Wednesday, October 24, 2007

When Discipline Becomes Abuse

I woke from a dream this morning that has haunted me all day.

In the dream, I had taken a job as a live-in babysitter or nanny. It seems there was more than one child but I only saw one. It was a toddler about 18 months. A boy. The child's mother and I were visiting affably as he played nearby. Then the mother left the room and the boy became a little manic. Not destructive or aggressive but silly and playful and he made a mess with the objects of his play, using them in ways they were not intended.

When the mother returned, I pointed this out to her, barely able to contain my amusement and my sense of wonder at the creativity of such young child; a baby really. But the mother was not amused. She grabbed up something long and flexible which I understood was a belt and she took the toddler by his arm and began swinging that belt across his bare legs.

I was shocked and dismayed. I had to leave the room. When I came back, I told the mother this wasn't going to work and she needed to take me home. Except that I'd forgotten this was home since I was a live-in child care provider. But before I remembered that, I had packed my things in her car (which looked very much like the Mustang I drove while still living in my parents home) But we got in the car anyway. She in the driver's seat after handing a bundle wrapped in a quilt.

We drove around for a bit but I was unable to give her directions to my 'home' so she pulled over and made me get out and tossed my belongings out with me and drove off, calling back to me, "It's all yours."

It was then I realized that I was still holding the quilt-wrapped bundle and knew that inside was the broken, bloody body of that baby which had not stirred the entire time I'd been holding him.

Some of you may of read one of the few posts in which I talk about how my break with the fundamentalist sect I was raised in was triggered by witnessing a baby being disciplined. I must admit here that recent events had caused me to reflect on that once again. So that might have had something to do with the conjuring of those images at this time and the emotional power they held. But based on a repeated pattern over decades, I've found that the appearance of infants and small children in my dreams nearly always reflects a current creative project or creativity itself.

It is not hard to see this as a warning from my psyche that I'm once again sweating the small stuff with the 70 Days of Sweat and upcoming NaNoWriMo challenges. Just like last July and the last three attempts at NaNo, I've put too much emphasis on rules and expectations and measurements of success that tend to beat the silly, the playful and the messiness out of the process and of course this kills both the creativity and the joy.

Umm pun unintended but probably relevant anyway.

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