Yesterday, as part of this summer's Bachelor Camp, a martial-arts black belt came and taught a self-defense class in our back yard.
It was fun, because the Sensei was our son-in-law Roger, and he's a natural teacher. It was intense, because he took it very seriously and so did the kids - also because it was hot and they worked out for a long time.
It was also kind of scary.
Face it: Nobody wants to think about their child needing to know what to do if an attacker comes at him with a knife, or if he's caught in the middle of a gang fight. When we're in the midst of pink-and-blue teddy bear daydreams, we vow to nestle our children under our protective wings and keep them from harm all their days.
Sadly, that's not the way it works.
Lance and Arthur and I have had all sorts of talks with our kids about fighting and defending themselves. We say the usual things: Don't be afraid to make a scene, don't start a fight unless you're prepared to follow it through, if you have to fight - fight to win, and the perennial favorite “if you can walk away from the situation, you have handled it correctly.” These are all true, as far as they go, and passing knowledge and tips like this along to your kids can give you a fuzzy feeling of accomplishment.
They need more than platitudes.
Even if you live on a desert island and home-school, your child will not always be where you can protect him. He will go to the store, he will go to camp, he will grow up and move away eventually. He wants to know – and you WANT him to know – how to handle himself. Two of our kids were mugged at gunpoint when they were 14, at a bus stop 3 blocks from Arthur's house. Our daughters have been followed, propositioned and approached in unwelcome ways. Just last Friday, the family was at Movies in the Park and a drugged-up ex-soldier tried to start a fight with Rocky while he was escorting Sassy to the bathroom. So far, thanks to a combination of careful advance planning, instruction and a heaping scoop of luck, they've all walked away from their encounters.
The party line in public schools nowadays is that fighting is NEVER appropriate. While I understand the concept – particularly in these times when even a preschooler could be packing heat – I disagree. Sometimes fighting back is the only thing to do. I don't want to teach my sons to roll over and show their bellies any time they're approached by a bully or a thief. I don't want to teach my daughters to submit quietly to rape because it's not ladylike to cause a fuss. I don't want my kids to start fights – but I do want them to know how to finish one.
Teach your children to take care of themselves physically as well as emotionally. Sign them up for a martial arts class, boxing lessons or a self-defense seminar. Our job is parents is to help our children learn everything they'll need to know to make it as adults . . .
even the things we wish they didn't know.