Baby Beating

I’ve been trying to figure out how to articulate what I think about the current NFL scandals, and more specifically about the Adrian Peterson child abuse charges.  I’ve got two reasons this sticks in my craw:

1.  I was abused as a child, and the pictures I’ve seen are reminiscent of so many of my own injuries.

2.  I am Sooner born and bred, and Adrian Peterson is something of a hero in the Sooner football community.

I think what amazes me the most about this story is how so many people are saying “well, that’s not abuse, that’s just a good old-fashioned butt whoopin’!”  They say they got the same thing growing up and don’t see anything wrong with it.  Well, I got the same thing growing up (and much, much more) and I DO see something wrong with it.

When we see those stories about people locking their kids in cages, withholding food, affection, clothing, education, burning children with cigarettes, and yes, beating them, we are horrified.  And then someone says that the parents were treated much the same way as children.  And that is a horrible thing, but it never seems to excuse those people.

So where is the line?  Is it ok for this little four year old boy to have these marks on his body, and allegedly his scrotum?  Is that just thisside of the child abuse line?  Is that line fluid for NFL players?  Is that line fluid for the community at large?  And if there is a line, and this hasn’t crossed it, should we just wait until it crosses the line?  Don’t step up and advocate for this child until he’s had a broken bone or a severe head injury?

It amazes me again how these people who think it is ok to beat this four year old were probably shaking their heads over poor Janay Rice.  How horrible to see her get her head bashed into an elevator railing, knocked out cold and dragged into a casino lobby.  Poor woman.

Guess what?  That woman had the ability to walk away at any time from that relationship.  She could pack her things, drop her engagement ring on the dresser and go.  She could tell him to stop, fight back, call 911 and get the fuck out of there.*

Does a 4 year old boy have those same abilities?  No.  The person he trusts, the person he most wants to please, the person he most wants to love him beats him hard enough to leave lasting marks.  Where does he go for help? Who does he turn to?  Especially when he was allegedly told that if he told anyone about the beating he would get even more of the same?  Terrifying.

My mother used to beat me with anything she could get her hands on: phone book, PVC pipe, leather belt, wooden spoon, vacuum cleaner cord.  She’s thrown hairbrushes, pots and pans, and slaps and punches.  She used to force me on my knees and hold my head down in a prayer position for hours, until my knees were bleeding. She would punch me hard in the head if she didn’t hear me praying loudly enough or fervently enough.  And when she was finally satisfied she would grab a handful of hair, yank my head back and whisper viciously in my ear “If you say anything to your father about this, I will kill you.”

So by the definition of some, I am well within my rights to treat my daughter the same way.  After all, it was done to me.  But which camp do I fall in?  The one that gets no mercy no matter the circumstances, or do I get the famous NFL player treatment because of my “white trash” upbringing?

A friend of mine is of the belief that this is a cultural thing, and that it is no one’s right to say how this man parents his children.  I think that he is correct, to an extent.  I do not want the government in my business, particularly when it comes to my daughter.

But as a former abused child, I wish someone had spoken up on my behalf.  I wish someone had taken me away and kept me safe.  I guess my stupid, druggie mother was just smarter than Adrian Peterson.  She would never have taken us to the doctor with marks on our bodies.  Our secrets were well-hidden.

I no longer have a relationship with my mother, though I tried fervently for years to be the daughter she wanted, so I could have the mother I wanted.  It didn’t work, and now we are irretrievably estranged and she will never know her granddaughter.  In hindsight I can see how stupid it was to keep opening myself up to abuse to get into her good graces, but that’s what victims of abuse do: instead of giving up, we try harder.  We are told to respect our parents, and that they love us even as they are ripping chunks of hair out of our heads or calling us disgusting stupid little whores, or beating us with switches.  She was my mother, after all.  And you only get one of those, right?

Full disclosure: I have spanked my daughter on her diapered bottom.  A single pop on her padded rump gets her attention much more quickly than yelling (and is always administered after I have yelled more than once with no response).  I have swatted her hand away from something dangerous, like when she pulled my laptop cord out of the outlet and tried to plug it back in.  Even yelling “No! Stop! Drop it! Don’t touch that!” didn’t deter her.  The swat on the hand got her attention, and also got her to drop the cord.

