Sunday, June 11, 2006

It's coming ...!

That moment when my son says or does something he shouldn't. And I say or do something that I shouldn't. And then BAM! I slap him across the face.

Now let me just say that I love my son and daughter dearly. And he's been particularly good lately. But there will come a time when he'll push my buttons and I'll lose it.

I have been thinking about this topic lately. My father slapped me when I was 16. He had been drinking, and I probably said something I shouldn't have, and BAM. I'm not sure if he remembers, but like Stanley Kunitz's poem "The Portrait," I can still feel my cheek burning.

Recently, I heard Anne Lamott on NPR talk about this subject in an essay she wrote for Salon magazine called "My son, the stranger", on how her 16-year-old son pushed her buttons and she slapped him. (Note: requires that you watch an ad before entering the site. My advice: click on the link, go make some tea, and then come back!)

Sometimes words fail. And as a writer, I have difficulty reconciling the fact that I won't have the right words to express how I feel, and I may take action. My hope is that as I get older, I'll get wiser and find better coping mechanisms. But that's not often the case according to my married friends with older children. Once the kids can communicate, they let you know, in no uncertain terms, what they want. I can already see signs of that in Alex as he tries to get his way. He'll need to assert himself in order to break away from his parents, and then move out of the house!

Thank goodness I have a few years to get it right. Also, I'm happy to report that Lamott and her son have been able to make a joke out of the whole thing. No permanent damage done. Maybe by giving voice to our darkest thoughts, we can disarm the need to act.


bb said...

It's so difficult to talk/write about this subject isn't it? So many want clear cut answers, there are those who have never slapped their child and those that have, and to some these are discrete categories that will never be crossed.
I have crossed the line and my findings are that violence begot reciprocal violence from my child which I was in no position to criticize. Most regrettable. But it in the long term it also begot a willingness to admit my fallibilty to my child (like Anne Lamott) and a chance to grow in our relationship together.
Of course I wish it never happened. And the single slap delivered though regrettable can surely not be aligned to the lifetime of systematic abuse endured by many.
I am not perfect- what does that mean?- but I try to live an examined life and to share what I havefound with others. x

January said...

An examined life--I think that's a good name for what it is we're trying to do.

It is difficult to talk about because no one wants to be perceived as a bad parent. But these things happen and it's incumbent upon us to do better.

Neasa said...

Wow January, first I have to say I admire your courage in even giving voice to this. I think shining the light of day on such concerns is evidence of a good parent.

As a former frequent slappee & verbal assault victim, I can say that I'd have rather been beaten. Mended fences notwithstanding, the scars remain.

Peace, Neasa


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