Last week, my son (Ankle Biter) got into a fight at school. He’s only 8 years old and in the third grade, so it wasn’t a hardcore UFC-esque battle or anything…but still; this took his mother and I by surprise.
He’s normally a super-quiet kid, unless he’s with his friends. He’s friendly and outgoing. He’s a kid who would back down quickly from confrontation of any kind. I mean…this is a kid who is somebody I’ve never had to really worry about when it comes to acting up. So when the ex-wife called me on the phone to explain the situation, I was really surprised.
The fight at school was basically my son grabbing another kid by the head, throwing him down to the ground, and pinning him there. Apparently, there were some shoves and kicks, too…but nothing crazy. His mother asked him if he was angry at the boy and Ankle Biter said, “Yes”. When pushed further as to why he started a fight with him or why he was angry, he claimed to not remember.
And honestly, I don’t know what’s worse: the possibility that he’s covering for something else or the possibility that he can’t actually remember why he started the fight.
Not only that, but she caught him texting some very inappropriate messages to a friend of his. Stuff like “Fuck you” and “I’m gonna kick your ass”. To him, it was all a joke; to the kid on the other end, it was confusing; to his mom, it was completely unacceptable.
So now we’re both wondering what’s going on with him? Why would a (seemingly) perfect child begin acting up in this way?
I’ve only been in two fights in my entire life: once in high school (but that’s another blog post for another day) and once in elementary school. If I think back far enough, I’m pretty sure that the “fight” was really me just punching another boy on the side of the head and then running like hell before he hit me back. After a bit of a chase, the teachers stopped us and took us inside.
Is it just testosterone? Is it just a matter of “a boy being a boy”? Or is this part of a much larger issue?
The school made him sit in detention for the entire week and his mother grounded him (no television, iPod, laptop, or xBox for a full week), so he was punished. And really, this was the first time he’s ever been punished like this, so he wasn’t very happy about it. The hope is, obviously, this is a deterrent to him doing it again.
Apparently, he’s been extremely embarrassed about the whole situation. He BEGGED his mom to not tell me. He asked her to also not tell the babysitter who has looked after him since he was a toddler. He didn’t say why he didn’t want to tell me, but he definitely did not want me to find out.
Obviously, the communication between his mom and I is good. So even though she broke Ankle Biter’s trust by telling me, she knew that she could trust me to not say anything to him about it. In fact, I was hoping he would come clean and tell me during our FaceTime conversation on Thursday evening.
“So how was your week?”
“You weren’t around when I tried to call on Tuesday (i.e. the evening he got caught texting his friend those inappropriate messages).”
“Were you not around that night?”
I thought I would try one more time to see if he would give me something…
“So how was our week at school? Anything interesting happen at all?”
“Okay…so it was kind of a boring week, was it?”
Sunshine looked at me on the couch and we were thinking the same thing. It was sounding all too easy for him to just brush the whole thing off and/or lie about it. If I hadn’t been contacted by his mother, I wouldn’t have had any idea at all that anything was wrong.
I think that’s probably the most concerning thing right now. I’m sure there’s a very logical explanation as to why. He probably doesn’t want me to get mad or be disappointed in him. I can totally get that. I don’t get mad at him very often at all (we’re never together long enough for me to get angry at him for any reason) so he doesn’t want to change the status quo.
I had just hoped that our relationship was a little bit stronger than that. Maybe we don’t talk enough when we’re together. Maybe I need to open up to him a little bit more so that he can feel a bit more comfortable. Maybe being “fun dad” needs to take a back seat to “sensitive and caring dad” on our next weekend.
In the meantime, both his mother and I are taking steps to remove certain stimuli from his life (more about that tomorrow) that will hopefully calm him down a bit. We’re taking each day a step at a time and are really hoping this change was just a bump in the road.
I’ve got an incredible son who I’m proud of for a multitude of reasons. I just don’t want him to change too much as he gets older.