I’m typing these words in fear, my fingers softly brushing the keys on my laptop so I don’t make too much sound. I’m also eating my breakfast quickly, furiously, madly and quietly, like a prisoner in solitary just given a pack of saltines. I’m shoeless because my Tims make too much noise on the hardwood floor, and the temperature in my living room is approximately 97 degrees because my present and dire circumstance dictates that it be this way. Every 15 minutes or so I wash my hands, frantically and frenetically, as if I just committed a crime and I’m trying to scrub all the evidence away.
Because 10 feet away from me, sleeping and swinging and waking every seven minutes or so to whimper and fall right back to sleep, is a 10-pound, 7-week-old terrorist who is making outrageous and utterly unfulfillable demands in an unintelligible dialect as she induces self-doubt and self-deprivation. She is forever altering our way of life and holding us—her prisoners—forever captive.
Of course, this terrorist is my daughter. And her prisoners are her parents, my wife and I. So the terror isn’t really terror. She makes us laugh, she’s made us cry, she’s made us popular: Friends and cousins I haven't heard from since season 2 of The Wire now all want to come and visit. And she has made us better. Even now, as she’s basically an eating, breathing, sleeping and crying feral fart machine, everything she does is tickling. Seriously. Tickling. She just started smiling last week, and every time she does, it feels like I’m being tickled by the world’s tiniest fairy wielding the world’s tiniest feather.
I’m also aware that, as she continues to grow, there will be a point when some of the things she does stop being as cute. She’s going to learn to say no. And then she’s going to say no to us. She’s going to not listen. She’s going to test boundaries. She going to do dumb s—t. S—t that’ll make me wonder if she’s a human baby or a raccoon.
Basically, she’s going to figure out how to be a person—a person completely independent from her mother and me—and with that personhood comes a sense of self. And when this is combined with a child’s natural inclination to be egocentric, she’s going to do some stuff that will piss me the hell off.
But as I look at my 7-week-old daughter sleeping in her baby swing, I can promise you that I will never, ever, ever put a hand on her. Regardless of how wild she gets, regardless of how angry she makes me, regardless of how wrong she happens to be, she will never get spanked or slapped by me.
I understand that this stance, while somewhat controversial, isn’t necessarily unpopular. Last week Aliya King and her mother, Rita Moore King, engaged in a debate about the merits (or lack thereof) of corporal punishment. This, by the way, is a debate my wife and I have also had. She is pro-corporal punishment, arguing, as Moore King did, that spanking, in appropriate doses, can be an effective deterrent to certain behaviors. And, in some instances, spanking might be the only deterrent.
The fact that we even have different opinions about this has been a conversation in itself, since it has the ability to alter our entire child-rearing dynamic. Because as my wife has also (rightly) stated, if one parent is the spanker and the other parent isn’t, it can create an imbalance in which one parent always doles out the serious punishment, while the other parent gets to be the “fun” parent. And that’s not fair.
I see her point, as I saw Moore King’s, and as I saw the points of other friends and family who believe that corporal punishment has a place in the home. But for me, personally, it just doesn’t make sense. Morally or intellectually. Even more than that, it just doesn’t seem right.
I am 6 feet 2 and 215 pounds. Until tweaking my knee a couple of years ago, I could still dunk a basketball relatively easily. I’ve bench-pressed 275 pounds before. From a pure numbers perspective, even now, over a decade away from my athletic prime at 21, I’m taller, stronger, heavier and in better shape than most grown men.
I’ve also never hit a woman. Even as a child, every fight I was in was with other boys. Never girls. Never, ever, ever, ever girls. I can’t fathom (or justify) a scenario in which the first girl I’d hit in my entire life would be my own daughter. The person least able to defend herself. The person least aware of why she’s getting hit. The person who’d be most hurt that this man she adores—a man 20 times the size of her; a man she believed was her primary protector—is inflicting harm on her.
But the day when she’d even do something that would make my wife and me angry enough to even consider doing that is a while away. At this point, she’s still a terrorist, inducing fear in us and influencing our behavior without ever even lifting a finger.
Which makes me wonder: If she can do that, why can’t we?
Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VerySmartBrothas.com. He is also a contributing editor at Ebony.com. He lives in Pittsburgh and he really likes pancakes. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.