Owen hurt me yesterday. Again.
He has hit me and kicked me and punched me on a daily basis for over a year now. About eight months ago he even gave me a black eye when he sucker-punched me with his bottle one morning in bed. My feelings about these incidents are complex and difficult for me to wade through. But I will try here – because this is an important part of this story – our story – and I don’t think we are alone. It’s an aspect of our daily lives that is not shared with Instagram photos or within Facebook statuses or in tweets on Twitter, but that is very real and hurts in a different kind of way.
Scott got home from work around four o’clock and the kids were running back and forth between Parker’s room and ours “serving” us dinner from Parker’s little play kitchen while I chatted with Scott and he changed from his dress pants and button-down shirt into something more appropriate for dinner (what exactly is the dress code when wooden fruits and vegetables are served? What is the wine pairing with wood and food-grade paint?)…
For a moment, we turned to each other and marveled that this was the first time that we were able to talk for those precious few minutes like that – that the kids were playing nicely together, even if it was just three or four minutes. It was something. It was a start. We were both thrilled at this realization that had snuck up on us.
And so that’s how it went – for the next ten minutes or so, the kids came running in with their little arms filled with
wooden culinary delights for us to feast on. Parker would enter first with Owen trailing a step or two behind his big sister, as she excitedly announced “We have some more dinner for you”, at which point Owen would then immediately parrot “Ee ha mo ninn-o fo loo!”. It was sweet and real and – gasp – normal. And Scott and I stop and notice those things. We smell those proverbial roses, those normal roses. Scratch that. These moments are carnations. Plain old boring, cheap carnations that you can find anywhere and everywhere and usually walk right past to get to something more beautiful, with more brilliant colors and more delicate petals. These carnation moments are what we look for, what we love. Those moments encompass “living the dream” for us now. And this was one of them…
And then the kids brought literally every piece of food and (some random doll accessories?) in on plates to serve to us and we decided to have a picnic right there on our bedroom floor. Everyone was playing nicely, and enjoying themselves. Owen must have had trouble transitioning from the excitement of his job as a hurried waiter to the calm of a seated dining companion – because a moment later, no more than a foot away from me and out of the corner of my eye, I saw the blur of his arm moving quickly in my direction and immediately felt a searing pain on my face.
Owen had thrown a solid wooden “tomato” about the size of a racquetball at me with all of his strength from about twelve inches away. The lower half of his body may be weak, but the upper half has all the strength of a kid twice his age – with none of the conscience to control it. Pain radiated up to my eye from where it had connected with my cheekbone and I tasted blood inside my mouth from where the inside of my cheek had been crushed against my teeth.
I took a sharp intake of breath and hot tears began falling on my cheeks immediately. I covered the right side of my face protectively with my hand and tried to breathe and figure out what he had thrown at me at such close range that could have hurt so much, while failing miserably in my attempt to stop the flow of tears so I didn’t scare Parker – so sensitive and empathetic and anxious to begin with. Scott immediately jumped up and asked if I was okay. I nodded my head that I was, but he knew I was lying – only covering for Parker’s sake. He then turned to Owen, picked him up and roared at him, directly in his face, “You cannot hurt Mommy!” as he swiftly brought him into his room and deposited him in his crib, repeating the same line over and over again.
And over Scott’s voice I heard Owen…
And I had gotten up off the floor and gone into the bathroom at this point to escape Parker’s worried gaze as I cried and tried to compose myself, but all I wanted to do was to follow Scott into that room and protect Owen. To defend him. To tell Scott that our boy didn’t understand. That yelling at him wouldn’t help. That scaring him with his booming voice would only serve to confuse him, to cause more chaos. But I couldn’t get up and out of that bathroom. I was just clutching my face and using every bit of control I had at that moment trying not to begin wailing loudly, escalating the situation even further.
No one was right.
No one was wrong, either.
Scott was trying to protect me – he was angry that Owen had hurt me again, was frustrated that Owen didn’t understand and therefore that the proverbial light at the end of our long tunnel had grown dimmer once again and there was nothing he could do.
And I was no saint for feeling protective over my son when I know the logical and expected response would have been to be furious. Believe me, furious is an emotion I am quite familiar with. When I get those kicks and hits and punches on a daily basis, I am mad and frustrated. Okay, I am pissed. When he does it to his sister, when he wails her on the back because she has said “no” to him for something, or he gets over-excited after they’ve been running around outside (or equally as likely, inside), I am livid.
But this is different.
I cannot explain why I wanted to go in there and scoop him up and tell him how sad this made me, rather than how mad this made me. I think it was because it was one of those moments that shines a spotlight on how far Owen is from…everyone else? Where he should be? Us?
My cuddly boy who asked to be picked up so he could rest his warm, heavy head on my shoulder that morning, my sweet little man that will give me big juicy kisses every single time I ask… It was so hard to believe he was the same boy who was now laughing wildly in the other room as his father bellowed at him that he had hurt me.
Just like a baby might have. An eighteen month-old, maybe. Even a two year-old would have had some capability to comprehend and pick up on the situation at hand, right?
And that is part of what made Scott so mad, I think. He was angry for Owen as much as he was angry at Owen. He loves our children both fiercely and tenderly. He will do anything to protect his family from others – and from ourselves when necessary. He knew that this was the stuff that scared us. The reality that was staring us in the face. The reality that was laughing at us.
And it is the sound of that laughter that makes us cry.
Because we feel powerless. We don’t know how to help him in those moments. We don’t understand him in those moments. We hardly know him in those moments. And that is scary as hell. And I just want to protect my boy, rather than myself. From himself, from his uncertain future, from the world who will not have the same inborn and unconditional love that we have for him.
And my face will be sore and a bit swollen for a few days, and I will probably have a bruise on my cheek. And I will laugh it off and make jokes about needing to call a fictional version of Child Protective Services for parents, and this physical pain will soon fade.
But the other pain – the kind that does not show – will not.
Because there is no bandage for that kind of pain, no ice pack, no salve, no homeopathic remedy.
Only time, and chance, and and a future whose light seems dim in moments like these, at the end of this tunnel we are in.
And that is what hurts the most.