I slapped Monkey.
Yes, you can come and revoke my attachment parenting card now, I hit my child. I'm sorry.
No, really, I am. I mean, if I could do it over, I wouldn't. But I can't deny that it felt satisfying, just for a split second.
It had been a long, hot day - the temperature hit 93, by far the hottest so far this year. My body is not yet inured to such things, and I'd had a headache most of the day, partly from the heat and partly from the incipient cold I was nursing. I had given the kids a bath and spirits were high. I left them tussling in towels on the sofa while I went to put the kettle on to make the rice for dinner. In the three seconds I was gone - of course - there was a thud and a wail and the beginnings of some hard crying, and I ran back, afraid that Mabel had done a Monkey and got herself a concussion.
She had indeed fallen - been pushed - backwards off the seat of the sofa, towards the table, and Monkey was standing on the sofa, clearly guilty, saying "I'd forgotten about the head-hitting thing" in far too good-humoured a way. As I picked her up and held her close, asking where she'd bumped and wondering if it was bad or really bad, the sight of her brother all unapologetic and - frankly, tantalizingly naked under his blue dragon towel - led me to some quick and rash thinking. I ran over it in my head for a second - would I? yes, I damn well would, because I had to hold Mabel and there seemed no other way to quickly get across the gravity of the situation - and reached out and gave him a smart slap on his thigh.
It was just hard enough to hurt, and it felt good. To me, for a second. Then he collapsed down into his towel and started to cry, and words like betrayal flicked into my mind. Mabel had stopped crying - it appeared she'd hit her leg off the table rather than her head on the floor - but now I had another fire to put out, and it was one of my own making. I put my arm around Monkey and apologised. I told him how I'd promised I would never hurt him, and now I had, because I was angry and he had seemed not to care, but I shouldn't have done it and I wished I hadn't.
Partly, I still thought maybe he'd learn something from the experience. Something about how if you push me too far, bad things happen. Something about taking things seriously. Something about doing what I say when I say it, instead of when he feels like it. I really hope he didn't learn that you can't trust anyone, not even those who love you the most, or that it's okay to hurt someone so long as you say sorry afterwards, or that the reasonable response to anger is to lash out physically. I hope he doesn't analyse it that much.
He came closer, still crying, and hugged me. We all three sat on the sofa, me and my crying child and my no-longer crying child and my consciousness that now I'd have to own up to the Internet about it.
A few minutes later he was jumping around and flagrantly disregarding me again, just like always. So much for lasting lessons, I thought. Hopefully the learning will be mostly on my part - that it didn't solve anything, it didn't teach anything good, and I don't want to do it again.