Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Battle Scars

Yesterday Fran called me at work to let me know that, during their morning walk, Alexander had been running down the sidewalk when he took a pretty nasty spill. He has acquired a lot of bumps and bruises over the past several months. A symptom of walking, I guess.

Actually he hardly ever just walks anywhere - last I remember he was doing the soldier crawl across the floor. Next thing I know he’s tearing across the room arms waving in the air, still belting out the patented battle cry that he began to perfect in his crawling days. (I think he might grow up to be a Barbarian, perhaps a Viking or maybe, and this is only if he gets really really tough, a Boxing Day Shopper, like his mother)

Fran described his wounds to me, also mentioning that, though he was crying, he stopped when she was carrying him to the house and he spotted the doorbell (he’s been enjoying both the act of knocking on doors and ringing doorbells lately). But it wasn’t until I got home last night and saw the large bruise on his forehead and scrape on his nose that it hit me. My poor little baby. These were his worst battle scars so far.

I know that this is just the beginning of a lifetime of hurts, of falls, spills, bruises, scratches and all the rest. But I didn’t realize how terrifying it could be, and how much I’d wish that I could be the one bearing the scars and feeling the pain rather than him.

And then, as often happens, I had a really morbid thought while we were out running errands together and Alexander was being his usual charming self flirting with store clerks and waving at people passing by. What if, someone seeing this toddler with the multiple bruises and scrapes on his face suspected that he was physically abused? It suddenly occurred to me as I looked at him grinning ear to ear at the cashier and she smiled back at him and my heart filled with pride and pure, unadultered love for this child.

Is this a common fear for parents? Or am I just paranoid?

I’d never thought of it before, but, before I became a parent, if I saw a young child who looked like he’d just been involved in a brawl (the way Alexander looks right now), would I flash back to the multiple terrifying news stories I’d heard over the years about the monster parents who beat their children to death and suspect this too could be the case? Or would I understand the reality -- that kids, especially active kids, get lots of scrapes and bruises? I’m really not sure. Damn, it's a tough thing to think about - but life's like that. And often it takes someone outside the situation to recognize the symptoms and step in and help -- especially since kids can’t often speak out themselves or in some cases, even recognize that what’s happening to them is wrong.

But how can a casual observer tell the difference? Is the risk of being wrong worth the accusation? In the interest of preserving the safety of a child, I would say yes. As a parent who dearly loves his son and would hate to be wrongly accused, the very thought of losing my child because of a misunderstanding or unjustified accusation frightens the bejesus out of me. But it's a frightening necessity for the protection of children. Isn't it?

While I continue to fail to understand how somebody could mercilessly beat on someone who is smaller than them and virtually helpless to defend themselves, I cringe with every bruise and scrape that Alexander suffers in his daily exploration of the world, hating to see my son in pain, and also trying to push away the underlying paranoia that someone would think that Fran or I did it to him.


Pete Mitchell said...

That is terrible. The poor little guy.

And if anyone ever accused you or Fran of poor parenting, I would defend both of you to the death. I don't lose my temper often, but when I let myself, I can unleash a verbal torrent that would reduce them to tears. It makes me angry just thinking anyone could accuse either of you of anything like that. There would be hell to pay, I promise you.

Franny said...

Sadly, good parents sometimes do get accused of abusing their kids.
And sometimes, the bad people never get punished for what they really did do.
Trust me on this one.

Kimberly said...

I am in total agreement with both Franny and Peter....The good parents are the ones that suffer for the bad ones that go unpunished.

I'd back Pete up the whole way...two little people with trucker mouths! We could take down anyone that got in the way of our friends!

Kim :)

Magdalena said...

I think that it is safe to say, that the fact that you have taken the time to think about this shows what a great parent you are, Mark! Your love for your son and your wife are so clear that I think that it would be wild for anyone to think anything but good things of you! You asked the question "Is this a common fear for parents? " ... my answer would be, it is a common fear of good parents, parents who love their children beyond words and would do anything for the sake of their happiness. And I think you fall in with that bunch :)

Mark Leslie said...

Wow, I have some really cool friends. Thanks for the kind words.

Now, since there are some many baby-lovers among my friends, who is willing to babysit for us? (Magda, you've got an easy out on this one, living so darned far away)

Gwen said...

Some signs are hard to decipher but I think that whenever the safety and well-being of a child is at stake, you should always take the risk of being wrong. Whatever bad feelings either the accuser or the accused feel will not even begin to match what an abused child is feeling.

In the case of Mark however, you would only need about 1 minute with him to know that Alexander is one lucky little boy!

And hey, anytime Alexander wants to spend some time in the big city - drop him on by. We'd have a blast!

Virginia said...

Hey Mark.
While some people may look askance and wonder about you, many parents will look at the age of the kid - and yeah, we know that those little ones are walking band-aids for a year or so.

Enjoy your son!