Tina Rowley

writer + (performer) + [space left blank for surprises]

Welcome to the internet home of Tina Rowley. Here you'll find my blog, links to my other published writing, and whatever ends up climbing into the space I left blank for surprises.

 

violence redux

Oh, Christ, people. I've put this post up without a disclaimer, and then removed it. I've put it up now with an enormous disclaimer, and then removed it. I guess I only need one disclaimer, and it's this:

I don't hit my children.

Don't anybody let me change my mind again on this post. Jesus.

P.S. What Ingrid wrote was beautiful, and I'll put most of it in the comments section.


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I don't want to write this post. I mean, I guess I want to. I'm here, the engine's running. But I think I had to hijack/kidnap myself to get myself here to do this. I'm pulling myself out of the trunk at gunpoint. Write it, bitch.


Ok, ok.

(pause)

Can I do a little more preamble?

No, fuck you. Get to it.

FUCK! I DON'T WANT TO. IT'S UGLY.

I don't even know how to let myself start talking about this. I've had that ball in my stomach that's made me want to come here and write, but every time I've felt it, I thought, "No. I can't talk about that. I'm not even taking that to my journal. Find something else to do with yourself, ball. Go assimilate yourself into my organs. Cancer's treatable."

SPIT. IT. OUT.

It's about parenting. It's about violence. It's about avoiding child abuse. Narrowly.

Finn.

(This is so halting! And I can't make it be any other way. Sorry for my halting prose.) (Like I'm going to come here and be fluid about this. That would be terrifying.)

Finn. He, himself, is not my bête noire, but he fucking summons it. He's the dangerous little angel that leads my bête noire in on a leash, dancing around me and laughing. Wait, who's doing the dancing and laughing? Both of them. Both of them fucking are! and it's too much to take! Many times a day it's too much to take.

Obviously, our children test us. But the older Finn gets, the deeper the testing is getting and it's accessing something ferocious in me, something uncontrolled. Something that matches Finn's uncontrolled energy. Or maybe it's not his energy at all. Maybe it's mine. Maybe Finn goes wild and tears the day apart because I can't or won't or don't know how to do it. Maybe this energy is leaking out of me like some kind of toxic factory runoff and polluting my child, and he's just trying to get it off of him. That could be what he's doing. He's not fighting us. He's fighting IT.

When he's in the throes of this energy, whatever it is, he's not angry. It's not anger. It's just muchness. It's like he's plugged into some frighteningly outsized power source, and he doesn't know how to let it run through his body. Trust me, this is not simple childhood, uh, vivaciousness. When this energy starts running, I start to tremble a little. I have to plant myself a little more firmly wherever I'm standing, dig in, grab hold of something internal. I know it's coming. The energy starts running and vibrating off of him and he gets so wild, and he becomes this creature that you can't reach or reason with. The energy won't back off until it peaks.

Is this true? No. Fuck, no, no, it isn't true. That's how I LET it happen.

(This might make no sense to any of you, yet. Please forgive me. I'm working this out in public, in real time, here. If I take this public, then I can't pretend it isn't happening. Accountability. Possibly safety in numbers. Take it to the fire where all the other cavemen are gathered. Look, look, others. This.)

So there's a moment that comes when the energy is running. The moment is subtle, small and decisive, and if I gloss over it, I will lose. Either the bête noire is going to take over or I'm going to use my core strength to calm down and stop and breathe and allow love to permeate the situation. It's not like I can't do it. I just can't or don't or won't do it nearly as much as I should...which I guess should be EVERY FUCKING TIME. Because this is my child I'm dealing with. This is a small, fragile, tender being who's counting on me, my beloved little creature, my son.

Oh, breakdown. Breakdown.

(Finn, I'll come back to you. I will come back to you, baby. Wait here.)

BEAST! It's you I'm coming for now. You THING, you CLOUD. What are you?! Where did you come from and why are you inside of me and who put you there and what do you want? You're this dark genie, this black smoke. Anger, flailing. Coldness, too, an utter lack of concern for whomever and whatever is around you. You will do your own thing. You're supreme. Once you get going, you like it. You flex your muscles. You knock things over. It's satisfying to you, this display. You like to frighten people, it makes you glow. It makes you feel large. Makes you feel godlike. It's nothing to you. A flick of the hand and something dies and let that be a lesson to everyone.

