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Let me explain.

Recently, my 16-month-old daughter has taken up the habit of crawling up on my chest to sleep–something she hasn’t done since she was about 4 months old. When she was climbing up last night, she ended up putting her hands with all of her weight pressing down on my throat. For a moment, I couldn’t breathe.

My hands flew up to quickly move her off of me, but at the same time, she lifted her head and I accidentally hit her. Her eyes widened in shock, and she was silent at first, but then her face melted into pure devastation. The tears came quickly, along with sad little sobs. The pain in her expression was clear– not so much physical pain, but emotional.

I was horrified. I felt awful. All I could do was rock her and tell her over and over that I was sorry, praying that she would understand it was an accident. When she stopped crying, she was obviously mad at me. She didn’t want to look at me, and when she did steal a glance, she quickly furrowed her brow and looked away again. Her actions seemed to say, “How could you, mom? How could you hurt me?”

After several minutes of me cuddling and loving on her, she finally crawled back up on my chest again. She stared at me intensely for a moment, and then gave me the sweetest little kiss. I’m sure this was her way of saying, “It’s ok, mommy. I still love you.”

In my case, what happened was an accident. It’s impossible to prevent every accident, but most of the time, we can spring back from them. The thing that struck me the most about this experience was the realization that there are people who do this on purpose. How can this be? How can someone become so cold, so heartless, that they can hurt their child intentionally and feel nothing when they see the pain in their eyes? How can they live knowing that they hit their sweet child, who trusts and loves them more than anything in the world?

Children, as wonderful as they are, can be beyond frustrating. I get it. Some days, maybe you are already at the end of your rope– running on almost no sleep, dealing with stressful situations, worn thin– and then they press that last button. We are human, and I can understand that patience has its limits. But hitting is always a choice. Every one of us is capable of making the choice to hit a child. Fortunately, every one of us is also capable of choosing NOT to hit a child. I believe that sometimes, we have to make that choice before a child ever enters into our care. We have to tell ourselves that no matter what, it simply is not an option. Working on that mindset and sticking to it helps us not to slip over the edge on those days when we’re way beyond our last nerve.

I urge each of us to make that choice. And for those who have already slipped over the edge, the good news is that you can still choose to end it now and work on making amends. This is so very important! I hope that I can always carry this experience with me as a reminder to make good decisions. Thank you, sweet little daughter, for loving me and trusting me still. I will do my best to hold and honor that precious trust.

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