I told him his mom wore army boots to church.
The next day he showed up on my front lawn mounted high in the saddle on his war horse, wearing a horned viking hat, fisting a battle axe, while sentencing me to be tar and feathered by his men. Although filled with angst, I was relieved, I had heard that being drawn and quartered was on the menu that week.
One has to be careful out there, boyhood summers are tough places in some parts of the land, when you are just 8 years old every neighborhood has its own Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun.
There were valuable lessons at every corner of the neighborhood that summer.
What are our kids missing these days? Many things are missing, that is for certain, but a good walk is a good teacher, especially when you are a kid. Sadly, for our kids to find a reason to take a good walk, there needs to be a Squirtle, Venemoth or Magmar somewhere down the street (if you are clueless, your kids have not found Pokemon Go, yet). Oy Vey. Run them over I say ! The Squirtles, not your kids.
As a young boy from a small town in Canada, one skirted by vineyards and orchards, everyone walked the mile to school in the morning, then home and back at lunch, and then again at day's end. Four miles a day, not including playing in the neighborhood afterwards. But, we did not just walk. We threw stones, spit, laughed, teased each other, kicked garbage cans when no one was looking, traded baseball cards -- or we fought.
The walk was educational on many levels I came to learn. Some of us got into fights on the way home from time to time. We did not call it bullying back then, we called it "establishing the social hierarchy". Alright, maybe that was foreign nomenclature at the time, but it is accurate none the less. Perhaps more simply, it should have been called, "offering insights into possible future career opportunities". This was our form of social media.
. . . learning to establish a dominant full mount position atop your foe, a place to better "educate and debate" from, and of course sound knowledge of a good old fashioned rear naked choke just might come in handy one day for your lippy kid, seriously
Every clan needs the focal warrior. Every clan also needs the next bloke down the line, one not afraid to challenge the local Odin, a man dreaming to wear the horned helmet and ride the lead war horse while bellowing "FREEDOM" from plague filled lungs and flea infested bear robes. Kids have grand dreams after all.
Back in the day, every clan and every fight had the regular scoundrels, the passive observer, the cheerleader, the negotiator, the medic. Any truly good childhood fight had the markings of the adult equivalent, the Friday night town watering hole midnight brawl. Every good clan, childhood or adult, had leaders and lilliputians. The main difference, other than age, was that our fisticuffs occurred behind the local church (how appropriate that our fighting began there, didn't someone once mention that religion is the centerpiece for all the worlds warmongering? Hmmm.) Hell, even the town crier was needed during these clashes where the social problems were ironed out, how else did the headmaster find out about the lunchtime grappling event ? And, forget you not there were the lawyers and the jury, the judge and the executioner. . . yes, most of us had parents.
You see, perhaps childhood fights actually had a valid purpose, a crucial thread in the social fabric. Perhaps their purpose was to offer us visions and first hand experiences of future career opportunities, unlike our present day where it is looked down upon, this medieval barbaric act of kissing fists, of fat lips, of mud and muscle.
A question haunts me. Did the halt of this occasional, arguably necessary, societal event mark the beginning of the end to our once healthy social structure, our peace and understanding ? Is this what has caused us all the unrest we feel as we look at our apparent crumbling world ? Is this what we sense is missing in our children, that thing that seems undefinably absent in their being ? Is this what has led to the pussification of our children, as George Carlin so crassly put it ? I know many who would agree, and of course, some who would argue. Some would also agree that the present day "anti-bullying" propaganda ever present in our child's lives is also a piece procuring the great unravelling of our social fabric. Speaking of fabric, what about the laundry houses, the seamstresses ? I forgot about them, those torn clothes needed attention (thanks mom). And, what about the police, the correctional officers, the councilors, the parole officers, the coaches ? You can see where this is going -- perhaps childhood lunchtime fighting set us all on our paths, or at least offered some initial samplings and weeding out of future employment options. One really never knows where childhood inspiration might root.
So, what did walking teach us ? Hell, probably very little, but it was the bickering that lead to debating, that led to negotiations, that led to standing ground on principles (clearly founded on very little substance of course) that led to resolution through words, maybe written territorial agreements and boundaries, or to war. It wasn't the walks that were important, it was what happened during the walks that was important. That was life, life occurred between the school and home. Life did not happen in school, learning societies rules happened there --life happened in the shark infested waters, the deep dark Sleepy Hollow forests, those places between mom's lunchtime Macarroni and Cheese and Mrs. Wharthogs boring last period english class. There was however glimpses of real life during recess period, but that felt more like yard time at the prison, after all, that was when the best fights happened, minus the bloody shivs.
So, think about all that your sweet princess or your charming Little Lord Fauntleroy is missing out on next time you drive them to prison, I mean school, nose down in their socially and politically correct smart phone, hunting for Squirtles of course, or something slightly more "Snapchat naughty". I urge you to notice a little more closely the kids that are walking, their grass stained elbows, their black eyes, their self-assured walk, open chests, confident strides, physical bodies -- their obvious grins. Why are those kids always smiling ? Fight Club, that is the answer -- most of us know the first rule of Fight Club. Google it.
