Noah sat in the ever-coldening bathwater, and soon forced a gaze at me. His eyes got big. Bigger than I’d ever seen them. Enormous crocodile tears surfaced at the corners. His tiny voice cracked, and he barely got out the words. “Daddy, why did you hit me?”
The look of betrayal in his eyes was more than I could feel okay with. I instantly thought back to all the promises I had made myself when I was a child. I thought back to my bed and the hours spent laying in it, resenting my parents. And I knew I had attempted to spank him more from a place of frustrated anger and less from a place of control.
I panicked and scooped him out of the tub and hugged him close to me, rubbing the site of the assault. “I’m sorry buddy, I slipped, I didn’t mean to. It was an accident. Daddy would never hit you.”
It was an accident?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I replied.
He slinked back into the bathtub and finished without incident. I was left with my own thoughts as I washed the California grime from his body.
I had wimped out. And not just a little. I had taken the coward’s approach to parenting. In that moment, I had become two things. I had become the kind of parent I can’t stand, and I had become what I had always promised I wouldn’t. I had become the part of my parents that I always had resented. I had seen it in his eyes when I did. I had betrayed him the same way my parents used to betray me with that giant wooden paddle.
That bothered me. But I can honestly say it didn’t bother me as much as the fact that I didn’t own up to it.
I definitely learned something that night.
I learned that despite our best efforts, sometimes we all become that which we fear most from our past, even if in small degrees.
Instead of pretending for my own ego that it wasn’t what it was, I should have acknowledged it, apologized for it, and simply done better the next time. Covering it up didn’t do anyone any favors. It didn’t leave room for me to improve.
Had I told the truth, Noah would have forgiven me, and he also would have learned a couple valuable lessons himself. He would have learned that Dad means business, and he also would have learned that Dad recognizes when he himself isn’t perfect and that he’s willing to admit that.
It was my first and last attempt at spanking my kid, and as almost silly as it was, the lesson has carried with me heavily ever since.
Dan Pearce, from my book: The All-Important, Well-Fed, Giant White Man
Last Chapter: The Adventures That Come With Changing
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