Every week, Preen tackles motherhood sans the rose-tinted glasses. Our columnists L. Juliano, Marla Darwin, Monica Eleazar-Manzano, and Rossana Unson tell their personal experiences like it is—at times frustrating, oftentimes confusing, but always enlightening.
Four in the morning and little bub was finally asleep. Her deep and otherwise steady breathing was interrupted by spastic gasps from sobbing her lungs out just minutes before. I’m wide awake, recalling those minutes and a stupid decision that’s eating me up to the core. For the first time ever, I spanked her. I began to doubt if I’m really cut out for dealing with the “terrible two’s.”
We were having one of those days. I had deadlines looming, yaya asked to go on an emergency leave, and hubby was out of town. Little bub has been experimenting with her tantrums for months now. She quickly learned what does and doesn’t get our attention. And nearing two years old, she has mastered the tone, moves, and words that push my buttons. She particularly likes to hit and throw. On that day, the mini dictator ordered in her best English that I put my phone away. “No phone, mommy! Put there! Put there!” pointing to the table 10 feet away. “Just give me a second, I just have to answer this e-” and before I could say “mail,” she grabbed the phone and threw it. Ten feet away. Good arm, if I might add.
The day went by with the tyrant running the show and me feeling the loss of all control. That evening, she woke up several times whining. She’d been sleeping through the night, so my gut was already telling me something was off. I got her cup of water and asked her to drink, but in her tantrum, she kicked it and wet her jammies and the bed. In a flash of rage, I shrieked and spanked her leg. Her whining and drama turned into a look of dread. I could see her wide eyes and the grimace that followed with the night light. She let out a low howl, repeating “Mommy! Mommy!” reaching out to be carried. I couldn’t, I was just furious. I pushed her back to the corner and told her forcefully that she’s on time-out. She’d crawl back to me, asking for a hug, and I would sit her back to her spot. “Stop crying!” I finally shouted. And as much as a two-year-old could muster, she pursed her lips to stop the quiver, snorting her stifled cry. She curled up and looked so small and fragile. I just broke down at the sight and hugged her tight. What did I do? How could I let a toddler get the best of me?
True enough, she woke up with a cold. Imagine the guilt I felt by this time. “Wow, girl, Mother of the Year award! She was feeling ill the day before and all you cared about was your stupid work. Aren’t you supposed to have motherly instincts?” said the voice in my head. I felt incapable. If I can’t even tolerate hurting a defenseless being, how on earth am I supposed to discipline a child? Because back in my day, spanking and kneeling on mung beans and being grounded were the norm. Should it still be the same today?
Off to the books I go so I can brush up on the suggestions for my situation, and all agree on a few easy-to-remember tips:
– Be a consistent example. Don’t emulate what you don’t want them to act out.
– Know their triggers.
– Avoid saying “no” all the time and explain in the shortest way possible what you think they are doing wrong. Be consistent with this too.
– Do time-outs when necessary. It doesn’t always have to be a disciplinary response, it can also be a way to remove them from a heated situation.
And ultimately, if there’s anything to add to my guilt, it’s reflecting on how short this stage really is with my baby. With the objective to raise a well-rounded human being, what’s letting go of the small things like giving in to her pleas of going bomba star at home, bugging and terrorizing the cats, or drawing on the walls? I should just choose my battles, because every day is an opportunity to create memories with her, memories I can only hope she’ll cherish and learn from as she grows up.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Preen.ph, or any other entity of the Inquirer Group of Companies.
Art by Dorothy Guya