Garage Battle Royale
The other day we picked up our kids from the gym daycare. They were there for a few hours for a special "parent's day out" thing. Our six year old was crying that when he showed up he wasn't sure where to go. Apparently he just cried and someone eventually guided him to where he needed to be. He's been crying a lot about kids at school not including him in things. Not so much "excluding", more like he has a hard time inserting himself into groups. I empathize with the kid. That's how I was. It's hard not to feel his loneliness. I gave him a few ideas on ways to start conversations with other kids and make connections - ask what street they live on, what they did over the weekend or just tell them something about yourself and see what happens. I know it's advice I'd have trouble with, but it's the best I can do.
Or is it? On the way home he kept pouting. My wife brought up the times he's come home crying saying no one would play with him. She told him he needs to start being more assertive. I know that's something I struggled with as a kid and even into adulthood. I know how much misery "going with the flow" can lead to. It's easy to get walked on, lost in the shuffle and awash with the wrong people when you can't stand your ground. I also know that it could lead to not having the courage to enjoy the things you want to enjoy and suffering through shit you'd rather not. I told him that when we got home we were going to go into the garage for a surprise. I told my wife I'd help her with the stuff she needed later. I think she already knew where I was going with this. The garage was a little drafty but soon we wouldn't notice. I told him to get his gloves on. Last year for Christmas they both got a pair of blue boxing gloves. He got excited and started floating like a butterfly, waiting to sting dad like a bee.
I planned on showing him how to throw a jab and a cross on the punching bag. He wanted to box. I figured his plan was better than mine and started throwing punches (softly, of course!) at his gloves. He chased me around, laughing and swinging.
Mom checked in on us through the screen door. His four year old brother came out with us, quickly found a single boxing glove and jumped into the fray. I don't think we'll ever have to worry about him being too docile. I've only recently started to appreciate his energy and occasional obstinance as something positive.
His brother was running in a circle, as he tends to do when he gets excited. Henry was still throwing punches and receiving them in kind. They were both laughing but grunting and growling at the same time. Something about this kind of play was really striking a chord with them. Some of their punches kinda hurt. They weren't holding much back. Occasionally I'd act like I was knocked down and they'd jump on me and keep hitting. The dog came out and would lick my face whenever I'd go down. It was nice to have all the boys involved. This went on for about twenty minutes. To add an educational point to the end I told him that if he knew how to stand his ground and deal with confrontation he would have less of it in his life. If he were strong and confident enough, he wouldn't feel timid and awash in new situations. I told him I knew that from my own experiences of being like he is now. We probably all could use more garage punch-outs. It would be good for all of us.