The following appears in the March edition of Chicago Parent.
Back when they were toddlers, my oldest two boys struggled with park rule breakers and preschool anarchists. Every time a child cut in front of them in line for the slide or pushed them off the swings, my sons would look at me expectantly:
TELL ‘EM MOMMY.
The problem was, I couldn’t. The little hooligans’ mothers were usually only steps away either ignoring the behavior or pretending it was fine.
But in the secrecy and safety of my home, I became the Godfather.
“You give ONE warning, and then you pop them in the nose. HARD.”
In case you missed it, I am vintage. The rules of the playground still count for a lot in my book.
The only problem? My boys never retaliated. It simply wasn’t their nature. They were scared to get in trouble despite my many assurances I had their backs when it came to bullies and scallywags.
Then came Joey. The youngest. The one I never thought was listening but who was actually absorbing every last word.
Joey clocked his first kid when he was two years old at a McDonald’s Play Place. The offender threw a ball at his head after Joey asked him to stop. I grabbed our Happy Meals and ran like hell.
When he was three, an older boy jokingly grabbed a stuffed animal out of Joey’s hands. Joey responded with a stiff uppercut and a blood-curdling scream of righteous indignation. I still fear for the long-term psychological damage to that child.
By four, Joey was the line minder at every amusement park, children’s museum, and birthday party he attended. Any kid who dared cut got an immediate dressing down along with a strong shove by Joey the Enforcer:
THERE’S A LINE YOU KNOW.
The crazy thing is, Joey is silly and good-natured. He is always happy. He loves everyone. He has no real animosity towards anyone.
Until he becomes Inigo Montoya:
You killed my father, prepare to die.
Having boys on both ends of the dove-hawk spectrum, I do not know which is better.
But I do know that nobody will ever cut in front of me so long Joey is around.