The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, March 5, 2010



My son gave me a black eye the other day. He didn’t mean it. I know, I know, that’s what all victims of domestic violence say. And he didn’t mean to give me the fat lip either, a few days later. But I mean it when I say he didn’t mean it. I know he didn’t because…he’s not even two years old.

Both of these facial injuries resulted from sudden and unintentional contact with his head, a totally unpredictable and constantly moving weapon. The fat lip came at the end of music class, when he was dancing to “The Goodbye Song” and I just got too close. I should have known better. It was made worse by the fact that I have braces. I get to things, eventually. I’ve wanted braces since I was 12. And now I am over 40 and have braces and two toddlers, a surreal combination, a kind of visual testament to my fondness for procrastination.

The black eye was subtle at first. Immediately after the blow, it was merely a painful lump. The next day, however, a day I go into the office, it was a purple welt just under my eyelid. No one asked me what happened, but finally I offered an explanation, even to people I don’t know very well (Amy from Accounting, the Mass Pike Toll collector, the guy at the lunch place where I get a salad) just to subconsciously defend my husband against their silent judgments.

The fat lip wasn’t as noticeable, especially since the gash was on the inside, where my braces had shredded my kisser like a cheese grater doing a number on some unsuspecting lump of Parmesan. But it did look as if I’d had them done. My lips I mean. Which I wouldn’t, of course, because now, having gotten the braces, it would just be way too vain, even for me.

My son knew none of this of course, being 20 months old. But I started to wonder about the pain our children cause us – intentional or not, throughout the course of our lives. And I remember hurting my own mother. Toddlers are always getting hurt – falling, tripping, bumping into things, scrapping with each other – and sometimes their clumsiness spills into our orbit. But what about the injuries of the heart and mind? When will they begin in earnest? I know, and I wince at the knowledge, that I told my mother I hated her. I told her to leave me alone. I probably made her wait in the car when she was summoned to fetch me from practice or a party. I told her the cigarettes weren’t mine, that someone’s parents would be home, that I was sleeping at a friend’s. I’m sorry, Mom. Wow, it took me 25 years to say that! I might as well have just dumped an anvil on her head. It probably would have hurt less.

I remember how my brother and sister and I would hide in the front hall closet when my Dad got home from work. One day as he went to hang up his coat we burst from the darkness to surprise him with joyful screams – slamming the door directly into his bald forehead. That was painful. But not as painful as years later, pulling me off the back of a motorcycle he’d pleaded with me not to ride an hour earlier.

There are worse things, I know, but what I do not know is how to prepare myself for the onslaught of challenges my children will present to me in this age. Intentionally or not.

Will they mock me on Facebook? Will they Twitter in exasperation about my unending lameness? Will they lie to me, disrespect me, resent me – online or via text??? Or, worse of all – will they forget me completely and disappear into those worlds of screen and sound, only meeting my eyes when forced, skulking around like my worst nightmare, like…well, like me at 13?

Luckily I have some time to figure it out. Or so I think.

I just returned from a four-day trip and while I was awarded the obligatory hug and kiss upon arrival, my son has eyes now only for Daddy. “Want Daddy!” he screamed this morning when I tried to cuddle him. Let me just scrape my heart up off the floor before I go to work.

And I can’t wait for the next time his little head crashes into me.

Because I prefer the black eye.∆

© 2010 The Carlisle Mosquito