Being a father brings with it many mixed emotions–the responsibility of getting you prepared to be a good person, and a productive person, and providing you with the tools to make the choice is a burden that is the opposite side of the coin that I experience in my professional capacity as a classroom teacher. As the teacher, it is my responsibility to represent, in many ways, the ideals of the society and to create rules and expectations that are cohesive with law and order in a safe, respectable microcosm. Raising any child, and especially a son requires that you must put your energies into making a man that is fundamentally better than you and surpasses you; as a teacher you strive to assist students in surpassing your own knowledge for their own betterment, and hopefully the betterment of all. As a parent it is my job to make sure that you are a viable individual who has their own balanced sense of exceptionalism and conformity that allows you to want to achieve and feel entitled to a better life, but not at the expense of the rights of others. In that vein, one of the paramount parts of any civil society is the way we deal with conflicts and how we resolve them, and at the tender of age of almost 4, it is a tenuous time where you are both still boy and baby–the way you resolve problems might at times leave something to be desired.
Which brings us back to this past Saturday. We went to Funstation, USA–a favorite place for you and Ayla–with Grandma Cheryl. We didn’t have much time to stay and you had opted to only go in the big hamster maze for children rather than go on rides, and you have yet to graduate to the ultimate glory of arcade games (even in the sad and sick state that genre of gaming is in today). You live for that maze; running, sliding, climbing, getting lost…it is the perfect place for a primate of your age. As it turns out it was ultimately busy on Saturday. There were realistically one bajillion birthday parties going on which meant there were approximately ten times that number of children there. In the hullabaloo and course of running around you ended up playing with two much larger boys of about six years old.
Now, having been a small boy myself, I can recognized the difference between play fighting and “you’re in some shit”. So when my mother, your grandmother, said “Brandon they’re fighting!” I said “Meh” because you were in actuality you were playing. As we were trying to get your to transition out of the hamster maze, your game with the two older boys took a turn for the worse…they wouldn’t let you leave and kept jumping in front of you. As I made my way over towards an accessible point in the maze…I was shocked to see something I could hardly expect.
You made short work of those older boys (who by the way were wearing Ninja Turtles masks) in the alleyway in the maze. Like a boss. You three pieced the larger boy with a succession of flying fists to the face–he quickly availed himself of the onslaught in a flurrying flight of feet. The boy who was closer to your size fared the worser as he was privy to nothing short of a WWE Style Clothesline From Hell and busted him open. To quote Good Ol’ Jim Ross, his face was crimson a mask.
My first reaction of course was to chide you harshly. I demanded that you quickly find your way out of the maze and, once the other boy found his way out as well, apologize to him. Of course he was being cleaned up so it didn’t happen. I spoke with the boy’s parents and they were very understanding. “This is what kids do,” they said. As we got in the car, I was very upset with you…then Grandma Cheryl posed the question “Should he really be punished for defending himself?”
I took a half-second’s pause. No, you shouldn’t. But at the same time, your actions needed to be addressed. The teacher in me was overpowering the parent in me. As a teacher, I have to uphold civility and the appeal to the safety of authority–which of course are powerful ideals as a parent as well, but not at the cost of your own safety. Schools are structured and planned environments, where teachers are designated to create safe space by default. As a parent, I take you out into a more dynamic world–one that I try to make safe, but as it is not a microcosm under my direct and exacting control, I must arm you for the real world. You should be allowed to defend yourself, especially against such overpowering odds–and as I said my emotions were rather mixed. I was proud you defended yourself, upset the other boy was bloodied, and also coming to a realization that you had in fact surpassed me by asserting yourself in a way I never have. Not only were you in a physical altercation, but you came out the victor. While I have found may way out of my fair share of debates, there are few fights in which I have come out the champion, and you seem to have dispatched with your first rather easily.
Of course, I can only hope that this success doesn’t turn you into a bully yourself, but I am more than confident that you will not be. We are more than clear with you in the use of force and you didn’t continue pummeling the boys once they were laid low. In fact, you tried to make your way from there as soon as possible, which showed that you weren’t looking for a fight, just were not afraid of it. That said, we can’t have you pummeling around the world fists first, but you handled yourself well and honorably and tried to get away from the altercation at the nearest opportunity. All positive aspects–it is never preferred to fight, but at least it was quick and dirty and you made haste to leave.
As Poppy G said “He did the right thing”. It was the right thing. But of course now just to teach you to use your powers for good. Of course by the time you’re 25 and I’m 50 I’m sure you’ll know when the best time to raise your hands in fisticuffs will be, and besides good real role models…you’ve always got Spider-Man to teach you that “With great power, comes great responsibility”.
PS- Plans for your 4th birthday party are well underway. I won’t spoil the details but you’re gonna love it. You and Ayla have been growing into quite a pair and its safe to say that if things are too quiet for a few minutes…you guys are having plenty of fun at something totally no-good.