So, yesterday I encountered what might have been my most perplexing parenting moment thus far.
Em and Oren and I were playing in the living room. Oren was playing with his little alphabet caterpillar, and Em was putting on one of her (many) performances as Ariel the Mermaid. Em seemed to be tiring of playing Ariel, and started chasing Oren around the room a little, when she suddenly ran up to me.
“Mama, hit me!” she said.
I looked at her, of course TOTALLY baffled, and sure I had misheard her words.
“What did you say, Emmy?”
“Hit me, Mama! I want to play the hitting game! Hit me right here!” she said, pointing to her arm.
Now, I will pause here to mention that there is NO hitting in our home. We never spank. We never push. We never put my hands on our children in any way that might be even remotely considered physically aggressive.
“Emmy,” I said, kind of laughing, because I was so caught off guard by the moment, “I am NOT going to hit you. I love you. Don't be silly.”
Ember shook her head, “Just hit me here, mama. Please! It's the hitting game! I want to see how it feels!”
“Are you kidding, Emmy? Hitting hurts! I won't hit you. It is not nice to hit people!”
At this point, Ember was pulling on my arm, with tears in her eyes.
“Please, mama! Just hit me! It's the hitting game! You can hit me not so hard, like this!” she said, hitting her own arm. “I want to see how it feels!”
“I am not going to hit you, Emmy!”
“PLEEEEEASE, Mama! Please hit me!!”
And that is when I went from feeling bewildered to feeling totally overwhelmed by the moment. I started to choke up. Why in the world was my three year old begging me to hit her?? I couldn't wrap my head around it for the life of me.
“Emmy, nobody is supposed to hit you. Does anybody hit you?” I asked, very nervously.
“What is the hitting game? Do you play this at school?”
“Does somebody hit you at school?” I asked.
“Does ANYONE hit ANYONE at school?” I asked.
And then she named a few boys in her class, and said they played the “Hitting Game”.
“Well,” I said to Emmy, “we definitely do NOT play the hitting game at home. And if somebody hits you at school, Emmy, it is not nice. You should tell me or dada AND your teacher if anybody in your class hits you. Hitting is NOT a game. Hitting hurts.”
“Ok,” Emmy said, sounding somewhat disappointed.
So, here I am, a day later, still reeling from the incident. I've Googled “3 year old daughter asked me to hit her,” hoping to find discussion boards of other parents who've been through similar, completely crazy conversations with their three year olds, and I have come up empty handed. Apparently NO other parent has had to have this conversation with their three year old, or NO other parent wants to talk about having this conversation with their three year old?
I may be overreacting about the incident. It is very possible that Em may have seen some kids in her class playing “Tag,” and she thought they were chasing each other around and hitting one another, and was curious as to why hitting would be part of a game. Em IS in a class with seven boys and only one other girl, so it is also possible that the “games” she sees the boys playing are more aggressive than the games she is used to.
Still, this is my baby girl we are talking about. This is the girl who I was cuddling in my arms and rocking to sleep just a year or so ago. This is the girl who I never ever want to see hurt or hit by another person.
Hitting hurts, Em. Hitting is not a game. And I will never, ever hit you.