Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "The Natural State of Motherhood"

This poem was written outside the regular prompt calls, inspired by discussion with [personal profile] dialecticdreamer. It also fills the "unrequited pining" square in my 7-31-14 card for the [community profile] hc_bingo fest. It has been sponsored by EdorFaus. This poem belongs to the Danso & Family thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

WARNING: This poem deals with intense topics that many readers may find uncomfortable. The detailed warnings contain spoilers; highlight to read. Amada is upset at not being able to reconnect with her daughter due to Rosita's impaired attachment. Faramundo is not dealing with superpowers at all well. So when Aidan offers to help, Faramundo flips out and tries to hit him. Obviously this is a sign of Amada and Faramundo's relationship unraveling further. Prejudice and hurt feelings all around, and the kids are scared by the violent outburst. Also Saraphina's harsh background from Haiti means that she doesn't know how to explore and play like a normal toddler, which worries Danso. Hannah is peeved about Aidan putting himself at risk too. All kinds of stress. But the sensible people try to deal with it in mature ways instead of yelling and hitting, because SOMEbody has to be the grownup. Consider your tastes and sensitivities before deciding whether this is something you want to read.


"The Natural State of Motherhood"


Danso liked Amada. She was gentle and kind,
and he could see those qualities in Rosita already.
Danso wanted to like Faramundo too, who was
swift and alert like their daughter, but Faramundo
disliked soups which made their interactions uneasy.
Their three boys were adorable little rascals who seemed
perfectly happy to count Rosita's new family as part of the old.

Still Danso respected all of them for making so much effort
to reconnect with Rosita, even though it was barely working.
Hannah coached them all in attachment exercises, but
Danso could sense that something was just ... off. It left
Amada pining after Rosita even with the baby right in her lap.

Danso knew what it was like to wish for what you couldn't have.

When Aidan came back to visit with his new daughter Saraphina,
both families had piled into the living room for the afternoon.
Aidan made introductions while the restless toddler
clung to him as if trying to burrow inside his shirt.

"Look, she's even got your nose," Danso said with a grin,
and she did, the same broad flat tip and barely-there bridge
that hinted at Aidan's mixed ancestry despite his peach-tinted skin.
Her skin was a deeper tone, dark chocolate to Danso's milk chocolate.

Saraphina fussed, soft whimpers that grew louder every minute,
her tiny forehead wrinkling in distress. "What's wrong with her?"
Danso asked. "Is she hungry? Or wet?" He tucked a finger
into the waistband of her diaper, but it was perfectly dry.

"I think the null field might be scaring her," Aidan said.
"She's used to being able to feel people with her power,
and when that goes away -- well, if you don't know why,
it's alarming, because it's like suddenly being surrounded
by scarecrows or ghosts instead of real people you can feel.
Hannah, could you ease up a little, just enough to reassure her?"

"Yes, of course," Hannah said. "Everyone mind your control."

The other children nodded, and Danso could feel the field
loosening enough that he could just sense the bright warm powers
all around him, and the dimmer spots of the ordinary people.

Saraphina felt similar to Aidan, like sun-warmed suede, but softer,
and then a memory rose up in Danso's mind of helping his mother
wash the family car with a leather rag that she called chamois.
Saraphina's power flitted over him, light and ticklish as dandelion-down.
The toddler smiled, then reached out a tiny hand to Danso.

"You can hold her if you want, but don't let her latch on
with her power," Aidan said. "I'm trying to teach her
not to grab onto everyone that she meets and likes."

"Okay," Danso said as he took her. "Hi, there. Do you like toys?
Let's see what Gil and Nathaniel have." The boys were playing
with several soft fabric vehicles that would roll forward if you knew
how to pull back and let go. Danso crouched down beside them.

Nathaniel pushed a yellow truck to Saraphina and said, "Zoom."
She poked at it, but didn't seem to know how to play with it.
That worried Danso, because kids who didn't play usually came
from bad places. He looked to Aidan for guidance.

Oddly, Aidan wasn't watching Saraphina but instead
was looking back and forth from Amada to Faramundo.

