So, occasionally a lioness will give her cub a tap on the bum.
She does this to pull her wayward cub into line. Because maybe he has something he needs to learn. Or maybe her cub has strayed too far from the herd. Maybe doing something that’s not so safe.
Or maybe her cub was just being a little shit and deserves a smack on the arse.
It was a wise friend of mine who reminded me of the beauty and the power of the lioness. And I’ve watched enough David Attenborough documentaries to realise the natural world can be a pretty harsh place. We, as a species, have transcended the need to teach life’s lessons physically. We don’t hang people any more. Or cut off the hand of one who steals. And we certainly don’t hit our small ones.
Even though sometimes we might want to punch them in the face.
On Wednesday this week, the forecast was for 40*. By 10 o’clock in the morning, the carpark at main beach was full. As I hunted for sufficient space for my dad’s very clean and very European car, echoes of his words reverberated through my head….
-“Don’t drive over 60km.”
-“Don’t touch the toy dog on the dash board.”
-“Don’t park next to anyone.”
The instructions made me – and the two six year old boys I had in tow – walk 2km in neoprene to get to the main beach sand.
One of the six year olds was amazing. He slipped into his springy, wiped zinc across his nose and stepped his uncomplaining barefeet onto the burning bitumen.
Suffice to say – he wasn’t mine.
The other six year old was excruciating. He was onto his 6th hour of complaining about how much he hated the beach. He punched me and then cried because he claimed his springy didn’t fit. He backed this up by covering the whole of his face in blue zinc.
He looked like a ranga smurf.
I pretended he wasn’t mine.
The hours of negotiating Steiner-esque parenting style was useless, so I claimed the amazing six year old as mine and walked away from the surf with the flaming red hair. My youngest lad lost somewhere inside him, fuming red beneath the blue war-paint.
My dad’s echoes on Mercedes Benz maintenance left me as the word’s of my wise friend’s counsel settled within. 48 hours ago at another beach not so far away, she had floated on her back with me, being caressed by the gentleness of the sea. It was there in the water element’s arms, while watching another feral episode put on by my six year old, that we had started discussing power. Power in the eyes of the lioness. Power in the world of Annabel Crabb. Power inherit in sexuality, in relationships, and in war.
But on Wednesday, as I entered my 6th hour of listening to my youngest lad’s tantrums, I began to recognise power in the terms of my six year old.
Think udiyana bandha, earth based backbends and metta meditation.
Issues of power and control are key elements of our survival. And as I reflected, we have come along way since we used our bodies to dominate or control another’s. But the ego who feels invisible feels angry. And the ego who feels unheard feels hurt. It is when we feel threatened, unrewarded, or ignored that we reinforce feelings of separation and isolation. When we’re forced to do something we don’t want to do, or can’t believe someone doesn’t like where we want to go – we can dig our heels into our darker feelings. Vulnerability can be excruciating uncomfortable. Fear of losing control make us lose our shit. Making us distance ourselves further and further from those who are around us.
While forgetting those who deeply love us.
My six year old was being a right, royal shit. And I was letting myself being dragged down into a right royal partnership with him. We tried to spend an hour on the beach together under the 40* sky – hating every minute of it as well as kinda hating each other. Neither of us enjoying the water’s gentle touch or could relax into the yielding, cool sand. So after the 6th hour of his behaviour, I up stumped, packed up and tapped my wayward cub on the bum.
The tap was simply to walk back to the car, drive him across the bridge home and put him in his bedroom.
For 6, long, hours.
An hour for every year of his life.
An hour for all the time he complained.
An hour for each moment that I wanted to kill him a little bit – and managed to convinced myself not to.
I tapped my wayward cub on the bum not with my hand but with my heart. In silencing his complaints with his screams and his hates, it helped to settle down my reactions to mine. I tapped him on the bum to teach him, to lead him and to show him another way. That we don’t have to have power over someone to come from a place of strength. That we don’t have to scream louder make ourselves feel heard. And that we don’t have to always agree on what we like and dislike – but we need to respect each other’s choices in who we are and what we do.
A beautiful man called David Bowie passed away this week. My youngest lad has listened intently to all his songs I played him on our stereo. Apparently, in 1981, Freddie Mercury and Bowie were given a song to record together. But they hated it. So they took off on a bender and “Under Pressure” was written, recorded and released within 48 hours. It’s a song dealing with themes of how pressure can destroy lives, but how love can be the answer to create the whole. Yesterday, we listened in silence to the whole of the entire song. As it finished, my youngest lad scoffed and said he liked the original by Vanilla Ice much better.
I tapped him on the bum again.