Monday, June 7, 2010

Making the Hard Decisions

As a parent there are a lot of things to worry about. You worry about things like: Should I really let my 2-year old play jump rope on the stairs... wrapped in bacon... where the lion likes to sleep? Or even... Why do my two youngest daughters like to run around the house with buckets on their heads (like the kid in Parenthood the 1989 movie)?  Both are very valid worries.  (Although, one is more realistic than the other.  I mean whose kids REALLY run around the house with a bucket on their heads? I mean, really?)  But one of my main worries is how I'm going to handle making the hard decisions.  The worry becomes increasingly difficult with the decision is not in black and white but in hundreds of shades of gray in between.
Why, yes.  This is a grayscale.

Another thing I have observed is that it seems like the older generation was better equipped to deal with tougher decisions.  I might be completely wrong with that assumption but I just don't ever remember seeing my parents or grandparents sweating and worrying over the tough stuff.  Maybe they did but they just hid it very well.  It all just makes me wonder how well I'm "hiding" my concerns when it comes to tough decisions that seem to have more gray than black or white.

Here is an example of one of those old school hard decisions that I'm talking about.  This is REALLY about a friend of mine... yeah... a friend.  But to keep the confusion down I'm going to tell the story as if it was about me.

AHEM... Anyway... 

This kinda looks like my Banana Seat Bike
I (he) grew up in the housing projects in a small town.  So basically we had the same crimes as the bigger projects in the bigger cites but on a smaller scale.  We didn't have murders but you would see a dead cat or two around the neighborhood.  There wasn't a lot of "burglaries." You would just look up and realize some of your stuff was missing, but you would find it later at someone else's house (and vice versa).  The reason I wouldn't call it burglaries is because people would sometimes just walk right up to your porch and take stuff.  I had my bike stolen one day and I walked outside just in time to see the kid taking it.  I chased him down and got my bike back.  I was able to catch him because he was trying to outrun me while carrying my bike.  And he, apparently, wasn't bright enough to think, "Hey, this kid is chasing me ON FOOT because I have... HIS BIKE!"  But I got my bike back and there were no hard feelings.  We were back playing together within the day.  It was all part of the Circle of Strife.
Remember These?  The bigger the better!

Our neighborhood wasn't known for its taste for the arts and theater.  We did, however, have a very healthy taste for music and dance.  After school you could always find a JAM-BOX in someones' window and a cardboard refrigerator box on the ground between the houses.  That's where you would find all of us break dancing (I could never get the windmill) to some Midnight Star or Egyptian Lover!

We didn't have "gangs."  I mean, we DID have a few groups of kids that said they were a gang.  They were really more likely to challenge you to a game of football or basketball than to challenge your life.  So I guess, by definition, they were considered gangs.  But gangs of what, I have no idea.  But the main thing I dealt with, though, was bullies.  It didn't help that back then I was a runt (people who see me now wouldn't believe it (6'3" - 190lbs)).  I was one of the smallest around the block.  So I had a healthy dose of teasing and I took a few beatings in my day.  But there was one beating in particular that I'm not sure most of my friends around the block knew about.  They might have known, but I'm sure I would have received irreparable mental scarring from the mental AND physical abuse HAD they known.

When I was in second grade I had a MAJOR bully problem.  This bully was huge!  I wish I could remember the bully's name but we were never formally introduced.  I'm not sure what I even did to gain the bully's attention or even to make the bully mad.  But whatever I did, I would have taken it back, given a formal AND written apology and I would have EVEN given up my lunch money.  But the bully didn't want ANY of that.  The only thing that would satisfy the bully's insatiable urge to pummel me was simply... to pummel me.

Did I mention The Bully had fangs?  Did I mention that The Bully could uproot trees and use them as weapons?  Did I mention that The Bully weighed 300 pounds... in second grade?!?!  (Now, I'm not sure of that LAST fact. I didn't even know The Bully prior to the beatings.  So The Bully could have been in the 3rd, 4th or 5th grade.  Who knows? But the 300 pounds part is ALL true.)  All I know is that I was in 2nd grade and this was a VERY scary moment in my life.  I was getting crunched by this supernatural creature and I didn't know where to turn. Did I also mention that The Bully was a GIRL.  And SHE had me running home every day.

