When Hank was born my grandfather held him and said “Henrik, that is the name of a president.” John responded with “We are just hoping to raise him to be a decent human being who remembers to vote.” Anyone that knows John is not surprised by his response. I rolled my eyes at John. Anyone that knows me is not surprised by my response. I am starting to wonder if even John’s low expectations were actually high aspirations.
Hank has always been funny and smart like his dad. He has always been stubborn and passionate like his mom. He keeps us on our toes in many ways. We have had our issues with his behaviors, but we have also had our issues with our behaviors. A few months ago, we realized everyone in the house had to make some changes – and we did. Those changes brought peace to our home and life was looking up.
But then this week happened. Because being a parent isn’t supposed to be easy, right? Hank lost his mind. He lost it at school, then at home, and then at Tuesday Morning. And when he lost it at Tuesday Morning, he couldn’t find it. He wasn’t even attempting to look for it.
I tried to be a therapist before being a mom. I tried to say the things I would say to other moms, but to myself. I said “Well he is exhausted with swimming lessons going late two nights a week.” “He has been dealing with a cold which always throws him off a bit.” “He hasn’t been sleeping well, and he NEEDS his sleep.” But when Tuesday Morning happened – none of these things mattered.
He found a little junky toy. A toy he needed. A toy he wasn’t going to get. But he screamed and he cried. He threw his pathetic body on the floor. He kicked his feet and flailed his arms. My parents were with me. Thank God. They tried to reason with him. But no dice. I knew that all I needed to do was spend the $2.99 to buy the piece of junk that would eliminate the chaos – but I couldn’t teach him this was the way to communicate with me.
So I picked him up and walked to the car. And then he punched me.
We both froze. And we both knew this was a moment that could not go by without being of great importance in our life. I wanted to spank him. But I would not teach him that he would get hit because I got hit. It needed to be of greater significance.
Tears ran down my face as I explained he would need to go to the police. He begged me. He pleaded that he loved me and he would never do it again. He asked me to stop the car so he could hug me and apologize.
No. I could not let him think this is what happens when he hits a woman. When he hits anyone. I wept the entire drive. He watched me cry. I pray I am the only woman he ever watches cry due to aggression he has inflicted.
We pulled up along side a police car. (It was a parking lot that happened to have 2 police cars in it but I told him it was the police station and he believed me.) His little 5 year old body trembled as he sobbed. He hyperventilated and dry heaved. He screamed “Don’t send me to jail. Creepy men are in there!” I reminded him that creepy men are in there because they hit women, and that is what makes them creepy.
I called John and he met us in the parking lot. He took him out and put him in his car. This may seem odd, but I wanted Hank to understand his actions not only hurt me, but they also scared me – so I did not want to be with him. John and Hank stayed there, even though the police cars had left and discussed if jail would be the best place for him. Since it was a first time offense, he spent the rest of the day in his room rather than in the clink.
I cried a lot that day. Because raising children is so hard. And no matter how much effort and love I keep putting into these two little boys, I keep falling short. I didn’t want it to be this hard. I wanted it to be cuddles and books and crafts. But damnit, temper tantrums and whining is an equal part.
How I react to him and his behaviors is going to shape him. It scares the crap out of me. Am I turning him into the person I hope he becomes? Are my sleepless nights and countless attempts going to amount to him being that decent citizen who remembers to vote? (I have obviously been doing way too much research on the childhood experiences of the famous and infamous for the podcast Formative Years – it’s coming out this Friday – listen to it…you will understand where my head is at.)
I don’t know if what I did was right. I don’t know if I properly helped him understand how he made me feel and what his physical aggression can do to people he loves. I do not know if he saw past the punishment he would receive for hurting someone to see how it effects more than just him. But I can try.
And I will keep trying. Because if, God forbid, he ever hurts someone in the future – it isn’t going to be because he didn’t know any better.