Hercules explains himself to Social Services

Now, back to the children. We were discussing how we damage them. And why. Here’s the thing:

Somebody needs to stop the wild and self-willed bunnies running onto the motorway. You have that responsibility. Congratulations. As Jo went back to work and got promoted, more of the parenting duties accrued to me. I was ok when Jo was there to confirm my decisions, but it always made me feel breathlessly overwhelmed if she was out, and I became much fiercer and dictatorial, as a consequence. Lacking moral and rational authority, I tried to compensate with added fierceness.

But the delicate little creatures are so easily damaged. I can remember a number of times when my parents wounded me with a moment’s inattention or a sharper response than I was expecting. Such trivial things, to them, but I’ve never forgotten them. I don’t dwell on them, but I’ve worked them in to the material of my being: weaknesses in the foundations of who I am, the roots of a twisted tree. Children are pitiless in their accusatory insecurities, in their pointed self-harm.

You forget how big you are, to a small child, as an adult and their parent. You don’t know your own emotional strength. Like Hercules, cursed by Hera to child-killing frenzy. When other dimensions of thought are returned to me, empathy, for example, they add depth to my hunger-flattened perceptions. I feel like a psyche-destroying Hercules: as the mist of madness fades from my eyes, I survey the carnage, the butchered beloved, body parts strewn across the floor. Who would have thought I had such strength, such cruelty? Who would have thought they had so much blood in them? Because it was only little me, after all. I needed to exert myself to control the situation, didn’t I? How could I control it, otherwise?

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