Spanking Your Children Is Hitting Your Children

[EDIT: Comments are now turned off. I’m having to wade through a rather epic middenheap of awful comments and toss most of them into the spam oubliette.]

This meme is going around Facebook.

And hey, by the way? Fuck this meme.

Listen, I get it. We have a toddler and having a child is challenging — way more than you think. You buy into this myth that somehow the physical control you possess over an infant — MOVE KID HERE, PLOP THEM HERE, DROP THEM IN THE SLEEP CUBE, STICK THEM ON THE HAMSTER WHEEL — is infinite. You assume that you will retain physical control over that child.

But it’s not long before you realize this is total horseshit. You can’t physically control them any more than you can restrain a chimpanzee by arm-wrestling him. A toddler is 30-40 pounds of flailing, slack-limbed weight. Shifting weight. Disproportionate weight. And the toddler may hit. Or bite. Or shriek. And you can’t stop them physically from doing that.

And so, you think: I can spank this kid. That will teach him to stop.

It sure might.

Just like if I want a woman to shut up, I might smack her across the mouth.

Just like if I don’t like what some guy is saying to me, maybe I punch him in the throat.

You wanna teach somebody to shut up? Start slapping, kicking, throwing punches.

Maybe swing a knife, point a gun.

You spank a kid, you hit a kid. I know, this meme would seem to harken to a simpler time, a har har har I warmed my kid’s butt and now he knows not to talk back to me time, a time when caveman ideals hid behind the smiling face of a smug, pipe-smoking 1950s father.

What I know is this: you spank your kid, you’re demonstrating that you’re a lazy, impatient, frustrated bully. You’re a brute who can’t handle his own child, who can’t actually teach anything or help your child understand the vagaries of life. Your intelligence level is equal only to the smacks you give, whether they’re to a kid’s ass or across his face or with a belt or a paint stirrer or a wooden spoon or whatever your weapon — because, that’s right, it’s a weapon.

My grandfather used to apparently beat the piss out of my father, and my father reportedly beat the piss out of my grandfather as a result. My Dad used the spanking thing once — one time, when I lied about putting a cat in the dryer when I was five (no, I wasn’t trying to kill the cat, it was winter and the dryer was warm and I thought the cat would like it, shut up). He spanked my ass and I never forgot it. I mean — I never forgot it. I don’t know that I remember much from being five-years-old, but I sure as hell remember that. Not in the good way. I don’t remember it in the, “Now I understand why lying is bad” way. But in the “I should be afraid of this guy” way. In the “I gotta get better at lying so I can avoid the paint stirrer,” a device that sat forever on our counter and was referenced time and time again as a reason for me to “behave.” I acted up and him reaching for that paint stirrer was all it took to cause me to settle the hell down.

It worked.

It worked to scare me. It worked to keep the peace. Damn right I behaved.

But it didn’t teach me anything. It didn’t make me a better person. It just made me scared.

And it made me real angry.

I’m not saying my father was a bad Dad. Frankly, I’m surprised he wasn’t meaner sometimes given the stories I heard of how my grandfather treated him. Abuse begets abuse. It’s kicked dogs all the way down. I loved my father and am still sad as hell that he passed just as we were becoming friends again. But we had a big gulf between us for a number of years and I can tell you at the very bottom of one of those deep dark chasms that separated us lurked that singular moment of him beating my ass — and then threatening to hit me again and again over the years.

Don’t hit your kids.

Don’t pass around a meme that encourages people to hit your kids.

Kids are smaller than you. They’re weaker. They’re a little cocktail shaker of emotions and hormones and unformed lessons. You’re supposed to be the rock they hold onto in tough times, not the rock you hit them with when they’re acting like all children do because they’re children.

People always say they can’t imagine hitting their own kids. I can imagine it. I can imagine hitting my son. What that’ll do to him. I can imagine the little mote of hate inside of him, that little ember of anger, the little seed of resentment planted — because here I am, a father supposed to offer him a hand up and instead I bring that hand against him.

It’s horrible. It gives me nausea just thinking about it.

So —

Cut that fucking meme out. Stop passing it around.

It isn’t funny.

It isn’t twee haw haw haw oh-what-a-simpler-time.

It’s called hitting children. And it ain’t cute. So cut that shit out.