Sometimes I regret not beating our children.
Parents have been beating their kids since time immemorial. Your dad beat you, you beat your kid, your kid will beat his kid – it’s tradition. Beatings are handed down through generations, like a secret family recipe. Grandma’s apple pie. Mom’s chicken soup. Dad’s back-handed bitch-slap.
Some parents have kids specifically so they can beat them.
“Honey? I’m pregnant! We’re having a baby!”
“Can I beat it?”
“Of course you can!”
“Let’s wait until it’s born.”
So you wait. Nine months later, your wife is in labor. The doctor comes in. You pull him aside.
“Doc, you know how, right after the baby is born, you slap him so he’ll cry? Can I do that part?”
After you finish talking to the lady from Social Services, the police uncuff you. You ask them if they’re going to use the Taser again, but apparently they’re too busy filling out the restraining order to give you a straight answer. Instead, you fiddle with your ankle monitor until the judge says you can go back to the hospital to see your new baby.
When you get to the nursery, your wife is there. She’s glowing with radiant light and beauty. Or no. Wait. That’s not your wife. That’s someone who doesn’t have kids yet. Your wife is the one who looks like a sack of flour that has been trampled by a herd of beef cattle.
“You look gorgeous,” you tell her, because you’re a sensitive guy who prefers lies over the truth. “Where’s our little shitbag?”
My wife and I decided to take a less-traditional approach to child-rearing. We agreed early-on that we wouldn’t be the types of parents who hit our kids. We would discipline them with kind words and intense love. Instead of hitting our children, we would hug them. We’d make them understand that anger gets you nowhere, and violence is never the answer.
Violence is quite often the answer. It may not be the only answer, or the best answer, but it’s often the most gratifying answer.
Case in point: bullies.
Sure, you could try to reason with a bully. Or you could just ignore him. But wouldn’t it be more satisfying to push him down a flight of stairs, or to stab him repeatedly in the neck with a #2 pencil?
Of course it would.
When my daughter was in preschool, there was one girl in particular who was always picking on her. Let’s just call the girl “Isabella” (because that was her name).
Isabella was about a foot-and-a-half taller than every other girl in the class. I’m pretty sure she was left back a couple of years in a row. I didn’t even know it was possible to fail preschool, but apparently some kids just can’t handle the pressure. Too much juice. Too many Goldfish crackers. The brutal academic rigor of AP nap time.
A few weeks into the semester, my daughter came home complaining about Isabella. She wasn’t letting my daughter play with anyone. My daughter would be happily chatting with a group of other girls, when Isabella would waltz over to inform the others about some arcane rule from the preschool canon like, “you’re not allowed to play with girls who have blue eyes.”
The other girls, recognizing Isabella as the senior member most knowledgeable about parliamentary procedure, would follow her away, leaving my daughter to play alone. In tears.
I tried to counsel my daughter, explaining that bullies are mean to people because they hate themselves. Their only self-worth comes from seeing the effect they have on others. If you don’t react to a bully, you drain them of their power. Eventually, they’ll realize they can’t get to you, and they’ll go bother someone else.
She nodded thoughtfully. She’s getting it. I thought. This parenting shit is easy.
“Dad …?” she said.
“Can we get Mighty Putty? It’s great for crafts, and it’s waterproof too.”
Now, on the surface, it may have appeared that she wasn’t, in fact, getting it. But I’m telling you: While her ears were hearing that Mighty Putty can be used to re-attach shower tiles and repair cracked pipes, her subconscious was definitely, definitely getting … something.
My wife had been observing this exchange from across the room. She beckoned me over. I could tell that she could tell that I was doing a good job.
“It’s cool,” I said, with breezy confidence. “I handled it.”
“Don’t be such a pussy,” she whispered, then brushed me out of the way. She walked over to my daughter.
“Did Isabella hit you?” she asked.
My daughter nodded.
“Then hit her back.”
