Tomorrow is Father’s Day, (as I am writing this). Two days ago my new daughter-in-law sent me a couple of nice cards and a drawing from my grandson. I had not yet realized until the cards came in the mail that Father’s Day was around the corner. Katherine’s, (my daughter-in-law), note inside the ‘father-in-law’ card was very nice and I appreciated the kind words.
I’m not quite sure how old I was when I realized I wanted to be a dad, but I was young. I’m guessing I was in tenth grade, early high school years. Since first grade, I pretty much always had a girlfriend, (read me), so I’m guessing that says something about me. Perhaps it says I need relationships or maybe it says I need a constant 1:1 relationship, like a marriage. I just know that at some point in my life, I always knew I would get married and I always knew I would be a father. I wanted to be a good dad and I’ve always been an observer, always trying to learn – both from good role models and from poor ones. Many a time can I remember some shitty thing my own dad had just done and thinking to myself that things will be different with my own kids. I guess that’s a common thought – repairing the sins of our fathers.
My basic rule for raising my boys was essentially The Golden Rule – treat others the way you want to be treated. So when my first boy began growing, I tried to teach him to be nice to others. Although I consider myself gentle and giving, I do believe that there is evil in the world and that the only way to defeat true evil is to match their force. For some people, this is the only way to contain them; otherwise they will always harm and take advantage of others. I was to find I would need to teach this rule to my firstborn in his 4th year on the planet.
Kim and I both have always worked outside of the house. When you both work outside of the house and on the same schedule, you need help watching the kids. Sometimes we had family help. When each of the kids were four years old we took them to a daycare center (preschool). We knew of a center where a friend of Kim’s mom worked, (Miss Nina). It was associated with the Gordon Avenue Baptist Church in Hamilton, Ohio where we lived and grew up, and it was a good program.
One day when it was my turn to pick up number one son, Miss Nina caught me before leaving and said she wanted to talk to me bout something. She told me that there was a little boy who kept picking on my son. It was nothing very serious but today this little boy made a mark. I don’t remember what kind of mark it was, either a scratch or a bruise. I thanked Nina and told her I’d take care of it.
So after leaving the church I drove over to the elementary school and hired a second grader to come over and beat up this little bully. Alright, I’m kidding….it was really a sixth grader. Just kidding of course, but that’s what I could have done – sixth graders are so cheap. No, I had decided it was time to give the ‘equal force’ talk with my son.
On the way home in the car, I gave thought to when to have the talk and what specifically I was going to say. I chose bedtime. I thought perhaps we could speak in the dark and maybe it would be the last thing he thought about before he went to sleep, possibly even dream about our talk. Unfortunately, we didn’t yet have a VCR so I couldn’t pull up a bullying episode of H.R. Pufnstuf.
I don’t remember all the specific words that were said but I remember the content very well. I asked him about a bad boy at daycare. Miss Nina told me that a boy hit you today. I know I told you that we shouldn’t fight but sometimes there will be bad boys who won’t listen to you when you tell them to stop. If you tell them to stop and they don’t then it’s ok to hit them. If you have to hit someone though, hit them very hard, as hard as you can. That way they’ll know that you mean business and they will never, ever bother you again.
Judging from the immediate results, perhaps I should have been a motivational speaker – the next Jack Canfield or Stephen Covey. Maybe I should write a book – the Seven Habits of Highly Mis-communicative Parenting? On the very next day, again I was the one who had to pick up my son. Miss Nina was waiting for me. “Well Mr Wyatt, apparently you had a talk with Mitchell last night.” Why, did something happen today? Yes, something happened. Today, Bad Boy pinched your son. Ok, so then what happened? “Well….then, Mitchell picked up a small bench, (hard plastic kind), and hit Little Mister Bad Boy over the head.”
YES! WAY TO GO, SON. THAT’s MY BOY!!
Ok, so yeah, inside that is what I was thinking. Of course though it’s not what I said or how I acted. Ok, so maybe I smirked a little…I don’t remember. I told Nina thanks and that I’d take care of it.
I figured I’d better take care of this one in the car, on the way home.
Miss Nina told me that you hit Little Mister Bad Boy over the head with your bench. Yeah, he wouldn’t leave me alone. Ok, look Mitch, it was really good that you defended yourself, that you hit the bad boy. Maybe picking up a bench and hitting someone with it is not a good idea. What if his head got cut open? I don’t think the bad boy is going to bother you again, but if he does, punch him real hard in the face with your fist, ok? “OK”
Little Mister Bad Boy never bothered Mitch again. In fact, a month later Miss Nina told me that his conduct had improved.
Eisenhower said that you don’t lead people by hitting them over the head, but perhaps he would think differently if he had tried using a little plastic bench. Sometimes a four year-old can have the world figured out better than we adults.
(and for those of you who don’t know who HR Pufnstuf is):