Before giving birth to Ayla, I was well aware of some of the unpleasant aspects of parenthood—the explosive poops, the pre-dawn cries for milk, the tantrums and the impossibility of adult conversation in fragments longer than 90 seconds. But the violence—nobody mentioned that.
I’m not talking about being beaten to a pulp with a baseball bat. But violence is a spectrum. Yes, Ayla’s “violence” towards myself and others is mild in comparison to a stabbing. But even still, I was taken aback when my child began exploring her physical strength and the idea of cause-and-effect by hitting, biting and pinching. I know parents who have been punched by their child; a mom friend of mine had to endure months of painful hair-pulling before that phase finally passed.
The truth is most of us are unfamiliar with physical aggressiveness before having children. The closest I’ve come to violence in recent decades is an uncomfortable shove on the subway during my morning commute. Thankfully, I’ve never been mugged and or been in a physically abusive relationship.
That’s why I found myself so taken aback when Ayla looked me in the eye and bit down on my thumb as hard as she could. I remember tears springing to my eyes; I recall feeling emotionally wounded too, as though I had been wronged.