GO. IF YOU
OUT, I WILL
When I heard this woman say these words to that child, with no trace of humour or gentleness, with a tone of voice I'd attach to someone talking to a person they deeply hated, I was the one who felt like I had been punched. Right in the gut.
I waited for them to pass, went straight inside, took a deep breath, pulled out some black paper and drew the words down. For some reason I felt it important to document what she said.
In my life, I have seen and been around a helluva lot of violence, in one way or another.
I spent my teenage years watching bottle and knife fights in the pub my father ran. Watching verbal shouting matches just as nasty. Watching women being dragged by their hair from one end of the pub to the other. A man hitting his very pregnant girlfriend in the stomach. Watching the the children sitting in cars well into the night with their salt-and-vinegar chips and Coke, waiting for their parent or Aunty or whoever to finish drinking. I watched and watched and watched those people. Vowed that would never be my life. Felt fortunate it wasn't.
As an adult, I've made a life as far away from violence as I could get. I'd forgotten the sound of it. It's so different in real life than when it is simulated in the movies and watched from the comfort of a green velvet couch.
They shocked me, those words, delivered on a sunny Sunday afternoon directly outside my gate. Took me back to all those fights in the pub. I got tingles up my forearms, sick in my mouth.
After I'd made the artwork, made a coffee, taken a breath, this interplay between that woman and her kids made me think of intergenerational violence. Of intergenerational self-hatred. I made a quick assumption that this was a family, that she was the mother, that they were her children. But if she was Aunty or friend, the outcome for the children is the same.
I have no doubt this was a common occurrence for these kids. The pre-schooler said nothing when his mother let loose her brutal paragraph. No surprise on his face in the slightest. The teenage girl simply held out her hand to the wee boy and said, "come on, walk this way". And the 'family' kept on walking. Now in silence.
Silence is a useful defence mechanism when you've got no power.
But the silence of these children makes them easy to forget.
We only remember when they become adults and start punching people in the mouth.
This is a war that started who knows when. Children are the wounded and they don't get the choice to enlist.
Even if there's no blood the hurt inflicted in their wee heads will take a lifetime to heal. If they are strong enough to break the cycle. But how many of these kids will get the opportunity to even make a start on changing this? How many will even realise a different kind of life is possible.?
If you were a child and you heard these words, in that tone, repeated often, what kind of man would you grow into? As for the woman, I can only imagine the world of pain inside her. What kind of violence has been visited upon her?
Yeah, you're right, I didn't do a fcking thing for those kids on Sunday. I know from painful experience what it is like to have vitriolic anger turned upon me when I have tried to offer unwelcome help. And what good would a stranger popping up from a garden to tell off the mother do? Likely the kid who "caused" the whole thing, embarrassed her in the first place, would get even more of a bloody good hiding when he got home.
Fck this war on children where adults get to rip them apart in the name of parenting.
Hell, I've got no solution. Only lame cliche questions and the ability to write a few words down.
What I know is that brutality is alive and well in New Zealand, dark as it ever was. And so is the pain it springs from.
Sometimes we encounter it on the most beautiful of days, in the most unlikely of places.
Lest we forget.