Friday, April 8, 2016

The First Time I Remember Being Blamed for Getting Hurt

When I was four years old, my best friend was named Kimmy.  Our older brothers were the same age and were friends too, which was how Kimmy and I had playdates -- I was deposited at Kimmy's house most of the times Dante was.  I remember Kimmy calling me outside to see something her brother and some other boys seven years older than us were doing. 

When I got outside I saw a thick, knotted rope hanging, probably from a tree though I don't remember for certain.  One of the boys pushed or dropped the end of the rope and it swung toward me, the hard knot landing hard on my nose.  Suddenly blood was gushing down my face.  (I still don't know what they had been doing with that rope.  I had only been outside for a few seconds.)

Kimmy pulled me inside to her mother.  Kimmy's mother called my mother to come pick me up and tended to me until the bleeding stopped.  It was my first of many nose bleeds, but my nose wasn't broken and there was no permanent damage.  When my mother arrived, she was mad at me for injuring myself playing.  Confused at being in trouble for something that I didn't even do, I explained that I had only been standing there when the rope the boys were playing with hit me.  I hadn't even touched it.  "Obviously you were somewhere you shouldn't have been or you wouldn't have gotten hurt," my mother snapped.  I cannot remember a time I got hurt that she didn't operate under this logic.

I was thirty years old and pregnant with a child of my own when I saw a school-aged child running across cobblestones at a local festival.  She fell and burst into tears, and her mother comforted her and told her she would be okay.  I had been reading books on parenting for the last year or two and expressed surprise to my husband that her mother had comforted her instead of scolding her for having been running in the first place.  How is she supposed to learn if they comfort her instead of correcting her behavior? I wondered.  Comfort is something children want.  It's certainly something I wanted.  Comforting a child when she cries just trains her to cry more, doesn't it?  I'd assumed my parents reprimanded me instead because they wanted to decentivize me from ever doing anything dangerous.  It was either that or they were angry and emotionally stunted to the point of being illogical, and I used to assume my parents had reasons for  everything they did.  I knew by age thirty that they had been emotionally neglectful and not always made the best choices, but the scolding after injuries was something I simply hadn't thought about in years.  What else hadn't I thought about in years?

My husband looked at me like there was something wrong with me.  He explained that it's normal to comfort a child until she stops crying before correcting her behavior as necessary, if she had been misbehaving at all.  I also learned that not every parent thinks running is always bad behavior like mine did.  I also learned that not everyone blames their children to their face every time something bad happens to them.  That was when I realized I was way out of my depth when it came to parenting, I was already pregnant because I had thought I was fine, and most books on raising children didn't even address the "scratch" from which I needed to start.

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