The Righteous Punch

bullyingI’m not supposed to write about this but I can’t keep my mouth shut.

Yesterday before school a bigger boy in my son’s class shoved him face first against a wall and he banged his head pretty hard. Instinctively, my son spun around and punched the kid in the face, hard.  The boy went down and cried. But Sandor helped him up and apologized and they shook hands.

Sandor called me to let me know what had happened. He was upset because he know if a teacher saw him he’d get in big big trouble, probably suspended.  He was also upset because he made the boy cry.  When I pressed him he explained he was kind of a big slow kid who did stuff like this all the time other people. He also told me he wanted to keep punching him but the yellow belt tenant in Taekwondo is Self Control.  He did the right thing and stopped.

I was totally stressed all day waiting for a call from the school. Right after lunch Sandor texted me “I feel so guilty”.  When we got home I asked him why and it was because the boy cried and that always makes him feel really bad.

Good news, this morning Sandor texted me again, the kid told him his face still hurt and they shook hands again.

Then my son told me about another fight which took place in the football lockerroom.  There’s a young man, I’ll call him Joe, who’s mother died a couple of years ago.  A seventh grade boy started making fun of Joe’s dead mother. (It doesn’t get any worse that that.) One of the star football players slugged the kid several time to shut him up. (Obviously, in my mind the right thing to do.) I believe this situation was handled appropriately by one of the coaches and was never reported.

The truth is some kids are just wretched human beings right now but they aren’t any worse than they used to be. I remember getting pushed around in first grade because I liked Davey Jones in the Monkeys.  And in 5th grade when I had to go to a new school for a little while in Florida all the kids and bus driver called me “Pig Farmer” because of my accent. Kids are really mean.

My son has been in Taekwondo, and messed around with boxing since he was three. He’s a second degree black belt and he’s been trained to do exactly what he did. Defend himself.  He’s also been taught to always always stick up for a kid being bullied. that’s one of the founding principals of our Taekwondo school and house hold.  That’s his job. There are sheep and there are coyotes in life and especially in school. Somebody has to be brave enough to protect the sheep. that’s the natural order of things. Walking away when you can help someone is a disgrace.

Hopefully our school administrators will come to understand (and many of ours do now, thankfully) we’re not helping anyone, especially the sheep, if we tell kids not to defend themselves and weaker students from punk ass coyotes. Teachers, administrators and the police can’t be everywhere all the time. So when we tell our strong and righteous students to step back we are only emboldening the bullies, we are giving them even more power.

It’s a fine line, but again, this is a situation where “zero tolerance” just doesn’t work.  If I defended an old person who was being pushed around at Walgreens by a big tough guy I’m pretty sure the police would take the circumstances into consideration.

There will always be bullies, there will always be kids who get bullied and there will always be heroes unless they all get suspended.

The Junkies’ Son

boyI have a little Taekwondo school. And a few weeks ago a mom and dad walked in with two little boys. One was a round, noisy and silly five year old the other a skinny and silent nine year old named James.

We did lots of kicking and punching drills and both boys did just fine. The youngest one laughed and squirmed and fell down when he tried to kick. But James never made a sound, he barely made eye contact and his expression was completely stoic, as though he’d checked out. He tried to do what  I said but there was no joy or goofiness in the boy. His eyes were vacant.

Because I can be very immature I can generally get a nine year old to laugh…but not this kid.

Both boys came back for two more classes then signed up. My daughter was, Lexie, was teaching while I talked to their mom.  She told me the story.  They adopted James a month ago. His mom was a junkie and died from an over dose. She used to shoot up in front of James. When James did something wrong (which I couldn’t imagine because he was so meek) they whipped him with a switch with stickers on it. Tore the boy up.  And because she was a junkie she didn’t get him to school on a regular basis or learn to read. As a result he’d failed two grades and didn’t have friends.

He spent some time in a foster home before being adopted.

