My son used to hit.
He whacked a little blonde girl with pony tails. He thumped an older boy with a Thomas Train. He would hit and kick and push.
It wasn’t limited to kids he didn’t know. Friends of friends would get a punch. New kids at daycare a wallop. Children running around outside the local cafe, little boys in the line for the slide at the park.
He was the love of my life, the sweetest, most delightful brown eyed wonder and yet when he met another child he would often strike them.
So there I was, one of "those" mothers. Have you met us? We are the mothers on the edges of playgroup, literally on edge, following him around in case he lashed out, leaving parks quickly after being dressed down by another parent, hiding on the edges of gymbaroo and library story time just in case.
Always on the edge.
One mother told me he had “serious issues”. Another asked me where he learnt to be so violent.
My mother’s group drifted away, going to cafes was just uncomfortable and at times it seemed easier to just stay home. To hide.
Until he was two he never hit a soul, but then he did. Often.
He was never invited on playdates or to parties. He was that child and I was the mother of that child.
Looking back I can see that on the whole he didn’t act out all the time, but it’s the times he did I remember. I lump them together in my mind and remember the loneliness, the sadness, the questioning, the wondering where did I go wrong.
What can I do? Why?
It was mortifying and heartbreaking, soul destroying.
Once before he turned three I was getting coffee in the local square when he lashed out at a girl maybe a year or two older. The girl cried, from the shock as he didn’t, thank goodness ,hurt her and my son looked at me with those big brown eyes. Before I could get to him the father of the girl reached down and shook my son, he yelled at him demanding he say sorry.
SAY IT he bellowed at him.
Other children gathered around wondering what the commotion was.
My son stammered and blubbered, big fat tears fell from his eyes and he frantically looked for me. I reached out for him and took him from the father’s hands.
My son was so shaken he couldn’t blurt out a “sorry” if he tried. Even if at the age of two-and-a-half he really just said it for lip service. The father stormed away telling me to CONTROL MY BLOODY SON.
I took him home, changed his nappy and wept.
Time outs and teaching him to say sorry didn’t do anything. I bought books on keeping your hands to yourself and lavished him with praise when he was "good."
But nothing helped.
It’s a special kind of anguish when you feel like you can’t control your own child, and embarrassment, a torment. You just want to hold them and rock them and smother them with kisses and love and ask them why and beg them to show you how to get them to stop.
But then they toddle away, a toddler going on pre-schooler to exclaim over a lady beetle or to chase a pigeon and for a moment you remember that they are still just babies themselves really.
What I am writing this for, what I want to tell you is that that little boy who once walloped another with a Thomas train is now six-and-a-half.
I am writing this for other mothers who may be on edge, others who may feel like I used to – alone, questioning, responsible. I want these others mums to hear about my little boy now.
My son is still sweet natured and funny.
He is also kind and gentle. He is the kind of boy who stays up when I call him for bed because he is busy gluing glitter on a love heart he has spend half an hour cutting out to place under my pillow.
He is the first to rush to his baby sister when she falls, the six-year-old who cuddles his grandparents fiercely and chases them down the street when they go shouting I love you at the top of his voice.
He makes beds for his ageing dogs at night in case they are cold and he sits with the boy at school with the broken arm who can't play handball with the others. My little boy chastised me they other day when I got cranky at his brother for not coming off the trampoline when I had asked.
"He just wanted a turn too Mama, don’t be mad at him. He didn’t want to miss out.”
He is empathetic and sweet, thoughtful and loving. He doesn’t hit or kick or push. He rumbles and play punches and crash tackles his big brother, sure, but he isn’t mean or nasty or violent.
My little boy who used to hit stopped doing it before he went to big school. He just stopped. He began to talk to other children not take out his frustrations on them. He grew out of it. Truly.
My little boy who was never invited anywhere and had the stigma as one of “those boys” is someone to be proud of and to delight in.
My little boy used to hit but he doesn’t anymore – and yours won’t one day either. So stay strong one day that edge will be just a distant place away.