The Happy Things Hands Can Do After Hitting

Your hand slaps against my face suddenly. I catch the feelings that balloon inside of me and I breathe them out before they burst.

Time can slow like this.

I turn my face to look at yours, catching your still-raised hand in mine.

“Keenie, ouch. That hurt mama. Ouch! Ouch! Mama’s sad. I’m sad.” I say, and let sadness show on my face. You know “ouch”. You’ve heard it when you fall. You know “sad”, you’ve heard the word when you’re sad about how your brothers have done something that you don’t like.

You giggle and say “funny!”.  My face stays sad. You pull your hand away and try to hit again. I put you down and say “Please don’t hit me. I don’t like that. Ouch!” and you launch yourself at my legs in upset, trying to clamber back up to where you want to be so that you can hit again.

You are not a small sociopath, you are not a bully, you are not mean, and you are not being abusive. You’re exploring. Your learning. You’re developing a model of reference for things. You are learning that the things you feel inside of you are not always the things that match the people around you. You are learning that hitting hurts.

This is what learning looks like. Like repetition, like consistent reactions or like exceptions. You have learned that hands are okay for hitting other hands when high fives are given, you’re learning that hands don’t hit faces, that hands don’t hit when angry, that dogs and cats don’t give or get high fives.

I catch your hands and kiss them. I show you how to tickle, to gently pat, to walk them like a puppet on my shoulder. Look? See? These are the happy things that your hands can do. High fives where hands hit other hands. Clapping where hands hit each other. Gentle things. Patting on a drum. Throwing a ball. Hitting a ball. But not my face. Ouch! Oh Keenie, not my face.

We don’t dwell here long. I’ve caught your hands in mine, I’ve shown you what to do instead, we’ve practiced it and you’ve had your success. Now we move past this place from the point of what you have done right, not from the point of an EXPLOSIVE YELL OF “NO” THAT HURTS YOUR EARS and that just says “don’t do that” without telling you what you can do instead.

You are little and still learning, you are learning self control. You are learning the rules of things.

I am grown, and I know these things. And one of the things that I know is that learning takes time. Your hands are big enough to sting briefly but you are tiny and can cause me no real harm.

One thought on “The Happy Things Hands Can Do After Hitting

  1. Thanks for these strategies & the reminder of what learning looks like and that it takes time. My only child is almost 2 1/2 & I think I often get frustrated because I forget that learning takes time… Easy to remember when I think of how it takes ME time to learn I guess! It’s just hard when your little baby is growing and learning do much so fast! It’s hard to remember that some things are harder to learn… Thanks!

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