Since he’d been with his new family he hadn’t smiled or laughed or cried, even over his mom’s death. He’d been sweet and polite and obedient but that was it. We finished talking then I went out on the floor to work with the kids.

After a few minutes I said “Who wants to grapple?”

I had six little boys that day and they nearly exploded and yelled “we do!!”   Grappling is simply wrestling but they start from their knees. And all little boys love to grapple.

“Everybody sit down chris cross apple sauce.”

“Yes ma’am!”

I used my ring announcer voice, “First up we have Jason and Hunter.” They are both tiny six year old boys.

They knelt in the center of the ring, shook hands and said, “Good luck sir.”

Then I said my typical silly stuff. “Remember men, no biting, no licking and no hair pulling. Begin!”

For two minutes they rolled around, pinning each other, squirming free then starting all over. The other boys cheered and coached.

Then I said, “Next up new kid James and Martin!” They faced each other. “James have you ever grappled before?” He shook his head and looked down. “Have you ever wrestled around with a friend or your dog?” He shook his head. Maybe he’d never had a friend?

“Ok, just do what those guys did. Try to push Martin down and pin him. Ok?”

He just nodded and I said, “Begin!”

The two boys latched on to each other, pushing and pulling, trying to get the other to go down first.  James’ new parents leaned forward in their seats watching intently.

Then James went down and the other boy tried to hold him there. And that’s when it happened. I suddenly  realized James  was giggling and smiling…because he was playing. I looked back at his parents to make sure they saw what I was looking at. His new mom was nearly in tears.

After class I high fived the guys but James ducked under my hand and gave me a sideways hug. And he smiled again, as though the breaker switch had been flipped.  Smiling was ok. And playing was awesome.



My Boy….A Champion and A Loser

sandor josephSandor, my ten year old son has had a string of tough losses at taekwondo tournaments.  His big sister walks away with enormous gold trophies and he leaves with nothing.  Sandor trains hard, he does what his instructors tell him, he’s respectful and always has a great attitude….but he loses. It’s been heartbreaking.

After the last high profile loss I was almost speechless. Sandor came unglued as only a little boy can.  He sobbed on my shoulder and once I got him in the car he got mad, he screamed “I’m sick of losing!” We both screamed with the windows down “This Sucks.”  When we got back to the hotel we ate chocolate and Cheetos, drank Mt. Dew and jumped on the hotel beds.  After that he was just fine.
While my son was crying on my shoulder I tried to hold back my tears as I whispered into his ear, “Your day is coming, I promise you ….your day is coming. If you have the guts to stick this dry streak out, if you have the patience and strength not to quit….your day is coming. I just don’t know when it’s gonna get here. But it’s coming….I promise you buddy.”,

I let Sandor skip the next couple of Taekwondo classes because I didn’t want him to get burned out, but on Wednesday night he said, “Hey Mom, what time is class?”  When I told him it was in thirty minutes he immediately ran off to find his uniform.

After class I asked Sandor how class was and he said, “Awesome!”

The next night after class I asked him how things went and he said “Amazing.” Then I told him there was a tournament the following weekend. We could skip it or we could go, it was up to him.

Sandor stared at me like I was an idiot, then he gave me the “duh” shoulder shrug . “Mom, my day is coming, what if next Saturday is “my day” and I don’t show up. That would totally suck.”

“Yeah, ok, you’re right.  I’ll get you signed up tomorrow.”

A few days later he asked me about a friend of his who boxes. He’s talented but didn’t win much his first year.

“Is he going to box next year?” Sandor asked.

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure he is.”

“Good, cause his day is probably coming.”

I think he’s right.

The next day I started thinking about Sandor and his faith. His day IS coming. I know that for a fact . I don’t have any doubt. And I will hang in there with him until it happens.

I know instinctively Sandor will succeed, will be a champion…if he doesn’t quit.

So, until then,  I’ll stand ringside….knowing my son’s day is coming and he has the guts to wait then embrace it.