Tuesday, April 17, 2007

a clean slate?

My household is solidly in the Honeymoon phase today. Everything is good and calm and peaceful, and I can once again feel okay about my family and how we interact with each other. People are being kind and considerate and loving all around. There is absolutely no tension in the air except for that nasty little tax thing, and even that’s finished. (Confession – our taxes always get done at the last minute. Wait, it’s even worse. Last night when the Film Geek came home from the closed post office with unstamped envelopes still in hand, I almost felt a letdown. What do you mean they aren’t due until tomorrow? You mean we’re actually early? How can that be? It comes from all those freelance years when we always owed big and put off the bad news as long as possible. Some habits are hard to break, but it’s probably about time we tried. Maybe next year).

For anyone familiar with the Domestic Abuse cycle, the Honeymoon phase is what keeps the victim in the relationship. It’s the time when the abuser goes out of their way to be as loving and conciliatory as possible, turning on the charm full force. Their remorse at whatever they have done is palpable. The victim, who desperately wants (and needs) to believe that everything will be okay now, goes along with this and is convinced that the abuse will never happen again. It’s a coping mechanism, sure, but in their own way, they each believe that things can change. The Honeymoon phase turns into the Normal phase, where things are still good, just not fabulous. This moves into the Rising Tension phase where the abuser starts getting more pent up and the victim begins to walk on eggshells. Inevitably this leads to the Explosion phase and then the whole process starts again.

Before we go any farther, let me assure you that I don’t know any of this from personal matrimonial experience. My husband and I have an understanding that if he ever feels the need to hit me he needs to knock me out with the first blow, because as soon as I get up I will a) call the police, b) have his sorry ass hauled off to jail and c) file for divorce quicker than a celebrity rehab stint. When I was younger I said that I would have killed him, but prison looks less appealing as I get to like comfort more. I don’t have the psychological make-up to be battered, thank god. I’m also extremely lucky to know that I always have family and friends solidly backing me up.

No, my husband has nothing to do with our Honeymoon phase. It’s my teenager. My firstborn son, the reason I changed my entire life, the child I would willingly take a bullet for, the kid I adore beyond any possible reason. My angry, sullen, stubborn, hormonally driven, quite possibly clinically depressed teenager. My brilliant, loving, compassionate, funny teenager. I know how bad it looks to paint him as “the abuser”, but for years we’ve all understood that he is the emotional barometer of our family. When he’s up, we’re up, when he’s down – look out. We all tiptoe around on eggshells, trying not to set him off. He explodes and we start again. We’ve done counseling and learned techniques to minimize this effect, especially on his younger brothers. He’s just started on a medication that appears to be helping. But we’re still on the roller coaster, and the ride doesn’t appear to be over just yet.

We had a blow-up Saturday that was pretty bad. We can spare the details, but it was emotionally ugly. All the usual elements were present. Accusations on all sides of not listening, understanding or caring, feelings of frustration and failure, a volcanic teenage explosion, a father/son head to head showdown that left me week in the knees, younger children scattering like flies, oh yeah, we covered it all. Same show, same script, different day. This has been going on for years in one form or another.

But then I veered from the script. Usually I get very measured and then very coldly angry. But this time I just snapped. Plain and simple, out of control, hysterical snapped. Today I was the abuser. I said the most heinous thing a mother can say to her child. I told him I hated him. Told him I hated what he was doing to our family. He looked absolutely stunned and then said if I hated him he hated me too. I’ve done some reprehensible things in my life, but this was the absolute worst. When my brain fully realized what my mouth had said, I just lost it. Truly, I don’t remember a time in my life where I have cried that hard for that long and with that much despair. It was frightening. I honestly didn’t know if I could stop. I didn’t know if I even wanted to. I didn’t know if I deserved to.

And for some reason, it got my child’s attention, maybe because it’s all so out of character. The kid forgot to be furious and actually comforted me. Put his arms around me and told me it would all be okay. And then allowed him and me to talk about what happened in a reasonable way. He apologized for his part in what happened. I don’t remember the last time I got an apology from him. I said I was sorry too, sorry for anything I had done to hurt him in his entire life, but sorrier than I could say for those appalling words that flew out of my mouth. I assured him that nothing could be further from the truth. I asked him if he could even imagine how desperate and backed into a corner I must have felt to have said that to him. I asked him if he could forgive me. We talked for a really long time, and for the first time in ages, I felt like maybe we had had some kind of a breakthrough. For the first time in a long time I feel a lack of pent up angst in all of us. It was as if the slate had been wiped clean.

I’m hoping against all hope that this will be our last Honeymoon phase and that we’ll never again get to the Explosion point. I don’t think any of us could take it. I know for a fact that I couldn’t. I’m hoping that in some cataclysmic way we’ve broken our cycle and we can move forward into being the kind of family we all deserve. I think we’ve earned it.

1 comment:

Happy in the Abyss said...

Your firstborn and mine should have decaf sometime! I got a PlayStation 2 remote thrown at my head and then told that I never loved him! How about that I found him wailing on Athena for no reason, with her doing her big girl best to fight him off...then, he told me he had anger issues!!!

"can you help me remember how to smile?"