a violent streak

This weekend included an incredible amount of activity: volunteer work, a bit of waitressing, a four-day visit from company, a birthday party, gardening, cooking like mad, a sleepover guest, and lots of garden work. I was too busy to even blog some of the witty and urbane observations running through my mind (observations like, “Good damn I need another cup of coffee to cope”).

Tonight Nels drags his feet along a DVD against our hardwood floor – an annoying habit of his I cannot seem to talk him out of. My solution lately has been to, as much as possible, keep this kind of media away from him. Tonight he has one in his possession again, somehow, and he’s abusing it. I warn him if he puts it on the floor I will remove and discard the DVD. A few minutes later and he’s spinning on it with one foot. Half judiciously as a parent, half in irritation, I remove the DVD and – instead of merely removing it, as I should – snap it in half. Or rather, attempt to – it’s rather difficult to do as it turns out. It bends, irrevocably (although it was scratched beyond repair as it is), and now rocks on the desk, a sad and wonky proof of my failure. Nels is unhinged and cries – of course. I am not even mad enough to feel remorse; I realize the split-second after I did this that I should not have done it. My son races downstairs to cry injustice to his father, who of course is an amazing and sympathetic listener.

After a while the boy is back. He runs about the room half-crying and I’m half-listening. In a couple minutes I finish my email and turn to apologize to him. He collapses, ready to accept my love, and puts his tear-stained face against my chest. He is in mourning more than angry with me; he knows I was wrong and that I am sorry. He starts crying and clutching at me and yammering and I hear something about a jump rope and tripping. I realize that behind my computer chair he had placed a “booby trap” of a stretched-out jump rope – to trip and murder me, no doubt. Half there to forgiveness, now, he tells me when I succumb that he’ll protect my head with his hands, so only my body gets hurt. “I don’t really like you but I don’t want you to fall down the stairs”, he says, the look in his eyes showing me even this isn’t true, and he no longer wishes me any harm at all, and that he likes me very much. As I hold him and wipe away his tears his words lose their violence and become only tender expressions of love and howls of sadness. His movement through hurt, anger, unconditional love and sadness could not be expressed more clearly.

I can’t be angry or shocked that he would set up a vicious trap because I am only too familiar with my own murderous nature. I should be a better mom, it’s true. But I am glad in this moment, for at least tonight, that I’m smart enough to know when I’ve made a mistake, that my son can express his feelings so clearly, and that I can minister to him and give him comfort when he hurts. The goal tomorrow will be not to cause him undue distress – to offer him gentleness only and instead.

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