Dear sons of mine-
There are few things more damaging to the ability to think critically than a catchy cliché. Take this one, for example:
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
Categorically false. We all know the reason some guy is getting stoned and beaten with sticks is because he ran his mouth. Words hurt, and words get you hurt. I want to ask each of you to not be brainwashed by a confident-sounding limerick- even if it comes from me. Completely think through any situation you might find yourself in before acting, and have respect for all the bits of context that make up any given scenario.
The reason I’m asking you this is because the oldest of you took a beating at school a couple weeks ago. Some malcontent fellow kindergartener saw that Micah was in possession of a pink crayon, decided that the crayon must belong to him instead, and surmised that brute force was the best possible option to achieving his objective. A few punches later, the kid had the crayon, and Micah had a bruised ear (who hits people in the ear?) and a busted ego. Micah didn’t react… he didn’t really even have time to, the punches came without warning, but still, I’m proud of him for taking the ass-kicking and moving on.
It might not sound very “dadly” to be proud of his son for being a punching bag, but one of my least favorite bits of parental advice that has made it’s way from generation to generation with reckless abandon is some version of “never start a fight, but you have my permission to finish it.”
No. This is not Mortal Kombat. You aren’t “finishing” anything. I know one of Micah’s teachers parroted this advice in the event future fisticuffs, and she was completely wrong for suggesting it. Your reactions should be a choice, not a mandate. Kids will always pick on each other, and one truth that stands the test of time is that if they can gauge how you will react to a certain set of stimuli, they will own you.
Your reaction is always a choice. If ever there is ever a scenario where it is absolutely necessary that you physically defend yourself- do it, but I’ll tell you right now, it is an infinitely rare circumstance that someone delivers a beating in self-defense that would be so severe that it would be considered “finishing” someone (Although it did happen once, in Australia). Kids hit each other with slightly more force than an underhand-tossed water balloon. That thing where I buckle over in pain when you guys high-five me? I’m faking it. It is not worth getting in trouble or having your integrity called into question by a teacher or principal just to forcefully pat a stupid kid on the face a couple of times.
Take it from me, someone who thought that I was being a hero in all 20-30 youthful scrums I engaged in. The number of problems I created through my hair-trigger temperament greatly outweighed the number of problems I solved, if I indeed solved any. The truth is, I was letting others dictate how I react, and robbing myself of the opportunity to choose a higher road. If someone has a problem with you, let it stay their problem. My hope is your mother and I instill enough confidence in you three that you won’t feel the need to prove anything if others attack you or cut you down.
Plus, no pink crayon is worth a black eye.