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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Earl J. Woods and the Manitoba Nail File

Little boys are often destructive. I was generally a pretty mild-mannered child, but from time to time I conducted physics experiments...experiments that put my parents' patience to the test.

I was perhaps four or five years old when I discovered a nail file. While Mom and Dad were distracted, I marched up to their new Naugahyde leather chair and matching ottoman, file in hand. I wish I could say that I was enraged by some slight or that I was having a simple childish tantrum, but I was oddly emotionless as I raised the file high and brought my arm down repeatedly to punch slits into the ottoman. After stabbing the innocent furniture fifteen or twenty times, I stopped. That's when my parents walked in and caught me at the scene of the crime.

Luckily for me, my parents didn't use corporal punishment; they expressed their profound disappointment verbally. Quite reasonably, they asked why I did it, and I couldn't answer. I wasn't angry or upset, I just wanted to see what would happen.

Despite a stern talking-to, it was only a few months later that I took the family Monopoly game down to the basement and fed several of the little plastic green houses and red hotels into the vise, one by one, crushing them mercilessly. Once more my puzzled parents caught me in the act and asked why I would do such a thing. And again, I had no answer.

When I phoned Mom and Dad today to probe their memories of these strange events, they confessed to having mostly forgotten about them, though Dad remembered that Mom was "very upset." Mom laughed about it today, asking "Do you remember why you did it?"

I really don't. I remember the guilt and shame I felt after perpetrating these acts of senseless destruction, and I've felt a twinge of guilt about them every few years thereafter, which is why I'm writing about the subject today.

I've thought about asking a mental health professional why a child would do such things, but I'm afraid the answer would be "Sometimes kids just destroy stuff, the little monsters. Get on with your life. That'll be $500, please."

1 comment:

Stephen Fitzpatrick said...

It was for the same reason that I used a pencil to punch a number of holes into the drum set I got when I was 5: because you're curious, and because you can. I still feel pretty bad about it though.