I have had the greatest honor by being the parent of more kids than I can count. Now, I use the word “parent” loosely because I certainly am not on all their birth certificates. Heck, some of them may not even know how to spell my name correctly, let alone pronounce it. I define “parent” as a person that guides and protects. Over the years I have guided and protected hundreds of kids. But, to appease those of you traditionalist, I have had 8 wonderfully talented, beautiful, and welcome children in my home at one point or another. Those relationships are so sacred that I can’t imagine my life without each one of them. Gah . . . it’s not time for the mushy stuff yet! Back to “parenting”.
During one of my excursions as an Assistant Camp Director for the YMCA I learned how to make homemade pretzels. Not being satisfied with the outcome, I tweaked the recipe and started making homemade cinnamon rolls. I taught this wonderful skill to hundreds of kids, parents, and staff over the course of 18 months. I only bring this up because it is the example I use when explaining to my kids about my unchangeable rule on fighting. When you smell a hot and fresh cinnamon roll, one of the first things you do is go to grab it. Forget the fact that it just came out of a 400-degree oven; or that you can visibly see the butter, icing, and other sorts of yummy goodness oozing out of it. It’s human nature to snatch it up, bite it and drop it while fanning your mouth because you have just sustained third degree burns to your tongue and roof of your mouth.
My rule is straight forward. I don’t care if Goliath himself is staring you down. I don’t care if you are certain your death is eminent. If in a situation where physical violence is about to or has already begun, you had better “drop it like its hot”! Hit the deck, kiss the floor, dodge the ball, turn the other cheek, offer them a candy bar, do anything but do not engage! Mama will not tolerate your hands touching anyone else is a way that is harmful or violent. That, my loves, will be the end of your fun and happy life for a long and dreadful period.
Of all the lessons I’ve had the joy and heartache of teaching, this has been the hardest. In our world it is such a foreign concept to communicate and be constructive, rather than destructive. I wasn’t raised to be non-physical, that could very well lead to why I am such a strong advocate for it now. Nothing good can come from hitting another person. Status? Well, let me tell you, status comes and goes. I was popular last week, and then I passed gas from the piano on Sunday and all of a sudden, I’ve been avoided like a plague. Status has no value and no purpose. Reputation, my kids would say. “Mom, I gotta let know I don’t play like that”. My response, every time, would be, “No, you don’t play like that . . . ever”.
You see, its much harder to be a person of words, than a person of strength and intimidation. Words take intelligence, they take practice, they take courage, and most of all they take humility. Anyone can learn to throw a punch with a little practice, but learning the art of defusing a dangerous or violent situation is a work in progress. My kids learned that they won’t always succeed, and they will probably get their butts kicked, but in the end, one day, they will see that it took way more ability to abstain than it did to clock someone in the jaw.
At one point we had three teenage boys, all 16, in the house at the same time. Not only were they the same age, but they were only separated by about a 14-week span in age difference. As you can guess, this created some healthy tension in competition and that unfortunate attitude of “status”. One of the boys deemed himself head honcho because he was the first one to live there, another of the boys demanded acknowledgement of his presence simply because he was bigger and stronger, and then the third (my favorite) sat back in his chair with an air of “I’m better and I don’t even have to prove it”. While in the middle of a move to a new town, the boys were left to pack up the basement. The basement consisted of my home office, our pantry overflow, general storage, and the kids game room and chill space. Now, over the years I learned that the only way to combat idiocy with my kids was to install cameras. However, the most amusing part of having your house on 24/7 surveillance will be the times that your kids forget that the walls have eyes. Whilst packing, my lovely boys got into a turf war and guess who got beat up? The strong and mighty took the fall . . . and my chill relaxed favorite knocked his lights out.
I never said my kids followed the rules. But these are teachable moments. And I taught. . . to the tune of 50 boxes of books that had to be moved up two flights of stairs and out to the garage. And those boxes, well, they could only be moved on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons and evenings. My point was well made, nothing good comes from putting your hands on another person.
I once joked with my ex-husband that I was against physical violence simply because I knew I could never win a fight. I much rather offer my adversary a candy bar and be on my way. I mean, who can turn down a candy bar? And if you can, we should meet, I need to get inside your brain. But my joke was simply a smoke screen. I grew up in the church. I was taught, by all the adults in my life, save my parents, that the human body is to be treasured and appreciated. And more importantly, that words have power. I am sure there is some amazing research on how many fights are the result of miscommunications. I’m not privy to that research, but it’s probably out there somewhere. Think about it, how many times a day, or week, or month, or year, do you get angry because you think you thought you heard someone possibly say they might have heard that you were maybe thinking about doing something that could probably make them or someone they knew upset? Did you follow that? Anger serves us no positive return. All anger does is zap you of the energy you’ve worked so hard to build up. If we are continually draining ourselves by being angry at others, then who are we slighting? Our mates, our kids, our friends, ourselves? Drop it like its hot, my friends. Give it time to cool off, its worth it. Maybe not immediately, but someday you will see the benefit. Walking away doesn’t make you weak, it actually shows tremendous strength.