“Remember when mum clubbed me with the rock.”

When I was a CYFS social worker I knew a woman who clubbed her ten-year-old son with a rock enclosed in a supermarket bag. It would be wrong to assume she was an ignorant person lacking in moral standards. In fact she was a churchgoer who described herself as a fundamental Christian. And she could hold a decent argument on the matter. However, it is fair to say her housekeeping was not as well organised as her Christian beliefs.

At home chaos often reigned and although disorder was not confined to the kitchen, cooking was an activity she avoided just as housework could always be done tomorrow, if ever.  Not that she was lazy: while she ran from cooking and housework she would run to the assortment of pet animals on her urban property; the pig, goat, horse, rabbit, hens, ducks, and whatever injured or orphaned animal had been put into her care. Or she would help out at a church or community event or devote her energies to elderly people and friends in need.

When she clubbed her son she was a friend of mine and  still  is nearly twenty years later. Let me explain: She was, and is, a caring mother of four and while she never mastered the discipline of daily housework, she had in common with most caring mothers an inability to be the caring mother all the time.

It must also be said that her son could be trying, very trying. On the day of the violent incident my friend’s fund of patience had worn thin at exactly the time her son’s trying behaviour reached a peak.

It is unfortunate that not everything in the kitchen was chaotic. A few items could always be relied upon to be in their place. One was a supermarket bag hanging from a hook. The bag was a receptacle for plastic wrapping, other supermarket bags and any number of bits of modern fluff used to wrap every item that is passed over the shop counter.

Since the bag was rarely emptied it became balloon-like as more and more rubbish was stuffed into it. Unknown to my friend, or her son, one of his siblings had stuffed a once loved rock in the rubbish bag.

So when my friend snatched the bag and belted her son over the head with what she assumed was as lethal as a feather duster, her son’s howl of pain was matched only by the look of incredulity he turned on his mother. Her startled remorse may be imagined.

The son, now a jovial, bearded young man, cannot help bringing the matter up whenever there is a family gathering, and particularly when guests are present: “Remember when mum clubbed me with the rock.”

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Chris Horan

Chris is a former social worker, probation officer and Family Court counsellor, living in Hawea in the South Island.