Yeah, I'm writing.. Be amazed.
I've decided to come clean about some things in my past. Judge me how you will, but I've got to air things that have been bothering me lately. Some of you will think that I'm just writing to get responses from people. Others will assume that I'm dramatizing things. Others, that I'm just making this shit up to get readers.
None of that could be further from the truth.
I'm writing today about something in my past that is going to haunt me the rest of my life.
Let's set the stage for my story:
Back before I got married for the first time, I was on top of the world. I had a steady income. I was fresh out of military service, and nothing could stop me. The world was my candy shop, and I had a fist full of cash to spend.
I met my first wife, and we got married VERY young. She'd just graduated High School, and I was barely into my mid-20s. Then, my oldest son was born less than a year later. I was hardly prepared for married life, let alone the pressure and stress of being a parent. I lost jobs, mainly because I was overqualified for the positions I filled. I made managers nervous about the potential for me to take over their jobs, and because of this, I would get let go from jobs for menial reasons.
My wife decided she didn't want to go to college. She decided that she'd rather go to a business school, and get job training to go straight into a paying job right out of her classes. I begged borrowed and outright lied to family in order to get the cash to send her to Medical Assistant classes. While she went to school, I moonlighted at whatever job I could find. Labor positions, fast food, construction temp worker.. You name it, I worked it for at least six months. Then, she graduated, and our ship that was supposed to come in sank like a rock. The employer that agreed to hire her dropped her after two weeks because the doctor's daughter decided she wanted to work that summer, and my ex was the last employee hired.
Enter in more stress. Bills didn't get paid. Money was running tight. We got tossed out of apartments for failure to make rent and utilities. Even my in-laws and my own parents wouldn't take us in. We had hit rock bottom.
Then, a small ray of light.
The church we'd been attending announced our problem to a small bible study group one week. We prayed, and one younger couple offered us the chance of a lifetime. They had just married, and they each owned a house. They were willing to allow my wife and son and I to move into her old house, rent free, in exchange for work on the building. We jumped at the chance, and agreed with no hesitation. It wasn't in the nicest part of town, but at least it was a roof over our heads, and some measure of stability back.
At this time, my oldest son started school, and problems began. Teachers kept complaining to us that he couldn't stay on task. He was having issues with talking back to teachers, and not respecting authority. (My son! Who'd have thought, right??) So, I was able to scratch enough money together to get my son seen by a mental health specialist after my mother told me that he could be showing signs of ADD or ADHD.
Yeah. The dreaded parent-eater diagnosis. ADD.
The shrink agreed that he was definitely ADD, and needed to be put on medication in order to remedy his actions. Needing to have him behave and conform to his school standards, we agreed. Ritalin didn't work. He didn't have any kind of reaction at all to the medication. After a week, the doctor decided to put him on a different med. So we started a time-release drug called Concerta. That's when all hell broke loose.
He'd have manic episodes. I recall one time seeing him clutching a stuffed bear, crouched under our kitchen table screaming at shadows. He'd get angry, and lash out at anything close. Anger was ALWAYS under the surface, even when he seemed calm and happy.
Then, the fateful day happened.
One night, I was home getting the kids into bed. As my oldest finished brushing his teeth, he suddenly started yelling about how I wasn't going to force him to do anything, and he wasn't going to bed. I was tired, it had been a long day, and I wasn't about to be talked to by my son like this, so I picked him up, and bodily put him into bed. He proceeded to yell, scream, punch, and curse at me about how bad a father I was, how we needed to die, and we was going to kill us all that night. I grabbed him by the arms, laid him back, and told him to be quiet and go to sleep. He yanked himself out of my grasp, and screamed "Fuck you!" at me.
I saw red.
Then I did something that I've regretted now for over 10 years.
I reached back, intending to slap his mouth for the language he'd used. It was what my parents and grandparents had done when I was a child, I figured it was OK for me to use it as well.
My hand didn't change direction, and I ended up hitting him just below his left eye. It wasn't a hard slap, but from an adult to a young child, it was like a punch from a prize-winning fighter.
He stopped screaming, and huddled in the corner of his bed, staring at me. I couldn't say a word, so I just left his room, shaking and afraid of what I'd done.
The next morning my son had a black eye. My actions had not only caused me pain from doing them, but had left their mark as if to tell me that not only was I a bad parent, but I was also an abusive one.
My son went to school, came home, did his chores and homework, and then went to a friend's house to play before dinner. While there playing, the mother of his friend asked my son how he got his black eye. My son answered simply:
"My dad hit me."
Those four words caused my world to end. The mother, instead of calling and talking to me called the police. I was arrested, and booked in jail for domestic assault. While driving there, I had one of the arresting officers tell me how bad of a parent I was, being able to hit a child who can't defend themself.
Since that day, I've regretted the decision I made to hit my son. Especially in anger.
Now, I know there are more constructive ways to deal with the yelling and screaming, and I can basically tune out the harsh words and nasty criticisms.
What I can't change are actions that can leave marks.
To attest to my diligence to be a better father, I can safely say that I now have full custody of my kids, and they honestly love living with me. I'm a changed man. But there is still a part of me that fears the beast I have inside of me that tells me that physical punishment isn't a bad thing, and needs to be used more often.
Maybe someday I'll come to terms with my spectre, but for now, I just try to keep it locked away safely inside where it can only harm me, and nobody else.
Love your kids.
They're your legacy in this world, and speak volumes about your love, your life, and your values.