It’s a funny thing when a child hits you: you’re struck by the same lightening quick instinct to hit back you’d get if some fully grown jerk-ass shoved you in a bar. You tense up. Your hand balls into a fist. But as a parent and an adult, you must hone your reflexes to recognize the difference between a thirty-two pound simpleton kicking your shin and a 6’5″ overweight lush looking for a fight. I know all kids go through an aggressive phase, but it amazes me this dangerous quirk survived evolution. Seems like a caveman, whom I trust was not as patient and enlightened as modern man, would have crushed his offspring the first time she gave him a right hook.
I can handle Jillian’s pummelings, but it gets hairy when she trains her fists of fury on her brother. While Dalton was a helpless crawler, Jillian gave him a grace period, but now that he’s up on his feet, the gloves are off. If he toddles within a five-foot radius of her, he’s going to get knocked down. In the heat of the moment, when Jillian gives Dalton a good wallop and sends him sailing across the room, my first instinct is to smack her. Teaching her to not hit by hitting her, however, would open up a swirling vortex of hypocrisy I’m not ready to unleash upon her just yet. Instead I point my finger to Jillian’s room and shout at her, “Go!” My wife runs to her crying boy’s side. (Ironically, Nicole thought we would have done Jillian a great disservice by not giving her a sibling. “You say that because you never had siblings,” I told her. Turns out I was right, and Dalton will need to be quarantined from his sister until he is ten years old.)
Without her pudgy punching bag around, Jillian turns her attention to wanton, cold-blooded destruction. Anything she can get her hands on, she tears apart. Then she scatters the dissected remains throughout the house. We’re talking board games, books, consumer electronics, you name it. The more fragile the item appears, the more tantalizing she finds it. I’d like to believe this passion for destroying is her way of making a statement against commercialism, but I think she just likes breaking stuff. Her hitting people is one thing; the bruises she leaves on my arms cost nothing. An Ikea floor lamp, on the other hand, that’s like forty bucks.
Watching my house transform into a junkyard is dissolving my already dwindling calm. One night at 12:30, I wake to the sound of chaos in Jillian’s bedroom. I stomp into the room to find her dipping into her dresser and tossing all her clean clothes into the air like confetti.
“Jillian, cut it out,” I say firmly.
She responds by flailing about, her eyes rattling around in her head like ice in a martini shaker. In her spasms, she kicks and stomps on me thirty times.