Legal remedies alone won’t protect children when the support services that parents need to cope are being destroyedWhen you’ve been awake since dawn, you haven’t spoken to another adult for six hours, you’re having your first period in two years and your baby is refusing to go to sleep despite having been awake since 4.22am, there is a very fine line between playfully flicking bits of sheepskin out of your child’s hand before they eat it, and just hitting your child. I know, because a few months ago I found myself alone, in a park, bathed in golden springtime sunshine, genuinely worried that I was about to hit my son. This was not some theoretical musing about the nature of “reasonable force” but the frayed-nerve feeling of a parent reaching the very end of their ability to cope. Had I grown up in an environment where smacking had been part of my family’s emotional language, if I’d been smacked as a child and lived to tell the tale, if slapping, smacking, pinching or hitting children had been considered normal during my childhood, then I might very well have smacked my own child that day. Luckily, very luckily, I was able to walk into a nearby children’s centre, plonk him by a miniature sandpit full of plastic dinosaurs, watch him wave cheerfully to the play worker laying out a rainbow of jumbo felt tip pens, walk into the corner, out of sight, and let out all the fury and fatigue that had been welling up inside me all day in one huge sigh.
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