Being a parent conjures up images of snuggling with your kids, reading bedtime stories, and sipping hot cocoa beneath the warm glow of the summer moon. There are lullabies, rainbows, and cats being cradled. It’s a beautiful thing.
That’s because no one tells you about all the brawling.
Arguments? No. Not arguments. Brawls. Fights. Knockdown drag-outs. Kids like to roughhouse and, since parents are around for most of the day, anyone who’s taken a logic class can then surmise that parents are the ones most likely to be forced to throw down.
My daughter is like that. She’s twelve and, on the surface, looks like an angelic little Curly Sue. She’s sugar, spice, and all that other stuff. She’s also got a little bit of Mike Tyson in there. Her offenth is impenetrable.
Olivia loves to fight me. It’s such a hobby that we’ve managed to work it into a Christmas Eve tradition. She throws hands and growls as I do my best to fend off her violent attacks. Of course, it’s all in good fun. Good old painful agonizing fun.
One of the fringe benefits to having a quintuple bypass at 35 is that I have to keep myself in shape. Because of that, I can weather her storm and, if I have advanced warning, I can flex my stomach or arms so that her punches actually cause more pain to her hands than my body. I laugh as she recoils, holding her hand, and exclaiming “Ow!” Serves her right. Little bugger. Daddy’s freakin’ Superman, baby.
Of course, not all hits are prepared for. Those that come by surprise can be quite the opposite. There have been many sneak attacks that see her swing an arm in the air, come crashing down against my back, and unleash a deafening “slap” noise. The immediate reaction is always the same. Her mouth forms a giant “O”, her eyes widen, and her words come quickly.
Oh God! Daddy! Sorrysorrysorrysorrysorry…Daddy, no. Sorrysorrysorrysorry…
I stare in shock for a moment before asking the question that’s on everyone’s mind.
Ow. What is wrong with you?
I don’t know. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
To lighten the mood, I make a joke.
That’s fine. I’ll get you back when you least expect it. Ha ha.
She continues begging and even offers some more apologies. And then, you’ll never guess what she does next.
She freakin’ hits me again! The little weasel. You believe the marbles on this Curly Sue’d monster? Sheesh.
The irony of it all is that she goes full scale on me when we throw down, but the moment she gets hurt – often at her own hands – she becomes incredibly upset with me. There’s nothing more annoying than your kid injuring their own hand punching you and then pouting over it. Anyone without kids who reads that will think it’s crazy. Anyone reading this who has kids will nod and go, “I understand. It happened yesterday.”
If my hidden strength is an asset against my daughter, my son’s hidden strength is an asset against me. Lucas is a beefy nine-year-old who epitomizes the term “strong silent type.” He may be non-verbal, but he’s all toughness.
I love my boy, but he has some confusing quirks at times. One such thing was described by a therapist as “chinning”. It’s when he takes my hand and pushes it hard against his face during times of frustration. I get that it’s done for stimming purposes, but there was a time when I didn’t know why it was happening.
I would pull back in horror when he strongly brought my thumb close to his eyes and face. My concern was that he would inevitably bruise himself, causing the school to frantically call me the next day. I pictured the conversation now.
Hi. This is the school nurse. Lucas has a black eye.
Oh yes. He pulled my fist into his eye.
You’re saying you punched your son in the eye?
Ha ha. No. No. He put his eye on my fist.
Oh. We see. Can you, uh, please come in to the office?
I worried about this scenario playing out, but he was insistent. Fist to eye. Now. With all his tiny might, my boy would pull my clenched fingers to his face until one day, I finally gave in. I allowed him to squeeze my hand against his head as hard as he wanted. This, I told myself, would be a life lesson. I felt the lashes against my knuckles and I prepared for the cry.
Nope. No cry. He let out a sigh of relief and then laughed. This kid is made of steel. He’s like a Batman villain.
Most roughhousing for my little Undertaker is greeted with giggles and happiness. He loves every moment and even some accidental knocks lead to laughter. It things go down at the bar, I want him on my side.
There is, however, one huge piece of wisdom that I have learned from having an impervious-to-pain non-verbal son. It’s something I can offer any parent in my position. If your child is anything even close to how mine is, you can take piece of advice, embroider it on a shirt, and wear to the carnival. It’s perhaps rule number one.
Never kiss him on the top of the head while he’s looking down.
I can not tell you how many times I haven’t followed my own golden rule. Seeing my sweet little guy, hunched over with his face peering on an iPad in his lap, I will come up above him and lean in. Puckered lips at the ready, I descend towards him to kiss the top of his cranium as any father would. It’s a loving moment. At least, that’s how it’s meant to be.
Until he springs up with excitement over something – anything – that he just saw on the screen. His head slams into my face and I go flying backwards like a kid getting knocked out on World Star. My brains get scrambled, I check my mouth for blood and missing teeth, and chastise myself for letting it happen yet again.
Lucas? He’s fine. His head is like a bowling ball with a buzz cut. In fact, he’s usually so excited about the iPad that he’s clapping and cheering as I’m reeling. You know what it’s like to get knocked the hell out by a nine-year-old who then claps and dances around you? No? Come to my house.
My kids are tough. One day, I’ll be frailer, and they’ll be older and there will a new generation to fight them. When that day comes, I will sit back and laugh with my popcorn….if I survive that long.