Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Father jailed for smacking

there's going to be a tabloid whoo-ha about this, of course, and lots of braying about the nanny state, but I'm glad, on balance, to see the threat carried through. hopefully, it'll only take one or two cases like this for the message to get around - that no amount of semantic quibbling can excuse violence against children, and that any argument about the difference between a 'smack' and a 'beating' is just not the point.
guilty as charged - and ashamed. in the darkest times, I used to wonder how it's come about that the human child has evolved these traits that seem designed solely with the purpose of testing its parents patience to the point of head-banging hair-tearing sleepless insanity. and I'm one of the most patient people I know. twins made it doubly hard, of course, but still...
my own mother was - the euphemism used to be 'strict' - with us, as, of course, was hers, and hers, and so on as far back as you care to go, so it was embedded in me, that violence, and I've had to learn to control it (thankfully, it was balanced by dad - the most pacific of men, who was often the moderator of mum's rages)- but any cod-psychologist could have predicted that, given the circumstances, it was almost inevitably going to burst the valve at some point in those early years.
neither of the boys remember me ever hitting them, thank God. to be honest, it probably only happened maybe three or four times. (they both went through a period of being utterly fascinated at the idea of my mother hitting me - wanting to know about it in detail - that typical mix of horror and amusement in kids trying to get their heads around this alien behaviour of grownups.)
I mean - I didn't thrash them with a hazel twitch or anything. and I do recall, at the time, justifying it in terms of simple primate behaviour: when the baby gorillas really piss off their dad he swipes them aside until they get the message. but what I do remember is the moment of the red anger overcoming all the rational restraints and the violence of the reaction - although, even in that moment, the tension between the wildness of the root impulse and the not-quite-overwhelmed moral shadow literally restraining the arm even as it descended to spoil the force of the blow - then - I can still hear it - the slap on the leg, the shocked cry, the look of fear - and - immediately - the devastating feeling of shame, self-disgust, regret, remorse - and the scooping of my child - my beautiful beloved child - into my arms, and holding him, holding him, holding him...
and the "why are you crying, daddy?"

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