Danso couldn't blame him. With the field lowered a bit,
he could feel the snag in attention between Amada and Rosita,
like a burr caught in a wool scarf. Motherhood might be
a natural state, but it was scarily fragile in some cases.

Faramundo felt like a loose tooth, wobbling between
love for his family and dislike of superpowers. If it felt
anything like that to Aidan, no wonder the man was frowning.

"I heard that you lost touch with your daughter for a while,"
Aidan said to Amada. "You must be so glad to see her again."

Amada's smile didn't quite reach her eyes. "I'm glad she's safe,"
she said. "Getting back together is ... not as smooth as I hoped."

Aidan traced a finger over Rosita's cheek. She grabbed hold
and gummed his fingertip. "You can feel the rupture?" he said.
"The bond between parent and child is strong, but it takes time
to form. If it's interrupted early, sometimes it ... hm, scars over,
and then it's difficult to reconnect. It must have broken when
Rosita teleported away from you that first time."

"There was a crash outside the room, somebody tipped a cart,
and then she was just ... gone," Amada said, her voice rough.

"She didn't know yet that you would protect her, so she
jumped on instinct," Aidan said gently. "Clearly you love her,
and she's responding to you as best she can right now.
If you're willing, I might be able to help ..."

"You keep your freak hands off my family, or I'll make you
wish you had," Faramundo said, stalking over to them.

With a queasy lurch, Danso realized that he had made
exactly the same mistake as all the people who had
dismissed his little family as "street trash" -- thinking
mean things about Aidan because he didn't know the man,
just as Faramundo was doing now by distrusting his powers.

Danso stood up, putting himself between the adults
and the toddlers still playing on the carpet. Hadyn
and Lakia drifted over to stand beside him.

Hannah picked up Saraphina and said, "Let's not argue."

"I don't want a fight," Aidan said, spreading his hands.
"If you don't want my help, that's perfectly fine."

"Well it's not fine with me!" Amada snapped.
"I want my daughter back, Faramundo. Don't you?"

Danso felt the sickening twist of guilt-rejection-loss-rage
that poured through Faramundo in the wake of her challenge,
warning of the potential for imminent disaster.

"Now look what you've done!" Faramundo snarled,
darting forward to throw a wild punch at Aidan.

Danso tackled him, knocking the blow astray
even as Aidan dropped to the floor quick as a cat
and rolled to his feet out of Faramundo's reach.

"Enough!" Hannah barked, flicking her null field backward
so that it still covered the younger children but left
both Danso and Aidan completely free to use their powers.

Danso was more than willing to put Faramundo's lights out
if he kept threatening people like a damn fool fork.

"Danso, let Faramundo up now," Hanna said, her eyes glinting.
"Faramundo, you get out of my house and don't come back.
I won't have a man who hits anywhere near my kids."

Danso felt horribly tempted to get one last lick in,
but Hannah was watching, and he trusted her judgment.
Besides, she was trusting him by dropping the null field
and he couldn't bear the thought of letting her down.
Reluctantly Danso loosened his grip and rolled off.

Faramundo stormed out of the house, cussing in Spanish.

The toddlers were sniffling. Hadyn and Lakia stood
silent and fierce in front of them. Eduardo and Fernán
looked like they might start crying at any moment.

"Hey now, show's over, someone lost his temper but
nobody really got hurt," Hannah said to the little ones.
"You're safe here and we'll work things out."

"I am so sorry. I should just go," Aidan said.

Amada looked crushed. "I was hoping, maybe ..."

"Aidan, don't you dare leave," Hannah said firmly.
"You have done nothing wrong. All you did was
offer to help with something that might not fix itself,
though Mother Mary knows it's not for lack of trying."

"I'm the one who started trouble," Aidan said. "I knew
Faramundo was ... having difficulties, I could feel it,
like putting my hand in a sticker bush. I know better.
I should have just kept my mouth shut. But Amada and
Rosita were so ... it's not good when family ties get
torn apart like that, makes it hard for people to connect
with anyone else later in life, and I just ..." He waved his hands.

"You just wanted to help if you could," Hannah said.
"Danso, are you all right? That was quite a tumble."