Would I beat my daughter with a switch, or a pipe, or a Bible or any other available weapon?  No.  Never. I look into her face and even when she infuriates me, it is my job to love her, to teach her and to be a safe haven for her.  The world is a cruel and unforgiving place.  Home should not be.  My love for her will never be measured by how hard I beat her to “discipline” her, but by how hard I fight to quell the impulses my upbringing instilled in me.

This child that I longed for, that I thought I would never have, she is so precious to me.  How could I betray her trust the way mine was betrayed?

*I in no way believe that Janay Rice was not abused, or that she deserved any treatment that she received.  As a victim of abuse I get why she stayed, but she did have options.

As for Adrian Peterson?  The most he will walk away with in terms of punishment will be a $10,000 fine or 2 years in jail or possibly both.  He might even lose his job.  And that is a real shame.  But hopefully he will learn his lesson and work as hard as he can to make it up to that small child who calls him Daddy.  That should be his main concern, but it probably won’t be.

Extended Breastfeeding Is Not Weird

Breastfeeding symbol

Breastfeeding symbol (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Three months before my daughter was born THAT Time Magazine cover came out.  You know, the one with the mom breastfeeding the preschooler who was standing on a chair?  That one.

I’ll admit, it was jarring, and I thought it was kind of weird.

I had always planned to *try* to breastfeed. Not really try, just do.  My husband was on board.  When we talked about it I indicated that I would like to breastfeed for about a year.  He insisted that “six months is plenty” but he would not stop me if I wanted to go beyond that.  I thought a year was long enough.

I didn’t anticipate then how hard it was going to be to get breastfeeding started. So many friends would announce the births of their babies ending with “latched on and is breastfeeding like a champ!” right from the delivery room.  It couldn’t be that hard right?

Except it was. I nearly gave up so many times. Once we got started it was easy.  I loved the bonding time and the sense of closeness and accomplishment I got from breastfeeding.

Six months went by.  A year was looming.  The more I thought about weaning, the more stressed out I got.  Maybe another six months?  And another after that?

Here we are, two years and a month after she came into this world and we’re still breastfeeding.

I think we might be done by the time she is three, but I’m not going to push it.  We’re not hurting anyone, the two of us.  We’re doing what mamas and babies have done since the beginning of time.

Extended breastfeeding may seem weird to the outsider.  It did to 6-months-pregnant me.  The image of a woman breastfeeding a preschooler was a shock to my sensibilities because I didn’t get it.  Now I do.  Extended breastfeeding doesn’t seem weird to me because I’m not suddenly breastfeeding.  We’ve been doing this every day for over two years now.  It is a normal part of our day.  That’s why it isn’t weird.

I don’t know how long we’ll keep going.  We’ll just keep going until we stop.

 

Losing Memory

English: Baby emu feeling a little hen-pecked!...

English: Baby emu feeling a little hen-pecked! Noah’s Ark Farm Zoo – what an excellent place for a day out with the kids! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I just checked in on a mom’s group I’m in on Facebook.  One of the moms was scheduled for induction yesterday and there was no word from her as of late last night.  This morning there is the picture of a perfect baby girl swaddled in a hospital blanket with a hat on her head.  Sheer perfection.

As I looked I felt this rush of tears.  They flooded my head and my eyes, and I had to sit and think what this emotion was.

You see, we are done having children.

I’m 42, my husband is 55.  He is still trying to re-establish himself in his career field after being out of work for so long and moving to another state and then back again.  I’m trying to start a new career.  Our daughter is amazing.  We are so blessed.

I don’t want another baby.  Besides age and money and the feeling of not missing anything, I hated dealing with a newborn.  I love my daughter but it was so hard!  Breastfeeding and establishing routines and generally feeling like the whole world was upside down.  I’m just not built for that.

I think what I was missing as I looked at that picture was the magic of it all.  I loved being pregnant so much.  The doctors appointments were awful, the special diet, pricking my finger four times a day, all of that sucked. But the times in between: those little kicks first thing in the morning, feeling her move as I sat reading a book, the special smiles you get from people when they notice you are pregnant.  All of that was amazing.

And when she was here, this tiny little person.  She was perfect.  Her smell, the way her body fit into mine, the sighs in her sleep.

