Thursday, June 25, 5:35 p.m., ride home.
"Hey, Eth. How was camp today?"
"Some of the kids were mean to me. One of them pushed me and another threw mulch in my hair."
(Me, internally: Blood pressure rising slightly, but this is not unfamiliar territory with kids. And seeing as this is Ethan's first week at a new camp after he'd been going to the same daycare for his entire daycare-going life, some adjustment period is to be expected.)
"Well, sweety, I'm sorry. Did you tell your teacher? Did you blahblah ... (at this point I'm vaguely aware that I'm still talking, but have no idea what I'm saying. My mind is busily working to create a calmer movie than the one that's currently flooding its screen: Ethan being beaten, Reginald Denny-style, by the Jennersville Y's version of the Crips)
"Yeah, I told her. She made them stop."
"And was everything OK after that?"
(Silence. Too much silence. Maybe he didn't hear me. He does only have one ear.)
"Eth, was everything OK after you told your teacher?"
"Nyah, some of the kids started making fun of my ear."
(MOTHER FUCKER, THAT'S IT!!! I WANT THEM DEAD, I WANT THEIR FAMILIES DEAD, I WANT THEIR HOUSES BURNED TO THE GROUND!!!!
Well, what actually came out was:)
"Yeah? And how did you handle it? What did you do?" (Please tell me you beat they ass! I mean, what kind of sick fuck makes fun of a kid's deformity? In my head I'm gearing up for battle with some about-to-be-really-unlucky parents: 'Is that the kind of thing you teach your kid? To pick on someone with a birth defect? Whaddya, take them to the school for the blind on weekends so they can practice being assholes in a target-rich environment? ...')
Eth, quietly: "I told them I was born this way. I told them not to pick on me." (Good for you, little man. Stand your ground ... And THEN you beat they ass, right?)
"And did they stop picking on you after that?"
"What? What was that, sweety? Yes or no?"
"(quieter) Nyah." ("Nyah" is Ethan's non-commital response -- his "Aloha." Sometimes it means yes, sometimes it means no. Gotta wait this one out and let him clarify. Silence. He obviously wants to talk about this, but my response must be making him uncomfortable. Maybe I'm not as calm and collected as I think I am. Can he hear it in my voice? Dear god, is this how the rebellion will begin? Him feeling he can't approach me about anything? ... tick, tock. Silence. Pressure building. I'm gonna lose it. What would a good dad do here? ... Silence. ... Annnnnnnnndddddddd FUCK IT, if I'm not a good dad, then so be it. I'll come to terms with it later. Here goes nothing:)
"Eth, let me tell you something and I really want you to listen to me and remember this for the rest of your life: Some people suck. They're miserable, horrible human beings and there's nothing you can do about them. They'll always be here and you'll always have to deal with them. But you don't have to take shit from anybody. (Yes, I curse in front of my kids. Often.) Let me tell you, you did exactly the right thing. You told them to stop, you told your teacher. You did nothing wrong. THEY refused to listen. THEY took it to a new level. THEY made the choice to ignore you and your teacher, and THEY kept picking on you. So the next time any of them starts shit with you, I want you to get up in their face -- you put your forehead right on their forehead and show them your war face (No, I don't let them watch Full Metal Jacket). And when you got their attention, you tell them to knock it the fuck off or you'll be bite THEIR ear off. (Damn, did I just say that? Quieter:) But don't really bite their ear off, baby. No, that wouldn't be good. (Louder again:) But if one of them pushes you, you knock their head in. Just like when you fight Thomas (his 6-year-old brother. Jesus, if I ever filmed them fighting I could make a fortune. Alas, bad parenting is achieved in levels and one only cheats oneself by cutting corners, grasshopper. Still, I feel I'm really on a roll here. Eat my dust, Bill Cosby!). And ..."
"Yeah, baby. What is it?"
"It's OK. They stopped. They're my friends. We played cowboys. (Some name I didn't understand) pretended he was a horse and I rode him and I got to be the Sheriff."
(Ummm ... awkward).
"Oh, that's great, baby. So now you all get along?"
"Nyah." (this time I'm pretty sure he means 'yes')
"Now they're all your friends? They don't pick on you any more?"
"Nyah." (yeah, I'm pretty sure that meant 'yes' to the first question and 'no' to the second. God bless his verbally economical heart!)
OK, so now I feel like a jackass. My son has gone Quaker, and behind my back has mastered the art of conflict resolution. The extra gallons of adrenaline coursing through my bloodstream have now all gone to the pride gland and I am overcome by just how special this little guy is. The rest of the ride home was me quietly beaming, Ethan rambling about all the great games he and his new friends played.
Home now, dinner dishes done (no thanks to me!), settling down for the night, kids playing in the family room. As usual, there's a tussle between the boys that Thomas has undoubtedly started. Then, as if from a dream, I hear Ethan say, "You quit it or I'll bite your fucking ear off!"
That's my boy, Eth. That's my boy.
"Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you'll ever regret." -- Laurence J. Peter