This morning, not long after David left to drop the kids off at school, he called me to tell me that Jack had forgotten to bring his school bag with him. Of course, this meant that I would have to bring it to school, otherwise David would be late for work.
When I arrived at the school, Jack was being held by his arms between two other boys, a couple of other boys following, walking past me. They were all laughing, so I didn’t make anything of it. I dropped the bag outside of Jack’s classroom and started making my way back to my car, when Jack came running toward me with the other boys hot on his heels, grabbing at him. And a split second later, I watched Jack pivot and throw a single punch and the larger boy behind him come to a dead stop. I’ll probably get in to trouble for saying so, but it was a thing of beauty. That series of movements was executed as if choreographed for a boxing film – the lightness of his feet, the speed, form and power of that blow, landing bang-in-the-middle of the other kid’s mouth. It was beautiful.
Now, if there had been any malice or forethought to it, I would probably have taken a different view on it. And I had to feel for the poor little guy who caught it in the kisser – they are, after all, a bunch of six year-olds. But anyone watching would have told you that, outrun, outnumbered and feeling threatened, my boy took that swing in pure self-defense, landed it on the mark and then stopped. Turns out the other boys had been trying to drag him to a group of girls nearby and make him kiss one of them and he was having none of it. I can’t argue with that. Everyone has a limit to the level of infringement they will allow on their personal space. Everyone has a line that you cross at your peril.
I obviously had to make a point of telling Jack then and there that punching is not okay and make him apologise to the other kid, who was bleeding a bit from his top gum. I made them shake hands and checked and double checked that the other kid was okay – the bleeding only lasted a couple of seconds. But I have a feeling I haven’t heard the end of this yet.
I suspect that the other kid will have told his parents that he got punched in the face today. And they will, in all likelihood, want to take it up with the school. I can’t say that I wouldn’t, in their shoes. Things are different these days from back when I was at school. Kids can’t just sort out their shit anymore.
It used to be, when you had a beef with someone at school, you’d arrange a time and place and you’d have it out. You’d arrive at the designated spot, assuming you didn’t chicken out – and the shame of being labelled a coward was always significantly worse than any beating one of your peers might lay on you – and the challenger would draw a line in the sand a few feet in front of him. And his opponent would accept the challenge by stepping over that line, signalling the start of the fight. Someone would win, someone would lose and, by the end of it, both parties would normally walk away with a newfound respect for each other and come out of the whole thing firm friends.
These days, things just spiral completely out of hand too quickly and no-one can be trusted not to make a circus of any minor altercation. These days, children murder each other for little more than a few dirty eyeballs; Parents call conferences with teachers before the kids even really know what they’re upset with each other about; Lawyers and authorities are consulted, because children and parents and even teachers can’t be counted upon to reach sane, amicable solutions. Families are called before committees because we’ve all become too sensitive to communicate effectively – it’s too easy to say the wrong thing and offend someone… And with the language barrier so common in our current society, cultural differences, the varied levels of social standing and education, it’s insane how quickly a thoughtless comment becomes a racial slur or a “bullying” incident; How a scuffle on the playground – a reflexive swing of a fist – becomes something more sinister…
It so happens I have a meeting with Jack’s teacher tomorrow morning, so I’ll be telling her of the incident before anyone else does. Let it not be said that I don’t view the matter seriously or that I condone violence from my children. But let it also not be said that my child is a bully. I will stand by him and back him and champion his cause and fight for him, whatever anyone says. Because I know who he is and I saw what happened and because, knowing what is likely coming, I’m drawing a line.