish at her expense, and it’ll be on me to listen and understand and… well, be the grown-up.
(Side note: the rule of “don’t say no without a reason” makes me smile, because it’s very familiar – in some of the gaming circles I run in, it’s considered a standard guideline for good GM-ing )
Which brings me to the second reason I dislike this philosophy: its absolute disrespect for children. Its lack of empathy for them. The people who are espousing hitting a baby for crying even though its “genuine physical needs” have been met are quite literally not being the grown-ups – they are refusing to see that baby as a person.
It’s ok to want things. Did you hear me? It is ok to want things. It’s not evil. It’s ok to be angry when you can’t get the things you want, especially when you don’t understand why. (And a baby doesn’t. It’s not capable of understanding why it can’t be, for instance, rocked and sung to and held all night long, because that baby is too young to grasp things like your need for sleep and the job you have to get up early for and the fact that your arms are really really tired.) It’s also ok to be afraid, or lonely, or uncomfortable, or bored, or just plain cranky, and not understand why the Mama-thing, which fixes so many other problems, isn’t fixing these problems right now.
Does that mean you have to give in to the baby every time and become their slave? No, of course not – the fact that a baby doesn’t understand your need for sleep doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. But it means that this is not, in fact, a battle of wills or a struggle for control. It is a misunderstanding. And grown-ups do not hit people because of a misunderstanding. It’s kinda one of the bare-minimum requirements for being considered an adult.
And the third reason… ok. To explain this, I need to tell my Dad’s story about the one and only time he hit me.
Understand, both my parents grew up in households where hitting the kids was just how things were. Not abusive – just, y’know, if you acted up you got spanked and no one thought twice about it. They’d never questioned it. Until one day he was driving home, and I was in a car seat in the back – I was maybe 18 months old? Something like that. And I was acting up. Yelling and kicking the back of the seat and basically just being a pain. And finally my Dad, fed up, turned around and gave me a swat on the leg.
Not a hard swat, not really. But hard enough to set me to wailing, and to leave a red mark. And as Dad put it, he looked at this tiny little girl who trusted him and relied on him for everything, and he looked at the red mark of his giant hand on my small leg, and right then thought Uh-uh. Never again. We will find another way, because this isn’t ok.
And really, that’s just it in a nutshell. You don’t hurt people who are weaker than you. You don’t hit people who are smaller than you. It’s wrong. I don’t care how you dress it up or what philosophy you put behind it, it’s just wrong.
(Note: no, I have no memory of this incident whatsoever. Clearly I was horribly traumatized.)
On a (mostly) unrelated note, I want to link to two posts – one from a friend of mine, one from a blogger I admire – that both deal with words and how the right to speak freely doesn’t mean you should be an asshole.
On that note, goodnight – and here’s hoping I can actually get back to updating now and again!