For a split-second it's like that. A blazing dot of satisfaction and joy, like an atomic pinprick.

For me, I mean. It's like that for me when I let the beast win - and fuck love! who ever heard of love? who has time for it? - and I use my relative size and force to try and intimidate Finn (who, by the way and to his credit, gets less and less easy to intimidate) (although this results in a spiraling situation wherein I'm faced with the dilemma of pulling out bigger and bigger weapons). HA! FUCK YOU! LOOK WHAT I CAN DO! I'M ENORMOUS!

A negative re-creation of the big bang, an orgasmically destructive conflagration. I think this is why people imagine hell to be hot.

I yell, of course. Right. No shock. Kudos to the flower-like Thich-Nhat-Hanh of a parent who doesn't do this. He or she may be out there. But my yelling, for the moment, is what keeps my child physically safe.

Because the moment fucking comes. The impulse and decision. Fuck you. My body against yours. Mine will win. You'll go out the window or against the wall.

There it is. There's the horror and shame. The discovery of an anger and violence in me so profound that it could turn against my own child. I pray that this is universally true and I pray that it is unequivocally not universally true, but I suspect that it is.

When it kicks in, I feel unrecognizable to myself. I don't know what this thing is that's running me. I'm being run by something. I've allowed something that isn't me to come in. Is it me? It's not any me I know. Is it truly a part of me? Because something is in you, does it make it of you? I'm not trying to escape responsibility. I'm not. I'm ultimately - I hope - in charge of whether this energy moves my body and uses my voice and to what degree. I'm just trying to look at it. I'm not trying to run.

I will say that this degree of violent impulse only happens when Finn is doing something aggressive to me physically and won't stop no matter how often or loudly I tell him to. That's when I feel like a caged animal and the situation becomes potentially unsafe. Because that is violent, even if it's violence delivered by a four-year-old. There's a shock in being disregarded like that, a hot sense of violation. If he's hitting or kicking or pushing or squeezing or hanging on me or touching me in some relentless way, licking or poking or flicking or tapping like Chinese water torture, and he won't stop despite my hectoring or pleas, then I'm transported to the primal middle of whatever cumulative anger I've buried in this life. Dropped right inside it. And I will make it stop by nearly any means necessary.

Nearly. Nearly. Nearly.

Once, I had Fred in my arms, who was crying and needed tending to. Finn threw himself at my legs, and then threw his arms around my waist and began pulling. I told him to stop, and then yelled for him to stop, it wasn't safe, I have Fred, we could fall, I have to take care of Fred, let go, let go of me, and he wouldn't and I pushed him over. I threw him off of me and he fell on to the floor. In my defense, there was an element of the dramatic soccer player going on for Finn. He milked the fall, spun it a little, helped it along. Seemed almost glad it happened, as well as frightened and sad. Like he had his own strange pinprick of joy. But there he was on the floor, and I had put him there.

This isn't the worst thing that ever happened. Neither, though, is it small. It still lives on in Finn, who brought it up tonight when I was putting him to bed. My bête noire was activated after a jagged evening, and my patience was gone. My voice was loud and flat and I was ordering him this way and that. We had gotten into his bed to read stories, and I was doing battle with myself. I was trying to do the good thing. I was trying to breathe and be still. I summoned a softish voice, if one with a flat affect, and asked him to please pretend to be a rock for a minute (long enough for me to allow love to get a foothold, which I didn't say). I could feel the energy wanting to run in Finn still, and I could feel my own tears fighting their way up. (They won.) Finn draped a leg over me and began kicking me sideways with it. My voice got louder, a warning, and I told him that I would eventually do whatever it took to make that stop.

He said, "Would you hit me?!"

I said, "No, I would never hit you. I would never hit you. No."

He said, "Would you push me over?"

I knew he remembered. I considered pretending that I didn't know what he was talking about.

I said, "Would I push you off of me? Would I push you over?" and paused.

I answered, "Yes. Yes, I would. If you're doing something to me like this, if you're kicking me or pulling me or doing something to my body that I don't want you to do, then yes. I would. I would do it. I would push you over."

We sat there in the strange peace of this knowledge.