I remember early one morning I was feeding her a bottle.  Everyone else was still asleep and it was my hope to put her back in the bassinet in that sweet spot just after her father’s alarm clock went off.  She’s sleep for another couple of hours.

She was drowsing, and I pulled her up to my shoulder to burp her.  She melted into me, and I remember thinking “remember this remember this remember this remember this” because she was so tiny, and I knew she wouldn’t be that tiny forever.  I knew those moments wouldn’t last forever.

I can’t really remember what she felt like then.  Sometimes if I concentrate really hard I can feel the ghost of that tiny baby nestled against me, but it’s just that: a ghost, a fleeting memory that may just be my imagination.

Today she is a big, strong two year old with a mind of her own.  She is long and skinny, all legs and arms and opinions.  It’s all uphill from here.

I guess I just wish I could go back in time and savor those little moments that I swore I would never forget.  Not with another baby, with this one. 

 

I Wonder

Tonight before bed I went into Miss P’s room like I always do. We have a monitor but the grainy image before bed isn’t enough.

I like to see what position she is in, make sure limbs aren’t tangled in the bed slats, that her feet are warm. I like to touch her foot, press a kiss from my fingertips to her forehead. I like to run my fingers through her hair as she sighs in her sleep.

“You secretly want to wake her up so you can snuggle her,” my husband accused.

He’s right.

I love it when she puts her skinny arms around my neck and presses her face into my shoulder. I love to feel her body snuggling into mine. She is so confident that she is safe and loved.

She is such a miracle, that I can’t get enough of her. Some days she drives me to tears in frustration, but if I ever ran away from home I’d have to take her with me. I would miss her too much to leave her behind.

She is my precious, lovely miracle.

And part of me wonders about the woman who have birth to me. Did she ever feel this way about me?

Fighting for Our Lives

Robin Williams Canada

Robin Williams Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I first heard that Robin Williams had died, it gave me pause.  My world now is Harry the Bunny and Super Why! so I had to search my memory banks to attach the name to the face.  Oh.

Then when I heard that he had committed suicide, it was like someone kicked me directly in the stomach. OH.

I have struggled with a bipolar disorder my whole life.  Back when I was diagnosed it was still “manic depression” and the treatment was therapy and some little pink pills that made the highs lower and the lows more manageable.

I was diagnosed because of a suicide attempt.

When you are depressed, when you have been suicidal, any whisper of suicide can be a trigger.  Now here was this huge mega star and he had done it: succeeded, crossed over, broken free.  When you are suicidal, you see that and you think “Wow, he’s so lucky. He doesn’t have to suffer anymore.” Because when you are depressed, when you are suicidal, sometimes it seems like that is the only way out.

And you start to think things like: Look at him, how adored he is in death. Maybe I could be just as adored, finally. (and that shadow in your brain laughs at you and says “Come on now, no one would even notice if you were gone.”)  It’s like someone flips on the switch that makes you wonder if you should try again.

It has been 20 years since my suicide attempt.  During my recovery I promised myself that I would NEVER EVER let that happen again.  I would never again get that close.  I would never again let the darkness consume me.  I promised myself I would reach out instead of folding into myself.

In the ensuing 20 years life has been by turns horrible and amazing.  Right now, things are going really, really well for me.  I look back at that deep, intensely depressed time in my life and I am so thankful I came out the other side.  I would have missed out on so many things, but most especially this incredible two year old daughter of mine.

I have heard people say that Robin Williams was a coward, that taking his own life was a cowardly act of selfishness.  Suicide is NOT an act of cowardice or selfishness, it is an act of desperation from someone who has fought  every day of his life to hang on and just simply cannot do it anymore.  Robin Williams was a fighter.

I am, too.  I am a fighter.  Though I made that promise to myself two decades ago, it doesn’t mean I’ve ever quit fighting.  That little voice sometimes tries to convince me that the world would be better off without me.  I can’t say things like “I wish I was dead” or “I want to just kill myself” in that offhand way some people do.  I don’t wish I was dead.  I would not just kill myself.  Some days those are easy things to remember, and some days they are really hard.

I won’t do it.  I’ll die one day, but if I am lucky I will be incredibly old, surrounded by grandchildren, and I will just slip away in the most unremarkable way.

