Friday, November 28, 2014

The deep end

Thanksgiving morning started off with Bobby brutalizing his brother repeatedly and me throwing him in his room to listen to him scream hysterically while I calmly prepared our Tofurky roast. This morning started with Bobby brutalizing his brother and me finally snapping and smacking him hard on the head.

Yup. It's happened. I've hit my child. And you know what? I can't promise it's not going to happen again.

What happened today was after Bobby repeatedly pushed his brother on the ground and smacked him, I smacked Bobby on the top of the head. He cried. I put the baby in the other room and drew Bobby on to my lap and explained he has to be nice to his brother, if he doesn't want him touching his toys he needs to just move them, that hitting hurts, doesn't it? That we're a family and we need to do just hugs and kisses and no hitting because it hurts. I asked if he understood and he said yes. I hugged and kissed him and told him I loved him no matter what. And then he went into the other bedroom and smacked his brother on the head. 

I hit him today because after yesterday I was so frustrated that he just didn't get it that I felt like the only thing I hadn't tried was showing him how bad it felt to be hit. But I know this wasn't the right thing to do because how can you teach someone not to hit by hitting? I get it. But nothing is stopping this shitty behavior. Nothing.

It's so maddening because everything was going so well - he liked to play with him, would hug and kiss him, maybe was a little too rough sometimes, but I could let them play together and mostly it was fine. In the last week or so something has taken a very sinister turn and now Bobby just loves to kick, punch, hit, and jump on top of his brother. It's shocking and awful. And he does it all with a big smile on his face, and when I angrily tell him to stop he just laughs at me and does it again. What the fuck do you do when your child acts like this???

I spent all night googling this question and the answers are all things I did (other than the hitting - nobody advocates that!) - the explaining, redirecting to proper behavior, giving more special time together, etc. I bend over backwards, and always have, to make sure Bobby never feels slighted by the arrival of the baby. And yet here we are nine months in and I am seriously worried Bobby is going to kill his baby brother. 

The only thing I'm going to have to do now is keep them separated. No more crawling around together on the floor, no more baby playing in Bobby's room, no more letting Bobby hang out in baby's crib while I cook breakfast. Nope. Baby is going to have to be in the carrier at all times unless Bobby is restricted somehow (he seems to want his high chair again which is awesome) or just put in another room and left to scream there until I can come pick him up. It's all horrible but it's the only way to keep him safe right now. And the only way to keep me from smacking the shit out of his older brother.

How did we get here? He used to be so sweet and kind, giving baby his pacifier and wanting him to be put on the floor so they could "cwawl awound". Then all of a sudden this week pushing his brother onto the floor, stomping on his chest, smacking his head, kicking his head when he's standing up. Awful! I've yelled, I've begged, I've bargained, I've said I understand how he feels, I've modeled proper behavior so he knows what to do instead, and now I've hit him to get his attention and nothing stops the behavior. So for now I just have to separate them. That's all there is to it.

Of course right at this time I had to listen to a podcast about the Uni Bomber and how his brother turned him in and how toxic their relationship was - and now I'm terrified my boys are never going to get along and instead are going to grow up constantly fighting and hating each other. We got off to such a good start and now...I don't know. Let's hope this is just some weird phase. Bobby also hauled off and smacked me across the face the other day, too, which he hadn't done in ages. What gives?

Don't tell me he needs more love and attention and special time from me without the baby. That's all we fucking do. I'm beginning to wonder if all this attention focused on Bobby is what created this monster. 

Right now I am that frazzled, impatient, angry, raggedy single mother I never wanted to be. Regretting everything. Hating my life. It sucks. I am utterly exhausted and worn out and there's no relief in sight. Just more of the same, day after day. Once Theo is too big to be carried or restrained I honestly don't know what I'm going to do. I feel like in a very short time it's going to be like living with a lion and a tiger in my house. 