That was nothing compared to tackling someone over concrete.
"I'm fine," Danso said. Then he remembered Hannah's rule
about not fibbing. "Well ... I'm not injured. Shook up some."

Aidan reached out to stroke Danso's cheek, a wave of reassurance
washing over him. Danso accepted it, learned the trick of it
even as it was working to smooth his ruffled feathers, then
mirrored it back to Aidan because he could feel that the older man
was just as rattled but would not admit to that out loud.

Hannah caught it anyway. "Aidan? Should I worry about you too?"

"No, I can take care of myself," Aidan said. "It hurts a little,
but some things are easier to heal from the inside out,
and cleaner to deal with openly than to ignore. Besides,
I heal faster and better than they will; I've had more practice."

Danso winced. Poor dude just said the wrong thing.

The teenager ducked down to distract the younger kids
from the swift, whispered lecture that Aidan was getting,
which began with "Don't do things that could get you hurt,"
and ended with "... or set a bad example for the kids."

Aidan took it meekly, the curl of his shoulders and
bowed head showing his acceptance of her authority;
he was smart enough to know not to mess with the mama.

Too bad Faramundo hadn't figured that out.

Hadyn plastered herself against Danso's side.
"M'scared," she muttered into his shirt.

"I know, it's scary when people yell or fight," Danso said.
"Remember your feelings workbook? It's okay to feel scared or mad.
It's not okay to hit people, and yelling isn't good either. We can
talk about our feelings, or hit a pillow, or ask for a hug to feel better."

"Those are good rules," Eduardo said, edging closer.

"Ones you'd like to see more of?" Danso asked,
wondering if Faramundo made trouble at home too.

Eduardo shrugged. "Yeah, but Papa was okay before
Consuela came and then disappeared and we came here."

"I guess sometimes things happen, and people don't
always know how to handle them," Danso said.
He couldn't help thinking of how badly his uncle handled him,
but at least now he had folks who wanted to take care of him.

Danso glanced over at Aidan and Hannah, who had formed
a small huddle around Amada and Rosita. Fortunately the baby
was sucking on her fist and not fussing over the ruckus. Saraphina,
wrapped around Aidan like a small brown octopus, was also quiet.

"If you still want my help after all this, well, the offer stands,"
Aidan said to Amada. "You make your own choices."

"I'd like that," Amada said. "Maybe on a ... less exciting day?
This was supposed to be your chance to introduce your daughter.
I'm surprised she's not howling over the whole scene."

Aidan sighed. "Saraphina came through some pretty rough stuff.
Some of her responses are flattened as a result. It just takes
rather a lot to register for her, after what's happened."

Aidan moved over to the cluster of older children for comfort.
He let his free hand drift over Danso, and then -- allowing her
time to move away if she wished -- rested momentarily
on Hadyn's shoulder. She didn't move away. She leaned in.

Amada and Hannah were still snuggled around Rosita.
The natural state of motherhood agreed with them,
that sense of selflessness that Danso's own mama
said was the real heart of good parenting. Sometimes
Danso wondered if he'd get the hang of it himself,
or if fatherhood was too different from motherhood.

"You're doing fine," Aidan murmured, as if he'd caught
the tone of Danso's thoughts somehow. "By the way,
thank you for coming to my rescue earlier. I'm not used to it."

Danso snorted. He knew trouble when he saw it, and
Aidan wasn't trouble but he sure was a trouble magnet.
"What you said before about people looking out for each other,
that goes for you too," Danso pointed out. "You can't treat us
like family and then expect us not to do the same with you."

Aidan blinked at him, the shock so plain on his face
that Danso figured Saraphina wasn't the only one
who'd come through some pretty rough waters.

"Understood," Aidan said, a little hoarsely,
his hand rubbing over Danso's back.
Saraphina mouthed the collar of his shirt.

Sometimes you yearned for things you'd lost,
or things you never had but wanted, Danso realized.
Other times you got surprised with things that
you never knew you wanted until you got them.

