Our four-year-old is obsessed with NASCAR. When he isn't checking rankings on the NASCAR website or watching a race or race coverage, he's playing with his NASCAR cars...lining them up, quizzing me on which driver drives which number, commentating make believe crashes when the cars they are driving get a little loose.
Our two-year-old is obsessed with disrupting his brother.
(You see where this is going, don't you?)
This means that while the four-year-old is carefully choreographing a race on our living room race track (otherwise known as a coffee table), the two-year-old sneaks in like an unexpected tornado and changes the choreography.
And guess what?
The four-year-old is not happy! (hear this as an understatement!)
As much as it disturbs me, his reaction is often to strike out in anger by hitting his brother. And my response is always the same, "You can't hit your brother. No matter what he does, hitting is not okay. No matter what."
And I actually believe that.
This is what I can't stop thinking about. As obsessed as the four-year-old is with NASCAR, I'm equally obsessed with this addiction to violence we people seem to have. And I just don't get it.
I don't understand why hitting a child to make them behave makes sense...anytime...although I particularly don't get it when it's used to stop them from being physically violent.
I don't understand why going to war is an appropriate response to an act of violence that took innocent lives and hurt our nation so deeply.
I don't understand why hitting someone who has hit someone we love is an appropriate response.
I don't understand why hitting someone you claim to love is ever okay.
Now please don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying I've never felt like hitting or never hit. I have. I know that feeling of wanting to strike out. I know what it is to be so angry that it's hard to imagine other options. I know what it is to feel so out of control that you'll take back control by any means possible, even violence.
My problem is the many ways that we tell each other this is okay. My problem is with the reality that anger can so quickly increase the strength of our violence.
People are taught to spank their children. But what happens when a spanking is too hard and now a child is removed from the home? Or worse yet, when a spanking turns into a shaking or a dropping or a throwing and a child is disabled or dead?
My friend was recently talking about a comment on a blog. The blogger had written about why she stopped spanking her children. The comment responded saying that if spanking was problematic in her house she just wasn't doing it right. My friend's response was this, "All I could think was - if it's so easy to do it wrong, why do it at all?"
And that's what I really find myself struggling with. We justify a certain level of violence.
We tell ourselves we can spank misbehaving children. We set rules (which we may or may not follow) - only spank when you're not angry (of course I'd contend it's hard to hit someone if you're not angry) ... only spank for certain infractions ... only spank at a certain age.
We tell our children not to hit, but if a bully hits them, then we justify their retaliation. Or better yet our kid's dad goes and hits the bully's dad.
We discourage domestic violence, although I wonder if we're really opposed to spouses hitting each other or just opposed to the stigma of getting caught.
We talk about peace, but we're obsessed with war. Just look at the shelves of video games at your local discount center. Just look at our national budget. Just look at the lists and lists of young men and women who have died in war.
We justify a certain level of violence while putting our heads in the sand, pretending that violence doesn't create violence. But it does. One violent act easily becomes two and two easily becomes three. Once we are comfortable with the idea that physical violence is okay, it makes it easier to cross even our well laid out boundaries and limitatons.
When I tell my children that hitting is not okay, no matter what, I mean it. I mean it for them. I mean it for me. The times when I have hit (from the early days of fighting with my sister as a child all the way through adulthood) were wrong. Period. No matter how justified I felt. No matter how many reasons I had. They were wrong. Hitting is not okay.
And I just keep wondering how different our world would be...how more compassionately we would live with and toward each other...how much more understanding we would be...if we would raise a generation - just one generation - who believed this.