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2 Rubber Snakes

For the last 2 years, Northwood has been relatively quiet, but it has of late been overrun by hooligans. These hooligans ride their bikes around with no hands and no shirts. They just ride about screaming "Hey!" to one another. Hey Blake! Hey Austin! And so on. When Jackson & I drove past The Dog Park, a park so named because I guess people take their dogs there, we spotted a pack of the above mentioned hooligans.

Me: Hey Jack. Why don't you go play with those hooligans?
Jack: (suspiciously) Really?
Me: Yeah just... you know, if they start doing dumb stuff like throwing rocks at cars or whatever then just - what's that? you know - just... do the right thing. There you go.

I had visions of him laughing, being one of the hooligans, sharing cigarettes, being rude to girls. The boy doesn't have friends. I want him to have friends. Like me & Dan Parker & Chris Delaney friends. Spend the day riding bikes back & forth to each other's houses kind of friends. Scoring brownies & red juice from each other's moms. But Jackson is 9 and he still can't ride a bike and he doesn't really have friends. And yes you do note a tone of shame in the atmosphere of my relation to my son but please know that the presence of this shame makes me want to sob out loud like Pablo Neruda outside a barbershop.

He was back in the house crying within minutes. A boy had whipped him with 2 rubber snakes. You read correctly. It was 2 rubber snakes. I asked him how old the boy was, how big the boy was, and why he didn't grab the 2 rubber snakes and whip him back. He said he was a 3rd grader, that he was of average height & build, and that he didn't know. His answers led to this pearl: "If a kid is whipping you with 2 rubber snakes and he's younger than you and he's not some weird hulky kid, then just grab the 2 rubber snakes and beat him about the face and neck."

I thought about changing my blog title to If A Kid Is Whipping You With 2 Rubber Snakes And He's Younger Than You And He's Not Some Weird Hulky Kid, Then Just Grab The 2 Rubber Snakes And Beat Him About The Face And Neck but I'm hanging in there with the vagina thing.

Calm down peace lovers. I know this was the wrong advice. I knew it was the wrong advice the whole time I was giving it, but that's what popped out. It popped out as a kind of safety device to protect my son from the question that was really trying to press through me: "Jackson, honey, lovely little curious boy, why? Why don't the kids like you?"

I underestimated this blogging business. This might be too hard.

Reader Comments (7)

You're breaking my heart....

May 26, 2008 at 9:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterMom

Oh man, I bow down to you.

You have a masterful command of language to express the nuanced thoughts I have myself had, but I long ago abandoned hope of being able to package into catchy blog posts.

I'm going back to just saying I bow to you.

June 2, 2008 at 11:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterLiteralDan

aw..we had to give our son that advice too. don't start the fight, and walk away if you can, but if someone is hitting you...please...defend yourself!

makes me want to cry!

June 6, 2008 at 6:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterNatalie

I'm catching up on your posts and only just found this. I'm not a parent (yet) but wanted to offer what I hope is helpful -- the "kid" perspective:

My parents had what must have been a moment like yours when I was 5 years old (think around 1980). I was out for a walk around "the big block" when a girl my own age wouldn't allow me to walk on the street in front of her house. She kept pushing me, and I ran away in fear. But when I shared this drama with my parents, they looked at each other and they looked at me, and they said, "Oh, you don't allow someone to tell you that. You can walk down whatever street you like." I protested. "What if she pushes me again?" The answer was swift: "You push right back. You don't let anyone tell you where you can and can't be."

They agonized about this. We've talked about it since and I now know they ran down the block and hid behind trees so they could supervise the unfolding confrontation from afar. They questioned their advice; they wondered if they were cultivating a little bully themselves.

But I tell you this story because this was a defining moment in my little 5-year-old life. It's a defining moment when I look back on 32 years. I'm a person who doesn't really put up with people's crap. I have a lot of patience, but when pushed, I certainly push back. I never would have learned this lesson and grown a backbone to defend myself if it weren't for their raw, instinctive, off-the-cuff coaching.

Sometimes you just have to trust your gut, it seems, when you're a parent (and a writer!). I like how you're expressing your struggle. I intend to keep reading.

July 1, 2008 at 5:34 PM | Unregistered Commentersoulmagnet75

That was not the wrong advice. That was the absolute spot on correct thing to tell him. I don't care how old you are, whether you're 9 or 49, if someone whips you with two rubber snakes, you whip them back.

Can't you teach your kid to ride a bike? It might be helpful.

August 23, 2008 at 9:38 AM | Unregistered Commenterblissfullycaffeinated

There is a strange unwritten code that some children get, and some don't. Some way of knowing how to include oneself in a way that's credible to the other kids.

What determines whether someone can read the code and someone can't?

As a parent I've felt helpless sometimes watching when my kid misses it.

They can make our hearts ache, can't they.

September 4, 2008 at 6:51 PM | Unregistered Commenterexcavator

Wow. Talk about deja vu.

My daughter was just like Jackson. And then, suddenly, she wasn't. It was like a switch was flipped, and now she's terrifying about what she'll deign put up with (and it ain't much).

It gives me comfort to know she's gonna go out there and kick the world in the nads, even if, as her parent, she's honed her skills by tooling up on mine a time or two.

Sounds like Jackson's well on his way to stomping some himself. Good job, BHJ.

(Know I'm late to the party, came here through the Camping post, highlighting Jackson's most excellent progress.)

May 8, 2009 at 11:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterTess

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