Fighting – 29/31 #SOL20

When the boys were young, I was hypervigilant about fighting, about violence, as I was acutely conscious of the cultural association between violence and masculinity. I saw myself as a liberal parent with humanist political leanings and my boys were six years apart in age which meant fighting would take different forms because of this age and size differential. As a parent, I delayed video games, encouraged sports deemed less “aggressive” and had them making their beds, baking, crafting, and camping whenever possible; work with your hands to create goodness.

But the world crept in (or, I should say, I caved in) and by the time my third child arrived, my once ardent views flexed to breaking with the practical realities despite my apparently very porous hard-line logic. The forces of society and popular culture mowed over me like I was some inept rebellious weed trying to grow on a suburban front lawn. The oldest wanted to play football, so I relented, the youngest wanted to play video games, so I relented; all this operated erosively. The unravelling of my loosely knitted stance had seemingly untangled and I was yielding to the dominant narrative or, at least, to the pressure to please.

By the time the youngest was 12 years old, we had an arsenal of Nerf guns that filled an oversized plastic storage bin and foam bullets skulked in corners of nearly all rooms, along the baseboards, and between seat cushions. His friends hung out in our basement for Nerf Wars and epic battles spilled into the neighbouring yards, the forest across the street, and lingered into the evening on summer days.

At this same time, the oldest was playing football for his high school team and simultaneously a recreational team. He played five nights per week until suddenly he couldn’t; he was concussed. The brute force of the head-on-head hit abruptly halted what had become routine. Because he was a skilled athlete and also a pleaser, he’d been playing both offence and defence for his high school team. I knew his body was crumbling under the weight and let it. The coach visted our home the day it happened and I can still picture him standing there delivering the message with one leg on the lower step, body half-facing the street in a runner’s readying stance: head on hit, passed out, didn’t know where he was, and cried, he’s okay now. My knees buckled a bit while my heart played panic inside my chest. I fought with myself and that battle readiness resumed.

I didn’t sleep much last night as the previous days haunted me and Paul Gorski’s words from our Zoom meeting on “Avoiding Racial Detours” were still fresh in my ears, shame still discolouring my breath – I still wasn’t sure just why until my sub-conscience was forcing me to face this. Fighting is not my habit; pleasing is. So, when I awoke at 2:30am and thought to my self, “you are the dangerous White Liberal that he warns against”, I was deeply disturbed and wrestled with the sheets for hours. I faced that thought and decided to fight it. I told the pleaser to sit to the side in her comfy lawn chair while I stand in the discomfort even against myself and make a vow. Better to be the dangerous White rebel weed growing in the front lawn than to be mowed over by White supremacy. This is going to be a messy uncomfortable front-yard fight, but this is one worth enduring.

11 thoughts on “Fighting – 29/31 #SOL20

  1. I think often about MLK’s words about white moderates in his Letter from Birmingham Jail. Gave you read Ibram X Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist?

    In terms of football, my boys didn’t play. They didn’t want to. The youngest played soccer. The oldest wrestled one year and was in band. I NBC won’t complain if football disappears forever.

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  2. From this slice, phrases like “very porous hard-line logic” and “wrestled with the sheets for hours” reveal the internal as well as external fights in which you’re increasingly absorbed. The cliche is true: The struggle is real.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The forces of society and popular culture mowed over me like I was some inept rebellious weed trying to grow on a suburban front lawn is such a powerful line. Sticking to our ideals as parents and educators, not caving…is what I see is at the heart of your beautifully crafted moving piece. Thank you for generously letting us into your thinking. You are so reflective.

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  4. It’s a tough time for an internal struggle, butt what time would be good? We are moving forward in degrees and you’re more conscious today of your goals than you were yesterday.

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  5. Beautifully written. The struggle is real. I often joke that the next children’s book about the “civil rights movement” of our time will be adults in awkward conversations, not attempting to change laws, but attempting to excavate our own hearts. We are facing shape shifting forms of racism that seek to find that line where our conscience is most porous. Thanks for sharing!! I will be reading and sharing the link to the article you included.

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  6. I was the same way, but with TV. My children were only going to watch it on the weekend! And then only educational shows. And only for 1 hour TOPS. But that has never been our reality. I was also never going to be a person that didn’t stand up for others. But often I don’t. It’s hard! It draws attention to me in a way that I don’t like. It is a confrontation and I don’t like confrontation. But you are right – we can’t just stand up. That makes us complicit. I need to do better. I need to be more confrontational.

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  7. I hear you – I am that well-intentioned white liberal all too often & learning to fight that stance is hard. I love the way you reflect on how you caved to various societal expectations with your boys (oh, I have, too. In so many ways) and how you resolve not to do it this time. I love how you use the metaphor of the weed – this time you will stick out to make sure that everyone knows the front yard is a place for all types to flower.

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