Today, during a short conversation on the importance of using 'please' and 'thank you', Twinkle reached up and, quick as a flash - and only an old-fashioned term will do here - she boxed my ears. Quite hard. With all the strength her little body could muster actually.
I was pretty shocked by it. It wasn't that I never expect lashing out or hitting, but because in the few days that she's been with us, she's shown no signs at all of hitting or any other physical response. She hasn't even got especially frustrated about anything, or seemed angry, despite some pretty severe provocation from OB at times. She has cried when things have gone wrong, exactly as I'd expect from an older toddler.
She didn't seem particularly angry or frustrated today either. The way she did it was almost matter of fact. She was sitting there, listening to me, admittedly with a grumpy look on her face, and then she was hitting me.
The Adoption Social has been running a special theme this week as part of a new series on difficult subjects that are hard to talk about and rarely aired. This first week was focused on CPV - child on parent violence.
I know from talking to people that this is something that affects not only adoptive and foster families, but can happen in 'normal' families too. It's not about toddler tantrums with lashing out ("Don't all children do that?!"), but about violence that is intractable, unstoppable, carried out with intent, and, certainly as a child gets older and stronger, violence that can do real harm to the parent on the receiving end. I hear of black eyes and bruises, of knives and other kitchen objects being wielded, of kicking and strangling.
I don't wish to air OB's dirty laundry in public, but there are times when I worry about the possibility of CPV in our future. What comforts me about the incidents we have experienced is that each time I have known that his actions have stemmed from either an internal or external provocation, rather than a cold-hearted desire to inflict hurt. He is small, and his emotions are big. My hope and prayer is that as we work together to unwrap, examine, name and validate his big emotions, we will move past a stage where lashing out is his most effective expression of them.
Certainly, I am no expert on CPV, but if this is a reality in your life, then I urge you to seek help and support for you and your child. It is hard to talk about, yes. It is hard to admit. Others may not understand. They might judge you or blame you. But there are organisations out there that do understand and that are committed to working with families without judgement or blame. The Adoption Social has compiled a list of resources on the subject here. If this is happening in your home, then both you and your child are suffering. Please, do, make that call.