As a child I traversed my way through life feeling invincible. There was nothing I couldn’t accomplish, no one was going to tell me what to do even when the advice was sound. My path had been chosen from approximately sixth grade. This long path, or road of hard knocks, left me mired in my own stubbornness, filled with ignorance along with self prescribed wisdom. I chose to forge through life at my own pace, following a road map that most would never wish upon their children. Yet I survived, and even though there are many things to regret about this road less traveled, it truly bore a hand in the man created through the journey.
So why am I lamenting these days of yore?
It appears my middle child is slowly heading down the same road at about the same age as myself. As a parent I wish to protect him from this journey. He is a wonderful young man with a smile that brightens even the darkest of rooms. He is witty, smart and incredibly charming and though these are fantastic traits to have it seems to be his crux right at the moment. His wit, not yet so formed that most understand the silliness or dryness of his joke. The smarts, is being used for alternate goals as opposed to his education. The charm, is allowing him the ability to slide sideways from situations most children would be held accountable for, by adults who definitely know better.
But the main reason for reflection is an issue he is having with a child at school who continues to bully him hoping for a fight. Now having been in a few scraps myself over the years and knowing that boys on occasion will fight at this age (uncontrollable testosterone flowing through their little systems) there is one golden rule in our household that must under no circumstance ever be broken when it comes to this particular problem. Never and I mean EVER start a fight with anyone under any circumstance! I don’t care what the other person has done, I don’t care what the other person has said; walk away. Tell a school administrator and walk away. My children all understand this one simple rule and to date my son has followed it to a tee! But I still worry, for you see as he genetically has adopted quite a few of my traits he has also inherited my seething Irish temper. The irish temper is a funny thing, for we can travel along as the butt of your joke for a very long time, even quipping a few sporting little retorts in the process. But then without explanation or reason one day it will have gone just a bit to far, them BLAM! I worry he is repressing that very same emotion during these encounters while remaining calm as a cucumber.
My sons have asked me if I had ever been in fights as a kid? To which the truth has always been told. Yes. Your father (do to my overwhelming charm of course) had his ass kicked more times than he would like to remember. Being one to not back down from a challenge most of my troubles were from my mouths amazing ability to say the wrong thing at just the right time. Something I am seeing in my middle child as we speak. And more times than not I lost. I was never a particularly good fighter, but I always stood my ground and hardley ever backed down.
So then why this steadfast rule for my children today?
Its root is based on some very simple facts. Today in the year 2013, our children have become so increasingly desensitized to violence I fear for the repercussions of a good old-fashioned knuckle buster. Because there is no such thing anymore. Some of my closest friends were people who disliked or disagreed with me to the point of a scrap. Afterwards realizing how insanely stupid it was we became friends. Those days are dead and gone. As an adult I have seen the repercussions of a fist fight gone bad. If you are scrapping some dude, friends of the opponent jump in, someone videos it for You Tube street cred, while another may be laying in wait with a knife to give you a good old-fashioned shanking if you beat one from their “posse”. Violence is as acceptable as drinking a Starbucks at a sidewalk cafe. Video games, movies, Television, MMA, UFC, all showing, teaching our children violence is not the last resort but the first alternative. You no longer try to figure out what you did wrong to upset this person, instead you just bitch about it to all your friends, shun the individual like the plague then jump that person like a stray alley cat. When it’s over there are no apologies, nothing learned from the incident, instead friends of the beaten start scrapping with your friends and the circle of violence rolls on and on. Also in my day we just boxed or duked it out! Today Karate, Jujitsu, Wrestling (and I was a wrestler in high school), Krav Magra are treated like after school sporting programs. So our children are becoming highly skilled fighters at very young ages. I am not saying there is anything wrong with these programs by any means, my sons have participated in these activities with some very stellar instructors. But it definitely changes the dynamics or social parameters of our children’s world.
Can things be changed?
No, I think we are inevitably doomed. We live in a culture surrounded by violence, protesting, warped media propaganda, criminals that receive more positive coverage than their victims, crime shows glorifying the act of the crime, shows about prisons and gangs, shows about fighting and everyone has a positive spin on where when and why, justifying the existence of what horrible acts they may have committed and we the quiet law-abiding citizens just shake our heads and wonder why. I hate the argument: if you don’t like it don’t buy it, or let them watch it! We turn off the T.V., the kids are not allowed to watch anything with heavy violence yet ultimately it’s not our family that have become the problem.
So what do we do as parents?
We prepare our children as best we can for the inevitable. Our children have done very well. But I still worry as I see the path my son is following seems to be resembling the very same path I strolled down as a kid. Where I grew up in the era of boys will be boys, and a good old-fashioned bop on the nose every now and again was good for ya, toughening you up and all… We are now in the era of duck and run, don’t protect yourself at all costs, even if some kid is beating on you for fear of being expelled and then go tell a teacher. (who really have no teeth to do anything because teachers have had their hands tied thanks to our passive school system.) The kids in school know this and act accordingly.
So I ask, am I the only one who feels this way? Am I worrying over nothing? What have you done to prepare your children for dealing with a bully? Not an emotional bully (thats a whole different topic for a different time)but an actual I want to fight you today, right here, right now, I think you are a big fat stupid head; bully?