When my Plum gets mad at his best friends, the dogs who follow his every step, he strikes out. They get under foot, they trip him, nibble at his toes or ears, most times he giggles. Sometimes though if they have interrupted his progress, halted his mission, his anger takes over and the fists come out. No matter how many times his little butt has landed in the chair for some quiet reflection, this behavior continues. If I am close by, I step in the middle and he begins laughing as he tries to charge the mutts and I block, a new game begun. His anger evaporates as quickly as it came, my sweet boy back. Try as I might though, I can’t seem to quell that urge of his to do damage in the moment. This peace loving hippie grandma battles with the influence of testosterone, video games, and exuberant pups. After the anger comes the reconciliation, the best part where he kisses his boys, apologizes, invites them to play. The dogs are oblivious to the whole affair, their rough play with each other eliciting more wounds than he could ever. They enjoy his cuddles and make up time, ready for the next round of romping. The lesson is important still, one day he will be big enough to hurt someone in his path, he could do real damage if he strikes out at one who has blocked his way.
We talk about accountability. We wonder if the dogs did it on purpose or was it an accident. We question what his role in the bang up could have been. Was he trying to rush past? Had he been playing rough and then changed his mind, how were they to know he was done? He works through his part, his choices for next time. There is always a next time with three rowdy boys. I pray the repetition will take, that my sweet boy will learn to control his impulses and grow in personal accountability. He is only 5. We have time. But if I am to be fully honest, the last 24 hours have brought my own battle with anger and the yearning to strike out. I have never been one for violence, I experience anger as depression generally, turned inward for my own suffering. Yet discovering the source of betrayal for my Chef has incensed me. A fire is burning, my fists are clenched. I am ready to punch.
Watching my Chef hurt, seeing the pain, brings out my protectiveness, that mothering need I have. I always go for the underdog. I believe in justice, still, even after too many times of being treated unfairly. This situation is absolutely wrong, I want to fight back, an eye for an eye. Forward progress has halted. Or has it? I can’t deny the beauty of friends calling, supporting, reminding him of his worth. He is finding out that he has value not because of what he gave but who he is. What a gift! He could have missed that, never known that. Dark times are ahead yet those are the exact ones that bring us to the light. The hours he is spending with his Plum, the giggles, the play, these are presents. While we may have been robbed of much, what remains is joy, hope, real community, time for self-discovery.
I have to unclench my fists. I remind myself several times a day, sometimes putting my larger butt in the chair for quiet reflection, that I don’t need to teach everyone about accountability. I don’t need to fight battles that God will oversee. I could do some real damage, create pain that no amount of cuddles would ease. That is not me. Praise God that my better angels are shouting in my ears, reminding me of the glory raining down on us, the true path laid out before us. I am not looking back, at least for the next five minutes. The temptation rises but I am not 5 years old. I have already learned this lesson. I don’t need to protect my Chef. He isn’t the underdog. He is a child of God, one created with purpose.
Today I’ll don some tie-dye, sing Kumbaya, use my fire for s’mores. Today I will remember that anger can hurt when we lash out at others. Today is a fresh chance for me to remember the lessons I teach and praise God for his tireless pursuit of a grandma who sometimes forgets she isn’t in charge everyone.