Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Walking on Hot Coals


I am standing in the corner of the living room but nobody notices me. The room is saturated with screams, the thick, anguished shrieks of a little girl who knows she is about to be punished. She has done something wrong and the wooden spoon has come out of the beige crock on the counter. My little sister’s hands tucked into the elastic waistband of her pants, covering her bottom to add a layer of protection. She is running away, little legs churning through the fog of terror that permeates the very air of this room. Nobody is chasing her. Her punisher stands sternly and larger-than-life in the doorway, spoon in hand, a pillar of quiet anger.

“NO NO NONONONONONONO,” over and over. She sounds as if she has had splinters shoved under her fingernails. She is walking on hot coals. She is tortured. I am frozen in place, horrified that her punishment will come to pass. I can’t let this happen.

“I did it. Spank me, please,” my voice breaks as I emerge from the safety of the corner. “It was my fault. She didn’t do anything. She’s too young. I’m the one who made her do it. Please, please, please. Spank me.” An avalanche of tears rolls down my face, picking up speed. I imagine them splashing to the floor one by one, leaving paths as they cut the tension.

I am still incredibly uncomfortable witnessing or even acknowledging the pain and anguish of others. I need to fix it. I need to make it stop. The single biggest challenge of my parenting experience to date is allowing my children to feel pain in all its forms: failure, rejection, jealousy, physical pain… I know that I cannot prevent them from having negative experiences in their lives and I understand, rationally, that living these things and learning to deal with them is important for their sense of growth and compassion. When faced with their agony, however, my first instinct is to take it on myself. Short of that, I am compelled to find a way to alleviate it as quickly as possible. I am afraid. Of what, I am not entirely sure. I only know that to see others suffer causes me to ache as well and I am uncomfortable with that.

5 comments:

Jerri said...

Dear Kari. This piece makes my heart ache. What or who made you believe you should take on others' pain, their punishment?

You deserve the good things of life. All of them. Often. Please believe that.

Scott from Oregon said...

There is something strong about this trait and I don't think it needs too much concern.

Yeah, you have to let your kids feel the pains they feel, but you can be right there with them...

Since when is empathy and comfort a bad thing?

Just don't try to PREVENT them from having bumps and bruises.

That's where the line is, I think....

Deb said...

It's so nice to have you back, Kari.

This makes me ache for you, both the little girl who needed to fix everyone at her expense and the adult who still is so affected by others' pain.

I know that if you follow the ribbon back, you'll find what you need.

In the meantime, know that we are here to stand with you and around you so that you don't have to feel these things alone.

holly said...

Such a huge weight to carry.

And so hard to let our kids hurt. Isn't it such a natural instinct to want to clobber any kid that hurts our kids.
love.
h

Michelle O'Neil said...

I hear you Kari.

Sometimes it is easier than others to have faith that our loved ones are ultimately okay.

They are, ya know?

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