I’ve never been in a fight. Not once in my life. Not as a five-year-old, not as a rowdy teenager, not even as a hockey player. I’m a lover, not a fighter – at least if those two are the only alternatives.
I can imagine that a couple of times I’ve been closer than I realized. Especially that one time when I happened to spit a guy, on other other team, of course, on his visor during a hockey game. At least he said he’d wait for me outside after the game, and that he’d beat me up.
Well, I didn’t see anybody as I ran to my car in the dark.
The other day, as I picked up Son, I noticed that he had something strange on his nose, and – to prove you what a naive guy I am – joked that I knew that he’d been eating chocolate ice cream that day. He looked at me strangely, and I realized that what I thought was ice cream on his nose, was, in fact, a bruise.
“What happened to your nose?” I asked?
“What?” he said, turned his back on me, and walked towards his jacket that was hanging on a hook close to his classroom.
“That thing on your nose, did somebody twist your nose?” I said.
“Yeah, well, Sven,” he said. [Sven may or may not be called Sven in real life].
And while I may not be much of a fighter, I’m not one that backs away from a conflict, either. Especially with an 8-year-old. Especially with an 8-year-old that’s twisted my son’s nose.
To make a long story short, I spoke with a teacher, and then watched her speak with the boy in question, nodded approvingly as “Sven” apologized to Son, and then walked away. And no, his Dad wasn’t waiting for us outside, and besides, I may be stronger than his Dad. You never know.
That one small problem out of the way, I then had to deal with what I considered the bigger one. One bruised nose, and one possibly bruised ego of an 8-year-old. I was once an 8-year-old boy, so I know that your Dad making your friends apologize to you may not be the fastest way to become a popular guy. And I did consider that before talking to the teacher, but I had to choose the lesser of two evils: possibly make Son a little less popular – he did win the student council vote in his class – and showing him that we’d just walk away from a conflict.
I chose to take it up again, but I also asked him if he thought that was a stupid thing to do.
“Well, we had already sort of talked about it,” he said.
“OK, fine, I just wanted to make sure that he knows that I know,” I said.
We walked across the schoolyard to pick up Daughter from pre-school. Neither one said a word for a while. I started to feel like a jerk, and I began to regret that I had gone to the teacher, like I was an 8-year-old again.
“But, you know, if somebody like him does something like that to you, you can just push them away, and show that it’s definitely not OK. You can defend yourself,” I said then.
“I know … but you know I don’t like violence,” he said.
And what was I to say anything to that. Except to tell him that he was right, and then add that I haven’t ever had a fight, either.
I’ve said it twice now, and I realize that technically, it may be a lie. I should rephrase it. I shouldn’t say that I’ve never been in a fight, but instead, that I’ve never fought in my life.
See, once, when I was an 8-year-old boy in Finland, walking home from school, I heard somebody yell my name. I turned around, and saw a third grader – I was a second grader – shout, asking me to wait for him. I sort of knew of him, he was known to be a tough guy, and he lived on our street, two apartment buildings down from ours. And I was a afraid of him.
“Wait up!” he yelled.
“Yes,” I shouted back, and walked ahead. But just a couple of steps, and very, very slowly.
When he caught up with me, he was furious.
“Why didn’t you wait for me? I yelled and asked you to wait up?” he said, and poked me in the chest.
“But, I did wait for you, you’re here now, I just took a few steps,” I said.
And then he beat me up, while I tried to just cover my face and push him away a little bit so that I could run home. He got the job done quicker than that, and he left me lying on the ground. When he had turned the next corner, I got up, and walked home, crying.
As luck would have it, I had forgot my key at home that day, and for some reason Dad had noticed it and had come home to let me in. I was sitting on the stairs just outside our door when he came, and saw me still crying there.
I told him what had happened, and knowing what I know now, I think he got angry. He may have gone look for the boy. And he told me that I shouldn’t let anybody do something like that to me.
“But you know I don’t like violence,” I said.
What do you say to that?