I May Need a Vacation from my Vacation

The recalcitrant brother and his son are gone.  The parents might stop by this morning to see the Butcher, but after that, they’re gone.  The house is still reasonably clean and the dog is fat and happy.

We’ve all lived.

I had a long talk with my mom yesterday about the status of my nephew and what, if anything, we can do for him and what must be turned over to the state.  I also had a long talk with the Butcher about it.  His concern is that we (he and I) have never seen any evidence of abuse–no bruises or marks–and so all we have to go by are a few off-handed comments he’s made and so the Butcher thinks our worries won’t be taken seriously and that what the nephew is going through will be considered just country discipline.

The other thing that concerns us all greatly is that the recalcitrant brother seems completely fine with how things are.  The one person who’s in a position to know what’s going on with my nephews, to have seen bruises, or to have even heard from the adults what they’re doing, and he seems completely unconcerned.

I’m having a hard time navigating this because I feel like my own boundaries when it comes to corporal punishment are so fucked.  And my response to my boundaries being fucked about it is to feel grossed out and repulsed by any of it. 

On the other hand, I can certainly understand how there are times when you need to get a kid’s attention immediately and have a lesson stick with them.  I mean, when your kid is running out into traffic, I get the impulse to grab them and make them understand how serious it is that they never do that again.

And, after watching my nephew repeatedly mess with Mrs. Wigglebottom after being told by every adult in the house (except his father) to stop, I understand that it would be easier to just say “Mess with that dog one more time and I’ll smack you.”

And, I’m ashamed to admit, that I can see, after enduring a week’s worth of “Yuck, I’m not eating that,” how tempting it is to knock a kid upside the head with, say, a plate of spaghetti.

For me, when I’ve witnessed it, the line between punishment and abuse has really been, like we discussed, about whether the force seems excessive and whether the person doling it out seems to have slipped over into “This is about me”-land.

And having not seen what my nephew is going through myself, and having only his word for it, mentioned in passing, the same way he casually mentions that he hates the food I cooked him, which he ate two servings of at each meal, I just don’t know.

I want to raise a quiet alarm.  I want someone with more training and experience than I have and less fucked up issues to just take a look at things and say whether it’s normal or not and whether he’s exaggerating or not.

So, my goal is to figure out how to do that, if it’s possible.