Last night we were all hanging out on the bed getting caught up on the day's events. I was light on the offering plate, as work tends to flatten the range of experience, but I did cause a riot by noting I'd had a Gyro for lunch, from a terrific joint that makes their own pita.
The Wife grew wroth at this news, it being latterly one of our favorite lunch spots. Alas the menu isn't Fuss Friendly and it's been quite a while since we were able to go 'as a family'.
"What!" she yelped, advancing with fists raised to administer a (well deserved) mock pummeling.
But as her blows began to patter down upon my cringing, laughing form Fuss completely freaked out.
He'd been sitting in his pillow, stuffed animal and blankie lined cubbyhole at the head of the bed, but as the first fist landed he launched himself at his mama, grabbing her arm and shrieking "STOP IT!" directly into her face in his most piercing voice, an air raid siren that signals absolute emotional overload and subsequent meltdown.
We both started babbling about how Mama was just kidding and making a joke, and he stood there sort of vibrating for a few seconds, then started wailing on the Wife. I grabbed him and pulled him away, and he spun around wild eyed and started hitting me. When I put an end to that he retreated back toward his cubby then started crying and hitting himself.
Eventually we managed to talk him down, emphasizing that even though Mama was just kidding it wasn't okay, and we understood why he was upset, and promising it would never happen again.
In isolation its no big deal, just one more pothole in the uneven dirt track of toddlerhood. From a parenting perspective, the freak out even has a silver lining- any sign of violence between his folks is like a reality quake, an unimaginable event that sent him immediately into emotional outer space.
But it made me think, as these things do, about our childhoods.
The Wife's bully of a father, unpredictably violent, seeking revenge for childhood hurts from his blameless family. Mom's post-divorce parade of derelict boyfriends, who wanted the milk without buying the cow and had no earthly use for a tag-along calf.
Fuss is a lot like I must have been- as described by the Wife's therapist, "the kind of kid that gets abused." Smart, opinionated, contrary, stubborn beyond reason, bigger than his age.
Mom was the very definition of unreliable narrator, but I do miss having her perspective on our parallels.
Fuss lives in an environment where even pretend violence is completely unheard of, the occasion for a (justified) nervous breakdown.
In our homes it was a common if unpredictable and always startling occurrence, like the ringing of a super loud doorbell.
On those frequent occasions when I question my parenting decisions, I'll try and keep this victory over the forces of darkness in mind.