If I could achieve just one thing as a parent, (one thing would be nice), it would be to pass on the messages of peace and non-violence of heroes like Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. They fearlessly preached non violence in the face of terrible oppression. Unlike these heroes, my own profound aversion to violence arises not from heroism, but from a profound physical cowardice. I really, really, really, do not want to be punched.
“Punch!” My son yells as he careers around, arm outstretched, hand clenched into a fist. He is in love with the idea of punching. Specifically, punching me. But it’s deeper than that. He doesn’t just want to punch me. He wants to be a punch. He is a punch personified. He has become one with the punch. “Puuuuunch!”
I turn as he charges, try to explain to him yet again why punching is not necessarily a good thing. “Puuuuuuunch!” He bellows.
At the age of four and three quarters, with his arm angled slightly upward, where he hits me, every time, is exactly in the gentleman jewels. This is not so much intentional on his part as pre-ordained by nature.
With a sound escaping me that is not dissimilar to the call of an asthmatic howler monkey, I double over. “Son.” I finally manage to gasp.
“Punch?” He asks, grinning.
“No.” I hiss. “No punch.”
The truly frightening thing is that he isn’t even the the most violent of my children. They seem to spend at least half of their time trying to kill each other, like one long, angry and particularly merciless WWF showdown. Lord only knows how school will cope with these dangerous thugs. I have completely failed, and I’m their parent. If all my intelligence, wisdom and tenacity has failed, what chance has school got?
“What are they doing?” I whisper to my wife. We stand and watch our children, open mouthed.
“It’s Yoga.” My wife whispers back. “They’re meditating.”
My children are sitting cross legged on the floor, raised hands forming thumb and forefinger circles, eyes closed, faces beatific. My mind falters. It’s like discovering your dog playing Rachmaninov’s third piano concerto.
Sensing I’m struggling, my wife adds, “I think they learnt it at school.”
Wow, school. Just… wow.