Admittedly, it was a mini black eye, but as he's mini himself at not-yet-5, still in preschool...it was a momentous occasion.
He walked in the door after being with his grammy, my mom, for a few hours after school and I saw the bruising on the bones near his eye immediately. Here's the nonchalant conversation that ensued:
Me: "Hey, Ben. What happened to your eye?"
Ben: "Jack hit me."
Me: "Really. Why?
Ben: "I didn't run fast enough."
Me: "Oh. But you're pretty fast. Where did this happen?"
Ben: "On the playground."
That was the first of three rounds of conversation about the little black eye on my little boy. Of course the teacher and I exchanged some long, unemotional, respectful emails over the next few hours. I met with her the next day to get an update on how the situation was being handled. Long story short: It seemed like an isolated incident, little boy Jack had gotten a talking-to, and some rough-housing on the playground was over. I was satisfied.
But the situation left me wondering, as I looked at both of my boys (and my older girl, for that matter): What rules should we have about fighting? When is it okay, when is it not okay?
So I called my dad, a wise guy who happened to have grown up with two brothers (and two sisters) in an era when fighting was REALLY part of life. I asked my dad what his parents' rules were about fighting. At 62, he had no problem remembering:
- DO defend yourself if someone picks a fight with you.
- DO defend the honor of a family member--especially your mom.
- DO stop a bully with a fist if nothing else works.
- DO NOT throw the first punch in an unnecessary fight.
It was a funny, memory-filled conversation with my dad, who enjoyed reminiscing about his numerous boyhood fights a whole lot. Especially the fight held on the church steps with a boy a few years older and bigger than him. Dad tackled him after the boy said something nasty about my grandma's excessive weight, so the younger version of my father first punched the crap out of a kid as the neighborhood filed out of church and then got a belt whipping by his mother once he got home, because my father sure couldn't tell her why he got into a fight!
Anyway, it was our first black eye. Surely or sadly or understandably, there will be more. Better be prepared for them, I think, and have some ground rules ready...