My Son Got Into a Fight Trying to Be the Hero
I wasn't expecting to hear about a fight.
Yes, I have four sons who tangle on the floor every once in a while. They roll around and then get up and walk away like nothing ever happened. They ask each other, "You ok?"
"Ya! I'm fine," the hurt one will say with an easy grin and a carefully constructed giggle. "That doesn't hurt ME."
Oh tough guys. Soft, lovable, tender-tough.
I am your mommy, so I know the truth.
Number one son came home from school with a playground "fight" story in his back pocket. He had a subtle confidence about him. He looked older than 8 for a split second.
My husband had a look on his face and told me that we had to talk later... he had spoken to the teacher and it wasn't good news. "There was a fight," he tells me. There will be a discussion with the principal on Monday.
Other parents are in their living rooms right now with the same information. The word "fight" settling in. Easily defensive of their own sons, like I am mine. Who did this? Who started it? Was there bullying involved? I can imagine greeting other parents at the classroom door on Monday with an uneasy grin. My eyes will surely scan the classroom Monday morning, searching for the child that got my boy involved in this mess.
I shake off my helicopter wings.
I hug my sweet boy tight. I take a deep breath in so that I can remember what he smelled like when he was an infant. I won't be tempted to yell at him if he is still my baby, I tell myself.
"Tell me what happened, B. Start at the beginning." He didn't start at the beginning. He started with, "I was just trying to get this guy off of this other guy because it wasn't fair and then he ended up on top of me and we were fighting. It was no big deal mom. He didn't hurt me."
Oh I see.
"So, son. You were the hero rescuing someone from unfairness and ended up in a fight?" I can't help my face from turning tight, pale, and slightly quivering. He stared at me shifting back and forth between my eyes. I know what he was searching for. He wasn't finding it. Not a tender spot on my face. I wasn't his buddy. I wasn't his defender.
I am his mother, his guide, his value-meter, his judgement-checker, his conscience-builder.
A tiny drop of liquid started to pool in the inner corner of his eye. blink. drip. "I didn't know what to do, mom." The desperation for my sympathy was building but there would be no relief. It isn't as though I thought that he was automatically in the wrong or that his story was false. No, I trust my son. But, I want him to understand that he doesn't get to be the hero in a fight. He doesn't get to say that he didn't have a choice. He was not a victim of circumstances.
So I stared. I folded my arms and tilted my head looking deeper into his ever-widening eyes. I didn't say a word. I waited.
I finally spoke, to his relief. "When you saw what was happening, what were your choices?"
He took a deep breath, knowing what I was getting at. He and I had been here before. He is well practiced in reflection of his choices and the understanding that there isn't ever a point in time that our decisions aren't powerful. His face turned from desperate to thoughtful. His mouth opened but nothing came out... then a breath. He was no longer wrapped in self-pity, self-preservation, and the desperation of grabbing defenders to his side. There isn't a side. No side, no fight. "I could have gotten the Aide. Or I could have talked it out. I guess I could have not started playing the "warriors" game in the first place." His head dropped and he stared at the floor.
"Ok. Let's talk about this more later." I want him to sit with this perspective for a while. Moreover, I want to sit with this for a while, because honestly, I don't know what to say next. I am searching inside myself for some kind of motherly wisdom and I can't find any. I don't remember any of my parenting books with chapters on what to say when there is a fight-report from school.