Teaching kids about hitting (or not hitting) has got to be one of the hardest parts about being a parent. There are so many nuances. It’s not okay to hit. Unless someone hits you first. Then it’s self-defense. Unless it’s your little brother. Then it’s not okay. And it’s never okay to hit mommy and daddy. And it’s not okay for us to hit you. Unless you deserve it. Then you better run.
Despite my wife putting the “violent” back into “non-violent resistance”, my daughter continued having trouble with Isabella and her arbitrary rules. “Girls with curly hair don’t get to play here,” or “Nobody wearing a Cinderella shirt can come,” or “This playhouse is only for preschoolers old enough to need a tampon.”
It concerned me, but mostly I just brushed it off as a kids-will-be-kids sort of thing.
Then my daughter came home with a bruise.
On her face.
Now, in general, I tend to be sort of passive, avoiding conflict at all costs. I’m a “pussy,” as my wife so keenly observed. My wife, on the other hand, is not afraid to advocate for her children. She is – despite ample physical evidence to the contrary – the man in the family.
When my wife saw that bruise, she turned into a Grizzly bear. I don’t mean metaphorically — I mean, she actually physically transmogrified into ursine form. She was like fourteen feet tall on her hind legs. Claws the size of meat hooks.
“That little bitch,” she said, except it sounded more like “RRRRAWWRRWRRRR!”
My wife wanted to drive right over to the school to confront the teachers. Why weren’t they doing more to stop the bullying? Why wasn’t Isabella punished, or even reprimanded?
I didn’t answer. I suddenly had a terrible headache. The situation was so stressful. Also, my wife had knocked me to the ground, and was gnawing on my skull. I once read an article about a man who survived a Grizzly attack by pretending he was dead. I figured it was worth a try.
“Don’t you have anything to say?” she asked. “Hello?”
Damn, I thought. She can smell me breathing.
“Maybe you should let me handle it,” I suggested.
I felt like I would probably be a little more calm, and a little less likely to disembowel someone. I would talk to the principal, letting her know that Isabella hit my daughter, and asking her to intervene to prevent further altercations.
Apparently, this plan only further reinforced the obvious truth that my arms are labia, and my head is a giant clitoris.
“But you can’t just drive over to the school right now …,” I protested.
“You don’t have an appointment. Also, I’m bleeding profusely, and may need a doctor.”
I expressed further concern that driving-while-grizzly may run afoul of certain traffic laws, but my wife remained unconvinced. Then I raised the issue that she might not fit in a Toyota Corolla in her current state of bear-ness. She dismissed my concerns by ripping the roof and doors off the car.
“RAWRRRRRRRWWWR!” she said.
Which I think meant, “You drive.”
When we got to the school, my wife went into the principal’s office. I waited in the hall.
As I read the fire safety poster for the 50th time, I heard the faint squeak of a restroom door. I looked up. There, standing just 15 feet away, at the end of the long hallway, was the beast herself.
My heart thumped in my chest. My hand reflexively went to my belt, poised over my my revolver. A tumbleweed rolled past, lifted by the hot, dry desert breeze. It was a stand-off.
I quickly sized her up. She was about 3 feet tall, with a short blonde bob and a button nose. Her Barney-purple overalls were a few inches too short, revealing a pair of Hello Kitty ankle socks. A clear droplet of snot dribbled from one nostril.
I was pretty sure I could take her in a fight.
The bullying issue has particular resonance for me, because I spent an entire school year being abused by a merciless bully. Day after day, I was forced through a crucible of physical and emotional abuse. I was poked, pushed, knocked down, laughed at, and generally humiliated, all at the hands of the single most callous bully who ever befouled the Earth.
Her name was Karen.
Karen’s locker was right next to mine. Every morning, as I squatted down to put my books into my backpack, Karen would saunter up and push me off balance, sending me sprawling. Or she’d come up behind me and bump the books out from under my arm. Sometimes she would box my ears, or put my shoulder in a Vulcan neck pinch until I begged for mercy.
She was a monster.
After several months of abuse, I decided that enough was enough, and it was time to fight back. And by fight back, I mean “cry.”
