I took advantage of a promotion and got in free on the day of my birthday. Even though I came down with a stomach bug partway through the day it was OK. I wrote about it here so I won’t write about it again. I have a different story from the trip so I’ll write that here.
While we were there Keaton threw probably the biggest, loudest, most fantastically ridiculous fit of her short career so far. We shared a two-room hotel “suite” with our friends. They have Jake who’s of age with Keaton and we get along well with them and the kids get along well with each other so as joint vacations go it was good from a getting-on standpoint. This day, my birthday, I had left the group at the park and retired to the hotel early because I felt terrible and was near losing my stomach. They returned later in the evening, affording me some good time for resting and recuperation and sparing themselves the hazard of being in close quarters with me and the sole bathroom I was mostly stuck in. Of course Keaton hadn’t napped, and she was out of sorts.
I don’t remember what started it all but likely it was sassy-talk or something from Keaton. Sharaun told her to sit on the bed and not get off the bed and that she was doing a time-out on the bed. I was also on the bed resting under covers, trying not to move much or think much but just lay still and get the better of my bowels through the power of my mind. The bed was now Keaton’s prison for her bad behavior and that meant she was screaming and crying and carrying on next to me in my deteriorated state and it was making me feel worse and I got angry with her. I told her to “stop.” I overcame my malaise and started parenting. Things got worse.
I’ve been meaning to write about what I’ve named the “dam breaking” thing that’s been going on with Keaton recently. This is the phenomenon where nothing – not soft words, not hard words, not consequences, not abandonment, not the rod – nothing can slow the rolling snowball of her building tantrum. It’s a relatively new thing, but it’s supremely frustrating and makes a body feel helpless to do anything positive. This was one of those times.
All I did was a loss. She got louder and more ridiculous. Flailing and screaming and coughing for breath and red in the face. Not wanting to spoil the child I let my anger manifest all old school and took to spanking her. She kept going. I kept going. It was a back-and-forth volley, escalating tears and screams on her for escalating smacks on my part. Still none of it to any effect. All the while our friends were trying to afford us as much privacy as the little room allowed, and may have even retreated into their semi-separate “room” to give me some space. Didn’t matter, I knew in my head they could see and hear my performance.
Because of this it was all deathly embarrassing and personal. She’d lost control, I’d lost control, and here we were like we’re on a reality show with the voyeurs behind the fourth wall watching it all unfold with their mouths gaping. I imagined the thoughts going through their heads: how they’d have done it differently, how they’d react were it their child and we the ones looking on, how they’d never beat their child so. Oh it was so embarrassing! Afterward I knew that the spanking wasn’t right, hell even during I think I knew it wouldn’t be effective. Ben loves a story I tell about a time I spanked Keaton for hitting Sharaun. To the rhythm of my spanking I told her firmly, “We. Don’t. Hit!” A wonder the child’s mind didn’t explode at the hypocrisy. It always feels wrong anyway, and it feels even worse, sorrowful down to the soul, in front of an audience.
Later, when things had calmed down, my buddy did the neighborly thing and consoled me in the way men console other men. “I know how frustrating that can be,” he said, empathizing, “You feel like there’s nothing you can do, like everything makes it worse, so you do what you can. We’ve been there before, trust me.” And even though I know it’s the kind of stuff people say to each other to ease each other’s spirits I’m still ashamed that I whacked my child in anger in front of them. Oh I can smile and laugh and act like it’s all par for the parenting course, and, in reality, I suppose it is, but it still makes my stomach twist to think about it.