Identify the last three actions for which you did not think your way through.
I don’t have a temper. I am Norwegian, I am calmness personified. Except when my son has a crush on a girl.
There’s a girl at capoeira who really likes my oldest son, and he really likes her. But they are six years old, they haven’t got the words to express their feelings and they probably don’t even understand the feeling in the first place. So instead of talking, instead of holding hands, instead of being friends, they fight.
I sat with my son in my lap. The girl tickled him. He pulled her hair. She tickled harder. He pulled harder. She hit him. He hit her.
I told them to stop. They didn’t.
Laughter turned to tears turned to laughter quicker than one would have thought possible. Sometimes, they complained, laughed, cried, smiled all at once. I pushed them apart. Not too hard, but gently, my arm between them, so they couldn’t reach other.
Afterwards, my son wanted to show me his handstand. As he came down, She, The Girl, walked past and as he fell down, his feet kicked her in her chest. He didn’t mean to. Neither did she. But can you imagine the feelings you get when the boy of your dreams tries to kick you in the face.
She got furious. I could see the hatred in her face. She kicked him back, she hit him as hard as as he could, she pulled his hair and did everything she could to vent her anger.
He fought back with the same mix of happiness, anger, sadness, laughter — and above all a kind of emotional confusion.
I told him to stop once. I told him twice. I told her once. I told them both once more. And once more. And once more. But then I snapped.
I pulled them physically apart (it was difficult, there is a lot of strength in a furious six-year-old). I grabbed hold of my son, lifted him up and carried him over my shoulder like a log. He complained, he tried to hit me, but I just held him tight and said something along the lines of “I’ve had enough of this, when I say you should stop, you stop!”
Afterwards my youngest son tried to get out the door without shoes or jacket. My oldest son went after him and physically pushed him back to his shoes, back to where I was standing and calling him. Afterwards, I saw myself in my oldest son, pushing and shoving a much younger person to get my will.
Afterwards I started thinking.
You see, I have done this kind of thing before. Once, as a teacher, I pulled a pupil halfway over my desk — not because he had done anything extraordinary, but because he was a constant nuisance and I had a bad day and was fed up. Once a six-year-old friend of my son hit me, for no reason, as hard as he could in the stomach (to explore his strength, I suppose, or to behave like a ninja turtle) — I went after him, pulled him close to me, held my face close to his, and whispered threateningly “Don’t do that again!”.
I don’t like aggression. I don’t like to fight. I don’t like quarreling or not being friends, and usually, I react too little to slights and injustices. But sometimes, once or twice in a blue moon, I snap. I get really angry (by my standards). I do things I don’t want to do. And it’s one thing when I do it at grown-ups, or at IKEA manuals — but when I do it at kids?
I shouldn’t. I am the adult, I shouldn’t let my anger get the better of me, no matter how obnoxious or annoying or quasi threatening a kid can be. Yes, sometimes kids need to be put right. And sometimes they need to hear what they do wrong, and why it’s wrong.
But no, they don’t need a parent, or a grown-up role model, who behaves like I occasionally have done.
When my oldest son pushed my youngest son back to his shoes, I got mad at him. Don’t push you brother like that, I said, just talk to him!
So, my oldest son replied, I should rather carry him against is will, like you did to me?
I didn’t have a reply. And now, a day after, I can only think of one thing I should have said: No, I did the wrong thing. I am sorry.
I’ll think things through better next time.