I hate to say it but I so wish I'd had girls. I am entirely unprepared for this amount of aggressive male energy and I really, really hate it. The constant destruction, climbing the walls, and now this aggression towards me and the helpless sweet baby (who in a few months will morph into a little destruction machine, too) just makes me want to cry. 

Oh yeah - Happy Thanksgiving. 


  1. My heart really goes out to you. I can only imagine what you must be feeling. Since you say B behavior started up again all of a sudden, could something have happened at his preschool? Another kid pushing him around? Maybe you have a bit of a point about all the attention creating the behavior. I've read that when dealing with hitting, you shower the victim with attention because if you focus on the hitter, the attention is a reward. Keep doing the positive attention with B of course but when he's actually in the hitting mode, switch your focus to T. I'm not sure if I'm making any sense & sorry if it's not helpful. Be kind & gentle with yourself too. Don't think too far ahead about what the boys' relationship will be. Moment to moment is the only way to think with toddlers.

  2. My toddler is a girl, and she is very aggressive toward babies. She pushes them, hots them with objects hard over the head, etc. Even does this with smaller toddlers. She doesn't have a sibling in the home so it's not about needing special time. I think she'll outgrow it but for now she has to be kept separate.

  3. You might ask his daycare teachers if they have seen any of that behavior from him directed towards younger kids there, or if any kids have been picking on him. There was a brief time when my son was being picked on at daycare, and I was seeing some negative behaviors at home as a result. I was that younger sibling constantly being picked on by my brother that is two years is miserable.

  4. Felix is exactly the same way with our kitten. EXACTLY. And even when the kitten scratches and bites him (in addition to my punishments), he goes right back and does it again. Doesn't matter how much love and sleep he's had.

    I can only attribute it to impulsive toddler behavior and endless amounts of energy. It is very frustrating and disheartening when the kid is otherwise sweet and well-behaved.

  5. Don't be too hard on yourself. I know it sounds terrible but it sounded like B needed a dose of reality if all your kindness wasn't working. I don't believe in the old fashioned tanned bottom spankings but I have noticed that a single firm slap sometimes shocks and gets kids attention so bad behavior stops immediately. I babysat for my young cousins and I have to say my aunt and uncle have five of the kindest, best behaved kids I've ever met. My aunt and uncle are believers in a quick slap to get attention and a spanking for continued bad behavior. When the kids got to age 2 they would be told to stop whatever they were doing wrong once. if the behavior didn't stop they were then asked "do you need a spank to behave?" If the bad behavior didnt immediately after that the child was given 2 -4 sharp spanks and sent to a timeout corner. It sounded harsh but it worked for them my aunt claims that none of them needed a spank after age 5 and like I said before they are great kids. They were very consistent and the kids learned quickly that pushing limits would result in a sore bum and a time out. I couldn't see myself using this method but I only had one very easy going (thank god!) son. I slapped my son once in his whole life for running away from me in a parking lot. I was terrified and he never did it again.

    I think my point is if spankers could raise happy, well adjusted kids I'm positive that the one slap B got won't do him any harm and just might have gotten his attention. Hugs, remember you can handle this!!

  6. This sounds so hard! I'm sorry!

    Is there anyone at Theo's preschool that could give some support? Ie professionals that can assess the situation?

  7. My guess is that it's like this because they're close in age (more so than any other factor), and it will get better. B will outgrow his interest in doing this, and move on to something else, maybe even by next week, regardless of how you handle it. In the meantime, do what you need to do to keep T safe, and don't judge yourself. It will be OK!!

  8. Agree with the PPs. Hopefully the preschool can offer some insight/commiseration. And it is quite likely that B will move on from this particular (dangerous) form of terrorizing in a few weeks. Hang in there. I feel bad when I get too aggressive physically with my 3yo daughter...and it is so damned hard not to engage when she is hitting me and deliberately doing destructive things to get a rise out of me, so I feel you!

    Hope tomorrow is a better day for you.