I’ll never forget this day, even though it happened last year. My daughter, whom I’ll call Ebun, is 7 years old now. She’s my eldest child and only girl. And I slapped her, in front of so many witnesses.
I always said I would never slap my kids, spanking is one thing but slaps across the face? Too much for me. I grew up with a typical hot tempered Nigerian Mum. She could beat you like she was trying to chase demons from your life. She also liked to slap us, hot across our faces, for the slightest infractions, whilst screaming abusive words. I’ve chopped slaps in church, school, market etc. My mum never cared. But I would feel humiliated. I don’t mind a beating, but a slap is so demoralizing, very degrading. So I swore I’d never strike my kids across their faces. Let my anger not come to that level. Let me never take out my frustrations on my children. Let me never curse them.
Until that fateful day last year.
Life has been tough. We’re in Nigeria and you know the economy has died. I’m not working, my business is struggling. My husband’s salary was barely enough to support 3 kids. I was so stressed and upset. I would got for midweek fellowship and come back dissatisfied and upset. Nothing was helping.
Ebun was always a curious child. Whatever I’m doing, she wants to help. Which can be good sometimes but can get on one’s nerves occassionally. And I wanted her to mature on time, as she’s a girl. We Nigerians expect our girls to grow up faster than boys and becomes little Mummys around the house. When it’s not their responsibility, let children be children.
That day, my children found some of my goods I was selling. Some of the creams didn’t seem to have tight covers and her brothers got into my goods and were smearing them everywhere. It seems naughty. But they wrongly assumed it was the same cream I use to wipe marks off the walls and furniture. So I came home to a scattered house and children ruining my business.
I screamed! I called Ebun and asked her what happened. She tried to explain her brothers started it first (they did), but I shouted that she was the oldest, why didn’t she stop them. Before she could reply “Mummy…”, I lifted my hand slapped her with every energy in my body.
I’m a tall, heavy woman. Ebun was a smallish 6 year old. She flew across the room. It was so loud,everyone was shocked into silence. I can’t remember what was in my mind but I was in a blind rage. I cursed Ebun in Yoruba. “Useless child, foolish girl, who will marry this one?? Dunce!”.
It was turning to see my sons scared, hiding in a corner crying and the horrified face of my assistant that made the red leave my eyes. I walked away without saying a word. My hand was stinging. But I stayed in my room.
It was much later, I heard my husband come home. He walked in and asked me “what happened to Ebun’s face?”. He was livid. I went outside and saw my daughter, one side of her face swollen, a palm imprint clearly showing. I started to cry.
This was the same child I had waited 7 years of my life for, after 2 miscarriages and countless months of waiting for a positive pregnancy test. I had forgotten that she was a blessing. Because I was too tied up in my anger and disappointment.
Ebun stayed away from me for a while, no cake or sweets made her come too close to me. She was fearful. But I did my best to win back her trust.
I won’t inflict on my children what I detest. I don’t want to be that vicious angry Naija Mum that we all love to codedly resent in our youth. I can do better. If I can’t control my anger and discipline myself, then I’m in no place to discipline a child. That is what I tell myself everyday.
Discipline out of Love. Thank you.