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Reeducation

I just spent the last few hours with Anne lying on my tummy. <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/annegirl/16031657/" title="Anne lying on my tummy"><img src="http://photos10.flickr.com/16031657_666cfee00a_m.jpg" width="240" height="160" alt="Anne lying on my tummy" class="img-left"/></a>All the cushions in the house were employed to help me maintain the physiologically impossible positions I had to contort into so she'd sleep better. So the morning passes, with the first episode of the Transformers, countless episodes of Gilmore Girls, a very hardworking DVD-player and a beautiful girl draping her arms around me.
A little more than a month ago, I wrote about <a href="http://tribolum.com/archives/2005/04/18/surviving_day_t.php">"How to survive day three"</a>. To be honest, during those weeks I had to feign a weak smile everytime someone came up to me and told me about the joys of parenting. I read Kin Mun's <a href="http://www.mrbrown.com/blog/2005/05/reading_on_a_fr.html">"Reading on a Friday Night"</a> with scepticism, in absolute doubt about whether I would find such parenting nirvana. I wasn't sure I was cut out for this parenting business; the price of screwing up someone elses' life scared me.
I remember when Anne was two weeks old. She was in one of her crying fits – the kind that wouldn't stop accusing you of some apparent mistreatment. It was the dead of night, and the crying wouldn't stop. I had carried her and paced back and forth for what seemed like an eternity. Then she stopped crying. I put her to bed.
Almost immediately the piercing cries started again. And I spanked her. The sound of my hand hitting her diaper sounded like a gunshot, and she stopped crying for that split second, stunned. The shock of the moment got to me.
I hit a two-week old child. I deserved to be with other low-life scum that shot kittens with steel arrows or those that hunted baby seals. I made up my mind never to ever, ever do that again, but my true colours were made known to me that instant. Hence the doubts of me ever being able to be a good father. Or that the greatest enjoyment I could ever attain from parenthood would be knowing I didn't screw up.
The best and worst attributes of humankind are both attributed to children. We say a person is childish when every small thing seems to affect them; and at the same time we say a person is childlike when nothing rattles them.
It was barely a few minutes after my violent outburst when Anne looked at me with no recollection whatsoever of the damage I had done to her bottom or the anger I had allowed to act on my behalf. In fact, a few days ago she started smiling. <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/annegirl/12903088/" title="Anne smiling"><img src="http://photos10.flickr.com/12903088_394d27badc_m.jpg" width="240" height="160" alt="Anne smiling" class="img-right" /></a>She smiled and she smiled and she smiled. At me. The father who spanked her when she had neither the means to communicate what was wrong nor the ability to help herself.
So lying there this morning with her arms around and her face pressed tightly against me I realised that maybe there is more than just the dread of middle of the night feeds. Maybe the others were right when they coined the term "the joys of parenting". It doesn't seem so improbable to me now that people would actually want to have another kid, having already experienced / endured their first.
Anne reminds me to live in the present. Not to hold grudges. To sleep when I need, to eat when I'm hungry. That childlike innocence is the greatest protection one can have against a rather cruel world.
ps. The tissue paper on the right of my chest is not an attempt to imitate old Peranakan women. Anne puked there.

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