There’s an episode of The Simpsons where little Maggie gets hold of a nail gun, and pins Homer’s ears to the living room wall. The cause of this appalling behavior is revealed to be cartoon violence.
Poppycock. Homer has no one to blame but himself. I once wrote that ‘the relationship between [a father and son] is based upon doing stupid things’. Only now am I realizing the consequences of that revelation.
Of course, stupid things usually involve some degree of bodily harm – where’s the fun without the risk? Sometimes, bodily harm is the fun; how else can one explain the popularity of noogies? And while Ian has discovered plenty of stupid things on his own, I freely admit that the lion’s share of his stupidity is most likely my fault.
For example, I certainly didn’t teach him to vacuum the carpet with his head, or to see how many times he could poke the cat’s stomach without losing his face. But hitting…yeah, that’s probably me.
Ian’s always been fairly strong. Let me clarify: Ian has always been stronger than I think he should be. It’s easy to underestimate the power of a 13-month-old’s forehead, and accidental injuries were common during the first two years of Ian’s life. Ian’s fists were fast and furious, and his head was big and heavy. It’s a credit to Kelly’s patience that she was able to maintain a calm and soothing voice in the midst of such blinding pain.
Why I didn’t take this into consideration while I taught him to hit things with other things, I’ll never know.
As I said, these previous injuries were ‘accidental’; the consequence of our son’s burgeoning nervous system and our poor reflexes. Our bruises were badges of honor, proudly earned as we watched Ian learn to roll, crawl, and plant his feet in the most uncomfortable of places.
But now, Ian knows that he’s moving his arms and legs, even if they don’t always reach their intended target. He has a rudimentary understanding of physics, whereby one physical object cannot pass through another. And, thanks to me, Ian knows that this little quirk of science can result in a lot of fun.
So, should I have been surprised when he broke the plastic golf club over my head? Probably not. I mean, we’ve hit each other with a lot of things, and quite often in the head. But – and here’s the difference – with no intention of causing any significant pain.
Not that Ian had any intention of hurting me; that’s not his style. However, though Ian has learned to throw some pretty good punches, he’s yet to learn how to pull them. He simply doesn’t know his own strength, and learning that is going to be a painful process.
Of course I realized this as I lay huddled on the floor, cradling my head. I also realized that strength, by itself, isn’t so bad. What really shocked me was the accuracy with which my son broke his plastic golf club over my head. He did it in such a way as to cause the maximum amount of pain with minium damage; there was no lump, no goose-egg, and yet my scalp is still tender.
Yes, I overreacted. Yes, I got upset. And after I’d made it abundantly clear to Ian how much he’d hurt Daddy, Ian got his revenge by giving me the sweetest, most gentle and tender hug.
So, until Ian learns to control the beast within, I’ll need to learn to control my patience – and to catch flies with chopsticks. I’ve toyed with the idea of the two of us taking karate lessons together in the future. Maybe I should get a head-start.