I still can’t quite believe what happened the other day at Tawa Pool. Harper and I were there for his swimming lesson, and then a muck around in the toddler pool. There’s an area near the toddler pool that families often book for birthday parties and alike. The last time we were there, there was a big swag of people with lots of children and littlies having a swim and a party. Pizzas were delivered, kids were in the pool and everyone was having a lovely time.
There was one adult in the pool with the kids, lying in the shallow water just kind of hanging out. He was probably about 30. A little boy was kind of leaning on a tap that shoots out water across the toddler pool and he was so small that when we leaned on it with his tummy, his feet left the floor. He was just hanging out there, on his tummy, his feet dangling. A couple of other kids had their back to him and were playing underneath the tap. This was all going on about four feet away from me.
I hear the adult, let’s call him Big Man, say ‘Oi, kid, come here.’ He made a fist and kind of shook it at the little boy. The little boy dutifully wandered over to Big Man. Big Man took Little Kid’s foot in his hand and smacked his leg. I felt the smack like a punch in the stomach. ‘Don’t kick people,' said Big Man. Guess Little Kid’s feet hit another kid’s head, though I didn’t see it. But I did see an adult whack a child, and though I was shocked, I didn’t do anything.
Later, when it was time for us to leave, Harper became the devil incarnate, and ran away from me. He wouldn’t listen to what I was asking him to do, getting hysterical at the idea of leaving the pool. He’s been doing this a lot. Just getting him out of bed somedays results in hysterical screaming that I can’t handle. So I ran after him at the pool and grabbed him, kicking and screaming, back to where his clothes were. He hit me in the face. I yelled at him. I lost it at him.
So there are two things troubling me. One, that I was too gutless to say anything to the man assaulting his child. And two, that I assaulted my child, but in a different way. Sometimes, it seems to me, Harper is just doing what three-year-olds do; pushing the boundaries, seeing how far he can go. He’s trying to assert some control over his own life. And I respond to all this by becoming an ogre.
Mornings are the worst. Evenings are also bad. Anything that involves getting dressed, eating food, me asking him to do anything, going to bed, getting out of bed, or getting somewhere on time all result in something that looks like Bosch’s scenes of hell. He screams. He hits me. He yells No! I try to be zen, I try to stay calm, I talk in a low, quiet voice. I try to remember I am the ultimate rock star in his life, but somewhere along the line, a switch goes off in my head. I yell back, louder, angrier. I hate myself. I am sure he hates me.
I read blogs where the mothers and children and houses are always perfect, and I think, “what’s wrong with me? Why can't I be like that?”
Is there something wrong with me? Or do other parents hang on by their fingernails too?