Letting Life Lead
The other day late in the night my six-year-old smacked her three-year old brother across the face so hard the imprint of her hand lingered for an hour even after an application of a blue ice bag. I know she meant to hit him (she had hit him earlier in the morning and I had ruled that one roughhousing accidental), though I also know that she hadn’t intended to hit him that hard. Nevertheless, the anger in me boiled into a molten ball so dense I didn’t know what to do with it. Hitting is not allowed in this house by anyone. I won’t allow myself to do it because that little ball is always in there, though, thankfully dormant most of the time. I know I cannot wield it without severe consequences. Truth be told it scares the Bojangles out of me. I watch the internal pressure gauges and so far the release valve is possessed yelling, which I am aware is a hasty patch and not particularly productive.
That smack lingered in me longer than it lasted on my son’s face. I yelled, I accused, and we all withheld affection from my daughter the whole night while she pleaded for forgiveness. I am sure she felt every inch of the seriousness of the situation and the emotional crush of our collective disgust. I punished the infraction in this horrible way, rather than finding a means to protect the one assaulted and guide the other to make amends. I just didn’t have it in me in the moment. I kept thinking about that little hot ball rolling in the pit of my chest, because it wasn’t just fueled by the present incident, but by past ones.
I remember being smacked so hard that hand print welts were left on my face or my arm. I remember the last time it happened, too. The sting. The red heat. How you can feel the marks of finger welts without having to look in the mirror. I was older then and could walk away, but I didn’t have that privilege in my younger days. That was how things were done then; just was. I doubt most people even remember the things they were hit for. Others look back on it through the fuzzy goggles of time and laugh having forgotten what it was really like to feel it. I am not among those who laugh. I remember vivid flashes in dreams sometimes, or in high-stress, emotional situations. It’s unpleasant. The vagueness of detail is filled with that little sphere of anger that I could easily feed and make it grow fat then unleash a fury that would shock anyone who knows me. At the risk of revealing all of my geekdom at once — the Darkside tempts.
I understand why some people question why I refuse to employ or support spanking. I simply will not allow or condone that sort of physical harm on anyone, especially a person smaller and weaker than myself (our culture says no to hitting pets, spouses, employees, bosses, and strangers for discipline — but children, the most vulnerable of all, aren’t on that list). Some might even say that I am being over sensitive and that I am fine. Yet, I know myself better than all, and I most definitely am not fine. I live with it, but I’m troubled. It is these charged moments that stay with you and come back to you when you least expect it and affect you in ways you can’t predict.
What will I do then? What’s done has been done. Although, in hindsight, I did not handle the situation productively, it at least has opened up a lesson to gnaw on for a while. Wrongs were committed. I was wrong. That’s a massive pill to swallow and a rather big mess that I still haven’t quite figured out how to finish cleaning up. I am concerned with how my daughter will remember this point in time. What will she hold on to? Perhaps, all will be overshadowed by the next sibling row and my worry will be for nothing. Will it be the conversation we had and the amends we tried to make? Or will it forever be the moment she felt like no one loved her any more? Will my son remember the sting on his face, the wrath of his parents, or the tears of his sister?
I can only hope they can look back and know that I tried to make it right.
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