Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Shame

I did something today that I am totally and completely ashamed of! in the midst of a horrible migraine, Emma was screaming about really nothing at all and it was really getting on my nerves. I was offering her anything that I thought would calm her down and stop her incessant shrieking. Nothing was working- I am not even sure why she was crying. I doubt she even knew- she has just been so tired and cranky today. I offered to let her play the piano and she shouted "NO!" and then actually hit me in the face. That was the very last straw for this camel's back, and, without even thinking, I struck her back. After that horrible knee-jerk reaction, I sent her up to her room, not because I was angry with her, but because I did not want her to see me totally break down. After I got control of myself in the kitchen, I dried my tears and went to make ammends with Emma. A nice dip in a bubble filled tub did the trick, and I think I am completely forgiven. . . from her at least. Forgiving myself is a completely different matter indeed.

Now, I have spanked Emma in the past, but it is very rare for me to use that type of discipline. It usually only comes into play when she endangers herself or others (ie: running out into the street). What I am ashamed of today is that I struck Emma not out of a desire to teach her, or even to stop bad behavior. I struck her because I was angry. That is something that I swore to myself long ago that I would NEVER do.

When I was growing up, my father was not at all adverse to this type of behavior- in fact it seemed to be his bread and butter of parenting. Meeting with some very real and difficult obstacles in his life left him a very tired and determined man. The latter made him always try to make the best of situations, usually adding humor to every misfortune that came along. This is something that I really admire in him and hope to foster in myself. The former, however, made his temper red-hot and the fuse to it extremely short. The smallest thing would set him off, and his recourse to these explosions usually resulted in some kind of physical. . . dare I say it? . . . abuse. Now don't get me wrong- it was never anything terribly serious. We got the belt and we got smacked around quite a bit, but we were never really seriously physically hurt aside from some ugly bruising every now and then. It wasn't necessarily the severity of these scuffles that worried us, it was the fact that we could never tell what was going to cause such an outburst. It was also very frustrating when we were punished for things that really couldn't be helped. Case in point: My dad loves to tell this funny and embarrassing story of when I was about 8 years old. I was outside in our backyard playing when he woke up from a nap and started watching me out the window without my knowing it. As he was watching, he saw me go to the farthest corner of our yard, pull down my pants and do my business there in the yard. He laughs and laughs now as he tells acquanitances of my laziness. Well- he has happily repressed my reasoning for such actions. A few weeks before this incident, he woke up when I flushed the toilet. When I opened the bathroom door, I met a Very disgruntled man who took his anger of waking up prematurely out on my back side. After that I tried to find ways of solving this problem. At first I just held it in and admonished my sisters to do the same. When this resulted in Caulene wetting her pants one day, my dad punished me (go figure) for not getting her to the toilet in time. After that we worked out a plan where we would go, but not flush. Then, when I heard my dad wake up, I would run in and flush it before he saw it. That worked marvelously well until I missed one day. After being punished for that (I should have known better, I was eight years old!) I decided the only way to avoid punishment was to do it all outside where I couldn't possibly bother him.

This is just one instance of what I see as rather unnecessary and unfair behavior from my childhood. I think it affected me more than my sisters not only because I was a little bit older at the time, but because I was more often than not held up as an example to them (the perks being the oldest!) No, that is not all in my head either. Heather actually took the blame for me once when my parents found some drawing I had done on the wall. When I asked her later why she had done it, she told me, "Dad always spanks you harder than me." However, those are not the only reasons. It took me a long time to get a good relationship with my father due to this early behavior on his part. I was afraid of him. Sure, I behaved when he was around- but it wasn't out of love, or even out of learning correct actions. It was out of fear. It also led to lying. My sisters and I would lie a lot to get out of being hit.

I am shocked and ashamed that I hit Emma today. Until then I never thought that it could be so easy to hurt someone you love so much. It never made sense to me- why not just NOT hit them? Why not find some other way to get your point across if you really love that person. I never understood how my dad could do those things to me and then tuck me in to bed later and tell me he loved me. Thes two sides of him seemed so incompatible that I stopped believing the one I really wanted to be true. That loving side of him was completely pushed aside by the one who hurt me. I NEVER wanted to be that way with my children. I NEVER want Emma or Sara to question how much I deeply and truly love them. I NEVER thought that I would be capable of hitting them. I am! How horrible! I feel dirty and sad and ashamed. Anyway, I know it is probably weird and a bit inappropriate to share such a personal experience in this manner, but this is in a very real way my journal, and this part of my history is something that I very rarely share with anyone- including Ross. I never thought it was necessary- it doesn't matter anymore right? Wrong! I think that in order to make sure what happened in the kitchen NEVER happens again in my home, I need to remember acutely just what it was that helped me make that decision. I am sorry if this made anyone uncomfortable. Writing it all out has, howevever calmed me down and deepened my conviction. I will put up a nice light and fluffy post later today.

2 comments:

Elizabeth :) said...

Don't even worry about what happened. you are an amazing mother. I've seen how you interact with Emma and you are awesome. She is such a polite little girl and so nice. But look on the bright side next time you are at the end of your rope you'll remember how you feel now and you will act different. Not that what you did was horrible in any way. It was an accident. And she most likely won't remember it. I hope that helped and didn't hinder :)

Brian, Sophia & Cameron said...

I totally get where you are coming from. When I get frustrated to the point of being leary of my ability to avoid reverting to my parent's behaviors Cameron & I go for a walk, it calms both of us down. I really appreciate you sharing for reason that you already know. All that I can say is that when you reproved you you did the best thing by letting yourself calm down and then making things right with Emma. Your girls will never doubt that you love them, you wouldn't ever let that happen. I am sorry that you are feeling so crummy, forgiving yourself is the hardest.