* * *

Notes:

"The natural state of motherhood is unselfishness. When you become a mother, you are no longer the center of your own universe. You relinquish that position to your children."
-- Jessica Lange

A boomerang bigot is one example of internalized oppression. In Terramagne, a fork is someone who hates people with superpowers, and a spork is a soup who still hates people with superpowers. Faramundo has a tiny little talent that he almost never uses and tries to repress, and that feeds into why he is dealing with the current situation so very badly. There are ways to heal from internalized oppression.

Attachment disorders may result from abuse or other trauma. Saraphina and Rosita show different variations of the anxious attachment which results in clingy behavior, because they had positive connections ripped away so feel insecure now. Contrast this with the dismissive-avoidant tendency of Lakia, who was ignored so much that she simply learned not to seek attention or affection and now feels uncomfortable with them -- a habit she is just beginning to overcome in a more favorable environment. If not handled with care, attachment disorders can impair adult relationships as well. There are bonding exercises and other tips to facilitate healthy bonding. In this case, people are doing the right things, it just isn't the kind of injury that heals quickly and easily, which is miserable for everyone.

Hannah's Power Nullification naturally manifests as a large field centered around her. She can turn it up or down, even off temporarily, and manipulate the shape of it or shift the position so that she's standing near one edge. But it won't turn off permanently, and changing its configuration requires effort and concentration.

Empathy and Soul Powers are among the abilities that allow people to perceive what is going on with others. However, many soups, and especially people with any talent in the energy category like this, have some sense of other people in general and other soups in particular. It's most active where both people have energy powers. The purely physical ones don't react nearly as much. Danso's Power Manipulation gives him an unusually complex perception of other people -- but he hasn't actually picked up on Faramundo's talent yet, it's that repressed.

Preschool years feature many milestones in socialization, most notably a shift from parallel to cooperative play. Danso's effort to point out what other children are doing is a good way to help Saraphina engage and make new friends. There are more ways to encourage toddlers to play together.

Traumatized children often do not play like normal children. They may repeatedly use toys or drawings to play out scenes of awful things they remember, or they may not understand how to play at all. Saraphina came from a dangerous and impoverished background, so she doesn't get the idea of toys yet. She's bright and will figure them out soon enough, though. Understand how to help traumatized children heal.

The boys are playing with these soft cars, which are pull-and-release toys. Aside from being fun, they teach about simple physics and cause-and-effect.

Hostile language and verbal abuse cause a lot of damage to relationships, whether professional or personal. Verbal self-defense offers a way of deflecting such attacks.

It's easy to misjudge people due to personality or appearance. Danso is appalled precisely because it happens all the time to him, and he hates the thought of doing it to someone else. (For the previous example of Danso misjudging Aidan, read "Clearing the Air" by [personal profile] dialecticdreamer.)  Learn to forgive yourself for misjudging others, make up, and move on. Also know how to recognize when someone is misjudging you, and how to stop misjudging people.

Under stress Faramundo is showing poor impulse control, anger management issues, and violent outbursts. He actually had a handle on things until the circumstances exceeded his coping ability, hence the decompensation. What Faramundo is doing is also a type of projection, reacting to something he hates as expressed in other people rather than focusing on it within himself. There are ways to manage anger and improve self-control.

De-escalation skills make it much easier to stop a fight.

Aidan uses submissive body language to signal that he's not a threat to Faramundo, and that he accepts her authority to Hannah. He has plenty of power; he just doesn't want to throw it around the way dominant people do.

Violence is bad for children, even if they are just witnessing it. There are ways to prevent violence and teach gentleness in families.

Self-blame can be a form of emotional abuse that does a lot of damage. Learn how to let go of it. Aidan is in pretty good shape overall, but his powers and experiences can make it challenging for him to form deep long-lasting ties with people because not everyone is comfortable with that sort of thing. So he tends to blame himself when for conflicts like this, even though Faramundo was clearly in the wrong.

Children need help learning to understand and manage their emotions. The feelings workbook is something that Hadyn got from her therapist to help deal with the sexual abuse, but the same skills apply to other contexts as well. Hannah has generally done a good job of teaching emotional intelligence, which is what makes this an unpleasant interlude instead of an emergency.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, family skills, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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