In the clearing stands a boxer

Last week, you may recall, began with the thirty-fifth anniversary of my mother’s death, followed by my agent dumping me, then rounded out by another house falling through while the Train House came back into play.

So what I really didn’t need on Friday was the call from Zachary’s camp director telling me he had gotten into a fistfight.


“As a camp director, I have to tell you that we can’t have hitting at our camp.  As a mother, I have to tell you that he probably did the best thing he could have done for his self-esteem.”  The other kids were teasing him, Zach’s feelings got hurt, and then the fight started.

While at camp, Zach claimed he threw the first punch while the other child insisted he had done it.  By the time I picked him up, however, Zach decided that first the other child had sat on him, so Zach had, in turn, sat on the other child.  “Why didn’t you tell the counselors?” I asked.

“I couldn’t.  He was sitting on me.”  Can’t argue with that.

The good news is that my thirty-five pound almost-six-year-old can defend himself.  The bad news is that he gets in trouble for it.  Now, I don’t like to encourage fighting, so I tell him never to hit first.  When he does hit first, I bring down the wrath of an angry mama upon him.  However, I also tell him that if another kid physically attacks him, he should defend himself.  That is advice I stand by.  Never hit first, but always hit harder.  If everyone followed that coda, we’d have no more fighting.

The camp treats all physical fighting as equal.  I get why, really I do.  But I’m still not teaching my kid to sit there and get pounded until a counselor shows up to rescue him.

13 responses to “In the clearing stands a boxer

  1. ach. it’s a lose-lose situation that leaves me bilious. I’m more concerned about the teasing that started it all. I hope everyone had a better day on Monday.

  2. coldspaghetti

    Damn straight. Just think of how much better the world became because George McFly KO’ed Biff.

  3. Definitely.

    By the way, the title of this post is one of my very favorite songs.

  4. Argh. Hate this type of situation I agree, I’d never expect my kid to just take a pounding. Lately there has been “wrestling” with some neighbor kids. And mine seems less aggressive than some. But how do you say — hey, why don’t you go ahead and pound that kid harder? I just discourage the entire thing, but who know what happens when we are not watching?

  5. Ab-so-lutely. I expect my children to respectfully defend themselves verbally and I feel they should do the same, if necessary, physically.

    I do hope he’s okay.

  6. I’m proud of the flyweight.

    And if the train house people fall through again, they should be obliged to find you a house. At the very least.

  7. I’m a grumpy old mother and I always hated the zero tolerance attitude that our schools had toward this kind of stuff. Everyone involved in the altercation got in trouble. It didn’t seem to matter how long the victim had been putting up with teasing or other provocation. All the while our principal was spouting anti-bullying crap and promoting “conflict management programs” for the students. Fine, except that half the time, the school bullies would be anointed as program leaders. If schools/camps are concerned about bullies, they should do something about them! All too often, the adults are *not* watching. They don’t know what happened, so they punish everyone.

    Sounds to me like your son will be okay.

    The title is now stuck in my head and I also loved coldspaghetti’s reference to Back to the Future. (And I think you will get the train house.)

  8. I’m kinda proud of the kid.

  9. I sorta want to cheer for him.

    I’m with you. I’m not for violence. However? I am for defending yourself and your friends if it comes down to it.

    I have the same rule my mom did: If you start it, you will be in trouble. At school and at home. If you were legitimately protecting yourself, your siblings or your friends from a bully? You will never be in trouble for it at home, although there are always consequences to deal with at school.

  10. “Never hit first, but always hit harder.”

    I love it.

  11. I tell mine the same thing. No starting it, but YES hit back.

  12. I went through this with my son, who’s now 8. When he’s upset he’s totally non-verbal, so he always responded to provocation with hitting. Starting in 2nd grade we really had trouble because if he was super stressed, and let’s say a teacher stalked over and snatched something out of his hands, he would hit the teacher. Not a punch but a lashing out — but to the teacher, who is not used to students lashing out, I’m sure it felt like a punch.

    So I went from feeling like you do (defend yourself, buster!) to realizing he needed to be taught strategies for self-defense.

    We got him training, you might call it, in identifying when things are escalating so that he never gets to the non-verbal phase, and also we do ex-treme-ly repetitive work on acceptable verbal responses, so that when he’s stressed at least *something* comes to his mind.

    So: I know what you’re saying, but in the school, both the kid who started it and the kid who finished it are equally punished. And most of the time? The one who finished it gets in MORE trouble, because the other kid is hurt worse. At the elementary level, anyway.

  13. MQ did some hitting in first grade, and we had to go talk to the principle, who was just as calm and good about it as the camp director sounds. Treated the kids the same, and quite fairly, but was pretty relaxed and upfront about it with us.