Eli Manning, Alexander and Parenting

08.16.10

Today Alexander went to camp. It’s not the camp he attends for the bulk of the summer. It’s one of those educational type camps, where the kids are learning all year long. It’s the kind of camp that’s perfect for a week, but would grow tiresome after two; a kid’s gotta move after all.

Alexander went for his first day, and we carpooled with a friend. We didn’t carpool because of traffic or work schedules, we carpooled because it’s really nice to walk into a new environment with a friend. I dropped Alexander and his friend off at camp, and returned at 3.30 to pick him up. When I signed him out the counselor had a slip of paper for me. Apparently during water play someone had grabbed Alexander by the shoulder repeatedly and Alexander had received an ice pack. I thanked the counselor for letting me know, and walked my son to the car.

While we were walking I asked Alexander about his day. It was a good one, and there was a lot of great stuff to talk about. Next I asked him about the shoulder grabbing incident. I asked him why he needed ice, a punch to the shoulder couldn’t hurt that much.

“He grabbed me by the shoulder a lot of times.” My son said, “it hurt.”

I looked down and to the right where my boy was matching me stride for stride, “Then why don’t you just punch him? Punch him hard, and punch him once. Don’t get caught and he won’t grab you again.”

My boy looked at me with disbelief. His eyes said a thousand words, but his mouth said nothing.

As I’m sitting here writing Mr. G. and the kids are watching replays of Eli Manning’s injury. Jane and Alexander are marveling that Manning didn’t cry. I, on the other hand, wonder how his mother feels. I know it was an accident, but I bet she wants to beat the shit outta the guy who hurt her son.

My Kids Never Hit First But They Always Hit Hardest

04.20.09

I’m a pragmatic woman, and that’s translated into my parenting. My son is seven and my daughter is ten. In ten years of parenting I have not uttered the words “don’t hit”. In our family the mantra is “don’t hit first”. If you hit hardest, it’s entirely likely I’ll take you out for ice cream. Why? Safety.

My son Alexander is a red head, not just any old red either. Alexander’s hair is an incredibly rich shade of deep red that doesn’t quite shift into auburn. Alexander started wearing glasses when he was four months old, and as wisps of pinkish red hair sprouted from his head people started touching him. At first he would cry, and the old ladies would retract their hands apologetically. After a time, Alexander became accustomed to the world touching him.

As I would push my double stroller down the street people were rubbing my son’s head, and my daughter who is three years older was watching. We taught both children to say, “don’t touch me”. At first Jane, who was just older than three would try out her new found power with her Grandparents. “Don’t touch me!” she would declare. My parents would honor her requests and dutifully release her from an embrace. It would only be a matter of seconds before she would return for a snuggle.

Our family taught our daughter that her body belonged to her, and she never failed to tell folks, “don’t touch my brother”. To the casual observer it might have appeared that we were in the process of raising two terribly rude little children. To my husband and I, it was a parenting success. We would deal with nuance when the kids were older. We are duty bound to empower our children.

When Jane attended Kindergarten there was a lot of pushing. I told her to not let the boys push her, but I didn’t know exactly how that would happen. “Just don’t let them” I would say. At some point, Dad just needed to step in. I held my tongue and my heart skipped a few beats while I watched my husband show my wisp of a girl how to throw a punch. I knew that if she ever dared punch someone it would only hurt her knuckles. I also knew that my husband had some pretty strong feelings about how his children were going to be raised, so I watched and waited. The kindergarten teacher regained control of her unruly lunch lines, and Jane never needed to punch anyone.

Until third grade.

Jane punched a boy. She slugged him hard, many times over and exactly as my husband had taught her. Jane’s school called us to let us know that she’d been caught slugging a kid, they sent an email admonishing her and with a wink and a nod they also reminded us that every little girl should have a strong right hook.

You see, Jane didn’t just hit a boy. Jane hit back. I’ve taught both of my children that their bodies are their own. Although the schools tell them that there is a zero tolerance for striking a peer, I’ve told both of my kids that I will always be on their sides. I will always defend my children in their right, their need to defend themselves. We’re not raising bullies in this house, but we can’t raise doormats either.

For the most part the kids don’t worry much about being bullied. They go to a tiny school and they have a spectacular peer group. Still, I rest easy knowing that my kids have boundaries. Jane will date one day, and I don’t want her to be worried about anyone’s feelings. I want her to worry only about herself, and her body. We need Jane empowered. We need Alexander secure.

So yeah, when my kids hit back, I reward them.
But only when they hit really hard.