It was the 1000th time that she had knocked the books from my arms, which I guess was some kind of milestone. Balloons and confetti fell from the ceiling. A marching band started playing. A guy showed up and handed her a giant check.
While all this was happening, I was busy picking up my scattered papers and trying not to let anyone see me crying. My cheeks were hot, my face flushed with embarrassment.
“If you do that again,” I mumbled, keeping my eyes on the ground. “I’ll punch you.”
She snorted. “You’ll punch me? Yeah, right.”
“I’m warning you,” I said quietly. “Don’t make me do it.”
“Oh, I’m scared!” she squealed, in mock terror.
Before I really knew what I was doing, I stood up. Turned around. And threw a punch.
As my fist hurtled towards her face, life went into slow motion. I saw my parents – my father with his fedora clutched in his hands, my mother dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief – as the principal explained that The Son Who Could Do No Wrong had punched a girl.
I saw the police wagon pulling up outside the school, as I was led from the entrance in shackles and leg irons. Students lined the sidewalk, shouting obscenities and pelting me with empty chocolate milk cartons.
Karen’s mother stepped from the behind the onlookers. The officers holding my elbows pulled me to a stop. A hush fell over the crowd. Karen’s mother moved closer, only inches from my face, her eyes searching mine as she silently implored, How could you, you … you … you monster?!
Then she spit in my face. The crowd cheered.
As this played out, my mind simultaneously rattled off thoughts at a machine-gun pace.
What was I doing? I had never punched anyone – or anything – in my life. I couldn’t even knock out Glass Joe in Mike Tyson’s Punch Out on my Nintendo. And yet here I was, right now, as we speak, at this very moment, punching someone. Someone with a vagina.
My fist connected with her cheek. Everyone in the hall froze in silent anticipation of what would happen next.
I figured she’d drop to the ground, instantly unconscious. That’s usually what happens when the underdog finally stands up for himself and clocks the bully.
When she didn’t fall immediately, I realized that this was probably one of those times where the bully totters uncertainly on his (her) feet for a moment, before toppling backwards like a felled tree. I’d be fine with that.
Except … there didn’t seem to be much tottering going on, and there was a distinct lack of toppling.
Also, there was more smiling than I expected. Quite a bit more laughing too.
“Wow,” she chuckled. “You punch like a girl.”
I’m not the type of person who angers easily. I’m pretty laid back, which is typical for someone who has lived most of his adult life as a giant vulva.
But now that I was standing face-to-face with Isabella, I truly, genuinely wanted to smack her. Even though she was just a kid – and there was a 60 to 70 percent chance that she could kick my ass – I felt like someone had to put her in her place.
Even if I didn’t actually cold-cock her, shouldn’t I at least say something? Like maybe, “Hey, leave my kid alone,” or “You should learn to be nicer to people,” or “Let go of my arm, you’re hurting me.”
Isabella sniffled, sucking the little snot dribble back up into her nose.
I looked around. I figured I’d have time to get in one jab – or at least a snide comment – before someone called the police. It would have to be a good one.
Suddenly, the hallway flooded with light as the door behind me opened. Isabella’s eyes lit up.
“Mommy!” she shouted and ran past me.
I resisted the urge to stick out my foot and trip her.
Apparently this child had not been belched from the fires of hell, wholly formed. She had been birthed. Born of a mortal woman. Expelled from a blackened, unclean womb.
Maybe it wasn’t appropriate to confront the child. But certainly I could confront her mother.
I summoned up my inner spirit animal, and transformed into … a bunny wearing a party hat. Okay, bad idea. Back to human form.
I clenched my jaw. Clenched my fists. Clenched my anus. And prepared to unleash the white-hot hellfire of my fury on Isabella’s mom.
“Hi,” I said. That’s it. Lull her into a false sense of security.
“Oh, hello,” said the woman with a smile. “I’m Isabella’s mom. Karen.”
She extended her hand. I flinched. Something hot and wet sluiced down my leg. My voice squeaked out in a strangled whimper.
“I think my wife wants to talk to you, if you have a minute.”
[This post was originally written as a guest post on DadWagon.com. View original]