Of Course, Fences

The same way Troy treated Cory is the same way his father (when he was around) treated him and the same way I too often treat my son and the same way I was treated by my grandfather: with chores, rules, wrath and anger first and compassion, if ever, last. Sometimes, and I mean rarely, niggas are able to acknowledge their abuse of women (Troy would never, nigga was insane, my own grandfather hasn’t, and took me damn near thirty years, arguably, though writers like Laymon are definitely moving that forward now), but the lack of sensitivity towards sons specifically, continues to feel justified. Of course there’s the fear, the tradition of harshly disciplining our kids so the cops don’t grab hold of them. But still, it reminds me of my favorite sentence from Oscar Wao, when hoe ass Yunior says, “A heart like mine, which never got any kind of affection growing up, is terrible above all things.”

And it’s true, and too easily perpetuated. I feel so damn little about most things, but my heart is especially stone when it comes to discipline. When Cory asked Troy if he liked him, and Troy said he ain’t got to like him, that it was about responsibility, I replayed every single time I’ve had that exact conversation with my grandfather. Shit, I thought of times I hadn’t yet had it with my own son because of how predictable it is. There’s a lot of it I struggle not to agree with, but at times I wonder if I should even bother fighting it, if I should be even more strict. Every time Jojo doesn’t understand a concept perfectly or at least better than other kids around his age, or doesn’t begin a chore without my telling him to, or slips up at school (especially if it involves aggression) I have to fight to hide my anger, my fear of how he could end up. I think, if only I’d have done or said X, or maybe not let him play Xbox or watch T.V. or double his reading time, then maybe there would be fewer slip ups, there’d be less for him to work on, there would be less at risk. Maybe he will be better than me. But maybe not.

He’d still be him and I’d still be me. He’d still be jealous of his sister and flustered all the time because he isn’t satisfied with her punishments or she doesn’t get in trouble enough in general. I’d still ask him if her sneaking to bed without brushing her teeth deserves the same punishment as punching and threatening to kill a little girl on the bus yesterday because she called him “stupid” and he’d still say, “I dunno,” which makes me even more angry after the polite half-hour of conversation explaining why it’s wrong and then he might still end up crying into the living room carpet doing push-ups, still afraid of me.

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