Take the fighting, the debating, the verbal warfare where upwardly escalating attempts to use the first period "word of the day" and its synonyms all served a purpose, to define a child's views, beliefs and place within the tribe. Mind you, there was more to all of this than I have yet mentioned. This was not just a real time integrated and applied learning opportunity on one's lunch walk home, this was also about doing all of what I have examined here in a fixed period of time. You see, the lunch time walk was clearly an opportunity to experiment with time management skills, there clearly was much to fit into that hour. There were court rooms to visit, battlefields to traverse, boundary lines to defend. Hell, lunch time was arguably the most important period of the day, the adults and teachers were just too stupid to see its value, and I might argue nothing has changed in that respect. There was so much skill building, negotiation tactics, social posturing and bonding, debating, athleticism, lawyering, coaching, and social reporting just to name just a few. Where would we all be without the childhood walks home and the occasional ring side fight ? I hesitate to say we might be right were we are at this time, nose down in our smart phones, afraid to voice a politically incorrect view point, afraid to offend, afraid to stand up for our beliefs and passions, and brainwashed by the media. We would all be, possibly where our kids are also headed, no where, fast.
Life was different when I was a kid. I had lots of real time on the job life experience as a kid. Its what got me here today. It is what got some of here, at least those who knew the rules of Fight Club.
All things in jest, bullying in any form is not cool. This writing stemmed from a healthy verbal jousting of ideas and words with a passive, yet strongly opinionated, dad with pasty unscarred virgin skin -- clearly the childhood town crier turned adult lawyer. My jousting point was that just because the occasional wrestling on old Mr. Jones lawn resulted from saying a guy's mom wears army boots to church happened in my life and had a positive result, doesn't mean it should or should not happen in another kid's life. However, I attempted to make valid points that it might actually serve a greater life lesson purpose if it did occur. Thus, maybe consider teaching your kids jiu jitsu. Teach them just in case the punk kid with a viking hat, and having similar views as above, shows up on your front lawn saddled upon a war horse and decides it's your kid's day to get tarred and feathered just for the sheer fun of disagreeing that Skittles are not superior to Sour Patch Kids. After all, that is what some kids do, every neighborhood has its own Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun.
. . . sometimes what starts on social media, doesn't end on social media
In this day and age, for the parent and child, realizing what starts on social media doesn't always have to end on social media might be prudent awareness. After all, there will always be those kids who feel that a punch square in the nose to make one's point loud and clear is a more valid method of negotiating -- it is far more immediate and memorable. These kinds of fools also walk amongst us as adults, so this is not exclusively advise for the young ones in our lives. A silver tongued negotiator can go far in this world, in grade school and in the adult world, but some do not operate well with verbal language and we would be wise to take that fact to heart. The streaming web cameras behind old Mr. Jones garage won't provide court room evidence of the precursors to this said "bullying", only the physical end result. In those cases, waiting for an after-the-fact bullying protocol to kick in is too late, noses are already filled with bloody snot, eye sockets swollen shut, the taste iron and a mouthful of blood. In these cases, knowledge of some solid Brazilian Jiu Jitsu skills might come in darn handy, things like a good side control game, knowledge of how to establish a dominant full mount position to "educate and debate" from, and of course knowledge of a good old fashioned rear naked choke or arm bar just might come in handy for your kid. Think about it, It is either that confident self-preservation action, or a good old fashioned jolt of fear and adrenaline as the horse-riding warlord rears up on the hind legs ready to pounce on your kid. In those critical moments, warlords could care less who has an iPhone streaming onto Facebook.
Sometimes a silver tongue will not save you in the battle fields of childhood, let alone at a corner pub at 2am after a Sex Pistols cover band gets kicked off the stage. You may need to resort to some hand to hand skills to save your own skinny butt as well, perhaps skills you honed behind the church after school, when the days were longer and Gilligan's Island ruled after school.
Who knows, maybe trying to save your kids from these worldly experiences might rob them of vital worldly insights which might pay off in the future -- heck, what do I know ? But, I might argue that without these experiences, perhaps your silver tongued kid won't come to realize that as an adult a 60 hour work week lawyering doesn't serve his DNA-given skills well -- because he or she did not have that childhood lunch time "education" and those alternate career exposures. Gosh, what if they realize too late in life that flattening their buttocks with a chair for the rest of their life is not for them? What if they someday realize that they would rather have been climbing Everest and hunting for Yeti's ? I will leave you with that as my final stand, but, know this, Bigfoot is really out there -- and it would serve your kids well to have some good grappling skills if they find themselves confronted out in the dark forests of life, just in case the fight with the big fella goes to the ground.
- Shawn Allen (blue belt, Gracie Barra Brazilian Jiu Jitsu)
Sidebar: Yes, this was a sarcasm piece, mostly, sort of, kind of, well, maybe not, likely not. I will let you decide. Welcome to my weapons of change.
PS: Inform your kids not to mention their friend's mom's army boots. It is not a friendship builder for the sensitive ones out there with a weak emotional hair trigger. Oh, and ditch the feather pillows as well, go memory foam, because although your house might not have tar, I bet it has honey. Don't leave kids with options, they can be very creative.