Yeah... right.
I know that some of you (after you stop laughing) are thinking the old saying.  The saying that says that when they hit you they like you.  This girl must have wanted a prenup, a livelong commitment and a platinum emerald cut 3-stone diamond ring (GIA certified 2.00 ct center, 4.02 cttw, I-J color, VS1-2 Clarity (and $43,538 if you are asking)).  I really would like to dispute the hit-you/like-you theory.  The girl didn't like me.  She liked to BEAT me.  I'm just glad that speed was not one of her super powers.  Because it only took 3 beatings before I realized I could outrun her.  And THIS little piggy cried WEE WEE WEE all the way home! ...every day ...for at least a month.

My mother would ask me, every day, why I would run home from school. I couldn't hide it.  I was breathing like I ran a 100 meters being chased my Usain Bolt.  (Of course, that's not true because he would have been at my home before I got there.)  But I wouldn't tell her. I couldn't tell her.  How could I tell my mother is was getting run home by a bully in a cute little dress with daisies on it? I just couldn't bring myself to do it.

My mother let me go this way for a little while; then she found a way to get it out of me like only mothers can.  Maybe she threatened me with a little more than a timeout.  I'm not sure.  But that would a have worked.  I was scared of her (still am) more than I was scared of any bully.  I don't remember the conversation so it's possible I blacked out from just her threat. (I have intrigued myself on this one.  I will have to ask my mother tomorrow how she got me to tell her about this problem.  If you don't hear from me in a couple of days then I must have blacked out again from the mere mention of this traumatic experience.)

After finding out what was going on my mother did the right thing and had me tell the teacher. Of course.... nothing happened. I was still getting chased. So my mother took the next step.  She had a meeting with the teacher and the principal on the matter... Nothing happened. I was still getting chased. So my mother took the NEXT step. She met with the school and the “mean” girl’s mother. And with the officials in tow, the evil one's mother showed showed where her daughter learned to be a good Southern lady.  She told my mother that if “your son wasn’t such a ____ then this wouldn’t be a problem." (I edited that sentence because this blog it read by 8 people but at least one of them shouldn't hear language like that! You can mentally fill in the blank and I'm sure you'd be close!)

Here's where my mother made the hard decision.  I was in many fights growing up.  I lost most of them (remember... runt...hello?).  But I never lost them because I didn't fight back.  But I never hit this girl (if you can even call her that) back because my mother always told me to NEVER hit a girl.  BUT THIS DAY... my mother came home and told me that we are making an exception to the rule. She even told me how wrong this was and that it should never be done again. But she told me to hit that girl back one good time... right in the mouth.

So the next day, you know what I did? I walked home slowly.  And just like clockwork, the girl (I'm still having trouble calling her that) showed up for the normal chase.  But I didn't run.  She threatened me.  But I didn't move.  But she was a REAL bully so the threats weren't just threats.  She came over to fulfill the promise she had made to me that if I didn't run she was going to hit me.  She made true her promise and so did I.  I laid into her one good time... right in the mouth. BAM! And that was all it took.  I walked home that day and every day after that.

I will never say that hitting anyone is the answer.  I will never say that violence is the best way to handle any issue.  But I will say that one wrong thing for the right reason ended months of beatings and probably saved the soles of many a shoe for months more.  My mother had exhausted all of the black and white answers.  In the end, she had to settle on a gray one.  And I personally think I'm a better man for it.  But I still question that when the time comes, will I be able to make the hard decision. (Or will I just defer it to my wife?)

Click Here to read my next Blog: Crime Doesn't Pay (But will occasionally leave the tip)

Thank you for reading about my FRIEND'S childhood trauma.  If you would like to read more stories by Dad Bloggers make sure you visit Also join us in celebrating Fatherhood Friday