When I was really young, I didn’t understand why my dad wanted me to be able to fight. I liked it so why question it. It took me decades to understand it was his relationship with his step dad that spawned it. Just like my relationship with my dad has carved me, it did the same to him in other ways. ┬áDad’s fighting philosophy was simple:

1. “Its not about how big you are. If hes a mountain climb up him and hit him in the mouth. Its about how big your balls are.” I am mostly introverted so this was one I heard a lot.

2. “Soon as the guy starts talking crap hit him in the mouth. Its going to hurt like hell, but its worth it to shut him up and break his teeth in.” He really liked hitting people in the mouth despite the challenge of digging a tooth out of your fist. Kind of sums up a lot about dad. Self preservation was never high on his list.

3. “There aren’t any rules in fighting, if someone is dumb enough to try to hurt you or someone you care about they get what they get. Start with punching them in the mouth, then break their knee. No one is a tough guy choking on teeth and hobbling around.” Dad was not kidding about this, sending an 8 year old hobbling around on his knee was a learning lesson apparently.

4. “Don’t start the fight but make sure you end it. Even if you have to come back with a stick, if that doesn’t work come back with a bigger stick.” True story, my dad once paid my brother $20.00 to keep getting a bigger stick until he dealt with a bully form down the street. At the end of the day the bully left Stevie alone, but it took 3 different sticks.

To sum it up Dad always worried I wouldn’t stick up for myself. On most days he’s right. He worried for years watching my sensitivity land me in the clutches of bullies over and over again. I do not think he ever once realized that the reason I was like that was that he was so tough, that I thought very firmly that I could never be as tough as he was. That I could never be as strong as him, because I knew he thought I was weak. I was wrong on every aspect of that, but by the time I understood it I was no longer a child. Dad had a ton of respect for me, He just thought that if he showed it I wouldn’t be tough enough. He was obsessed sometimes with making me tougher, in a quest to avoid what he went through.

Later on I began to learn to fight from others, and I realized a few things. When it comes to fighting most of what my dad said is right. He however did not due enough to avoid the conflict. Also that he never took enough steps to minimize damage to himself. You can not win a fight if you are too bedraggled from the last one, that you never should have fought in the first place. I love my dad, some of the things he did made me a survivor who was able to walk away form some horrid situations, but some of them made me weak enough to get into the fight in the first place. Remember when you are working with your kids, or your nephews or what ever, how you feel about them needs to be said and why. Don’t just be tough to make them tough, instead you could inadvertently teach them they are weaker than you. Its not only incorrect, because if you are a good father your kids will be more than you, but it can take years to undo the damage you are specifically trying to avoid.

James and Camille if you ever read this, and think that I did it, which I am sure I have to at least a small degree. Please feel free to find my aging self and kick me in the behind for not realizing it sooner.

Angry but learning…