This morning, after breaking camp but before hitting the road, we stopped by the National Park Service visitor center so Cohen could turn in his completed Junior Ranger activity book and earn another badge. Before we went inside, he had to finish one last activity by finding and picking up at least ten pieces of trash.

It rained last night and this morning the skies are still grey with clouds. The wind is up and the waves are big and angry and frothy for the gulf. Sharaun and Cohen and I are walking a circuit around the parking lot looking for trash. Cohen’s got a plastic grocery store bag for collecting what he finds. Everything’s fine, we’re having fun even if it’s a little chilly in the wind without the sun.

When he’s about halfway to ten pieces a gust of wind roars through and flips his bag inside out, spilling the trash he’s just collected, where it is promptly scattered and gone in the breeze.

And he lost it, man. Flipped his lid. End of the world type stuff. Screaming and crying and carrying on, wouldn’t listen to either of us, angry at us both and the wind and the whole world.

In frustration I smacked him; “popped” him, whatever you want to call it.

God, I hate when I do that. Swung my hand and delivered a slap across the top of his head, not hard at all but more than just a push. I hate being physical in anger; I feel an awful emotional response – a mix of adrenaline and shame and failure and loss of control and also this sickening sense of, I don’t know, “parental righteousness.”

I know: I’m too sensitive; parents have been physically punishing their kids forever; it’s in the dang Bible. Don’t care. Don’t like it. Don’t like me when I’ve done it.

Walked away, upset with myself. Apologized to Cohen just after he apologized to me.

Back on the road.

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