While I realize that there is nothing more tedious than listening to someone brag about his children, there are things you need to know about my son. First of all, as of this writing, he is 10 years old. Second, he is better than your son. (My daughter is also better than your daughter, but we’ll save that discussion for another time.) I mean no disrespect. I am merely stating the facts.
My son scored three goals in a single soccer game last season. In the December Mayor’s Race 5K Fun Run and Walk, of 250 entrants who paid to have their runs timed, he finished 29th overall, including the adults. And his achievements are not limited to athletics. He recently won a regional math competition. He did this with his brain. He has taken up the study of magic and can perform several card tricks that I can’t figure out. He is a serious threat in any backgammon tournament. He draws robots of surprising complexity.
So you need to ask yourself: do you want your son to play with my son? Do you want your boy to be forced to measure himself against my boy, with his many majestic gifts? I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with your kid. But just think it over carefully. What if I told you that if your son were to get out of line, my son might punch your son, hard?
Okay, so here’s the deal: the other day, my boy slugged a kid. Just dropped him. Of all my son’s accomplishments, I’m afraid I might be proudest of the punch. And just so we’re clear about what transpired, I asked my son to tell the story. These are his exact words:
“So what happened was, we were playing football outside, in front of Priam’s house, one of our friends from the neighborhood. [Note: I’ve changed the names to protect minors and to make use of what little I remember from having read the Iliad in high school.] And we were playing football. And, um, we were playing this game called the Kicking Game, where someone stands at one end of the yard and kicks the ball down to the other end, and everyone catches it and just tries to get past a certain checkpoint. [Questions: when did they change the name of Smear the Queer to the Kicking Game? Why mess with a well-established brand like that?]
“So we were playing that game, and one of our friends, Aeneas, starts messing with this other kid that was playing named Hector, who we’ve had problems with before. And Hector’s a first-grader, when we’re fifth-graders. Before, earlier, a week or two weeks before this, he pushed me. And he didn’t do any damage, but he pushed me. And I told Hector, ‘Don’t push me or hit me or any of that stuff.’ Hector said, ‘Like I’m so scared,’ and then he just walked off and went inside.
“And so we were playing the Kicking Game, and Aeneas was, like, taunting Hector with the ball, and Hector would try to dive after Aeneas and he would miss. So, um, Aeneas was riling him up and getting Hector all mad and stuff. So then Hector takes his anger out on me, and he slaps me in the face. And I’d already said, ‘Don’t mess with me.’ And he slaps me. So I punch him in the gut—and not that hard, but he goes down. And then Mom comes and picks me up, and she takes me away, and I haven’t had any problems with him since. And Hector hasn’t come out of his house since. So that’s what happened.”
Now then. That’s how my son tells the story. And I know, as much as I love the kid, that there are always two sides to every story. So I said to him, “Son, I am a trained journalist. I could go interview Hector right now—that is, if it’s not past his bedtime, since he’s a first-grader and stuff. Point is, if I asked Hector what happened, would he tell me a different story?” My son assured me Hector would not. So there you have it.
I think it’s because I’ve never punched anyone. That’s why I’m so proud of the boy. (And let’s not get bogged down with the detail that the kid was four years younger. Journalism has proved that Hector struck first. He’d been warned.) I’ve always been on the losing end of these sorts of exchanges. My fighting career began circa 1976, when I moved from a quiet enclave of Los Angeles to Old East Dallas. I was playing on the sidewalk in front of my house one day, and a boy I didn’t know walked up and asked where I lived. When I said I wasn’t supposed to tell strangers where I lived, he kicked me in the face.
My win-loss record has not improved with adulthood. Not all that long ago, at a rec-league basketball game, one of my friends held me from behind while another friend punched me in the jaw. I’m not making that up.
So I can’t help myself. Here’s this little version of me, and he’s negotiating life’s challenges with quick feet and a sharp mind. That’s my DNA at work (and maybe a little of his mother’s). But best of all, it turns out that he knows when to throw a punch. That gives me hope. Maybe I’ve still got a chance. Watch out, world. Next opening, I’m looking to unleash a haymaker.
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