Until that day, I’m going to keep on fighting.

suicide

 

 

 

 

The International Suicide Prevention Wiki

 

Suicide.org - Suicide Prevention, Awareness, and Support

 

Forgetful?

As the summer continues to rage on here and everywhere, my focus of late has been on the deaths of children in hot cars.  It seems that this happens at least every other day, and most of them occur in Florida, where I live.

To wit: this morning I see that a baby died in a hot car in Utah yesterday. Ugh.

Mustang Car after Rain with Sun

Mustang Car after Rain with Sun (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I get that people are forgetful. Changes in routine can throw us all of balance.  It happens.

But come on!  This isn’t like forgetting to brush your teeth (I’m guilty of this), putting your shirt on inside out (also guilty) or leaving the grocery list on the kitchen counter at home (guilty!).

This is a HUMAN BEING.  This is is your small, helpless child.

I have left my grocery list on the kitchen counter at home.  Took my daughter to an unfamiliar store in an unfamiliar town, walked through the store with her and grabbed things I thought were on that list and when I got home, I carried her into the house (or, at this point, let her walk), went in and realized I forgot the milk.  Nobody died, though.

We are all pulled in a million different directions every day, but if you’re leaving your child in the car accidentally then your focus is on the WRONG THINGS.

I know it seems like an easy thing to say, but really, isn’t taking the time to focus on your child, remembering your child more important than just about anything else?

I have tried to be compassionate towards these people. They’ve just lost children, and I cannot imagine anything worse.  In my mind there is nothing worse – no judge, no jury could do anything to me that would compare with the punishment of losing the person I love most in the world.  My condemnation of these people would mean little or nothing.

But really, all of the tips and tricks on how to not forget your child are just sad and pathetic.  FOCUS on your child. Make your child your number one priority, and hot car deaths will become extinct. I guarantee it.

Strong Woman

IMAG0250My paternal grandmother was born in 1931, and married my grandfather when she was just 16 years old.  She helped him raise 5 kids on the salary that the US Army provided, until she was able to establish her own career many years later.  They traveled the world courtesy of the Army, and during that time she attended several colleges, learned many foreign languages, and soaked up as much culture as she could.  Not bad for a little girl from a tiny town in Arkansas.

As I got older and was unable to find a husband, the only thing she ever said was “It does get harder as you get older, but you will find someone.”  When I finally did, she welcomed him into the family with open arms.  I would sometimes walk into the sitting room and find a black and white movie on TV, my husband sacked out on the couch and my grandmother asleep in a recliner.

When we found out our first child would not be coming home with us, she grieved along with us.  When our daughter came home she was the first (and to this day – only) person I left her with. At 5 weeks!  There was no one I trusted more with my daughter.

This past Saturday, my grandmother died.

I don’t think it has completely hit me yet.  It wasn’t unexpected: she has been in ill health for years, and the last 8 months have seen her in and out of the hospital and the nursing home.  She was convinced that last Thanksgiving was her last.  She was right.

She was generous, loving and strong.  She worked hard to leave a legacy for each child, grandchild and great grandchild, not just in possessions but in love.  Her home was open not just to family, but to neighbors and strangers. She always made sure there were extra children’s gifts under the Christmas tree just in case someone showed up.  She never wanted anyone to feel left out.

About a month after Thanksgiving my father sent me a picture of my grandmother.  Eighty two years old, she was climbing on the counter in the kitchen from a chair because she couldn’t reach the high shelf.  She was in her nightgown, probably preparing breakfast.  She looked appropriately guilty for being caught there, but I’m not sure if it was because she was in her nightgown or because she’d been admonished for climbing cabinets many times in the past.

I am so grateful that she was in my life for as long as she was.  I am grateful that she got to meet and bond with my husband, and that she got to meet and spend time with my much-longed-for child.  Last summer when we were visiting them she gave me a wonderful compliment. She told me that she thought I was doing a wonderful job raising my child and she was proud of me.  I cannot describe how much those words meant to me.

She raised 5 children of her own, adopted two more, and took in one of her grandchildren when his mother went astray.  Somewhere along the way she found time to teach me what it was to be a strong woman, a good wife, a loving mother and a great person.

I will miss her more than words can express, as soon as my heart figures out she is really gone.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 97 other followers