“You can make any choice you want if you are willing to accept the consequences that come with it.”
“Aim directly under the center of the rib cage. This is called the diaphragm and it is the muscle that controls how the lungs take in air. If you hit this spot at the beginning of the fight he won’t be able to breathe for a few minutes and you taking him out will be easy.” I was 13.
Let me tell you a story about the day I met my mother…
Don’t get me wrong, she raised me since I was a baby. She gave me hugs, kissed my boo-boos and took those little pigs in blankets to school for our Christmas and Valentine Day parties. She was a great mom. I hope a lot of little kids have moms like that, but then you grow up. You meet the real person. You meet the person behind the smile. For some, that is a day when you realize that your parents aren’t perfect and that they have flaws. For me it was the day I realized that within my mother there was this viscous animal monster with both a tactical and strategic mindset for violence.
I need to back up a bit more.
When I was in the seventh grade I was bullied, a lot. I lived in a small town and when you get ostracized there is little getting away from it. It felt like the whole school was in on it. I’m not exaggerating to say that I literally felt completely alone, worse I felt like every time I turned, someone wanted to take their shot. My friends completely abandoned me, afraid that they would catch loser, and I felt totally lost. It was probably one of the worst long term periods of my life. That lasted for about five months. Then people got tired of it. People didn’t really make fun of me, but I didn’t have any friends either.
Except this kid Andy. He was in the grade above me and ran with the popular 8th graders. It seemed he couldn’t go a day without trying to create some mental damage on me. Andy made songs that they would all sing, talk about me where they knew I could hear, pick on me in every available opportunity. I hated him. I loathed him. I hated my life.
This went on until the end of the year. One day Mom was driving me home. It was about four days until the last day of school. She saw me looking incredibly down. It had been a very hard day. She said to me.
“OK. You’re going to tell me what is going on. I see you like this for months and you never tell me what is going on. What is happening with you?”
I told her everything. I told them what they were saying, how my friends had started the rumors to get me to look stupid, how it blew up from there, the songs, the names, and especially about Andy. I remember starting to choke up as I looked off out the window of the car.
A minute or so passed.
“Jon, tomorrow when you go to school I want you to go up to this Andy and…”
I anticipated a dozen things that she might say in that second. “Ask him why he is picking on me” or “You’re hurting my feelings so please stop” or “If you keep doing this I will tell”. These were all stupid and I couldn’t believe that my Mom would have thought that would do anything. They were stupid, but that wasn’t what she was going to say.
“Jon, tomorrow when you go school I want you to go up to this Andy and I want you to kick his ass.”
I just looked at her, completely shocked. This was not the woman I had known for the last 13 years of my life; the woman who sang me to sleep and took me to Church and raised me to always do what’s right. This was a scary woman, kind of like a bear with her cubs. This I will always remember as the moment I met my mother.
That afternoon we talked about things. She asked me why I put up with it. The funny thing was that I could probably have fought him and done well enough at any time before that. Surprised? I had been in martial arts for several years. I competed and had placed first in the State in sparring two years in a row. Two years after this I received my black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Fighting wasn’t really the problem, it was not fighting. As miserable as I was I had one rule to follow. Since knowing how to fight gave me a certain advantage my mom also gave me a very important rule.
Never throw the first punch. If someone else attacks you, give it back to them, but I better never throw the first punch. However scared I was of Andy came nowhere near how afraid I could be of my mom. The tragic irony in all this was that the rule was intended to keep me from becoming a bully.
So now is when she gave me the most important lesson of my life. She told me that I needed to make a choice. I could fight Andy. I should definitely get in trouble for it, since I was basically starting the whole thing and I would spend the last four days of school in ISS. ISS was in school suspension and where the “bad” kids went. She also told me that if I got into trouble at school she would have to follow her rule that she would double the punishment and I would be grounded. She also explained that if I did fight him I would gain his respect and the respect of everyone who saw it, and that they would probably not pick on me anymore. This was the first time that I ever contemplated that doing something traditionally thought to be wrong, would be right and that it may be necessary to make a sacrifice for something more important. The day I met my mother was the day she taught me how make a choice, a real adult choice.
I decided I would fight.
Of course she had made her opinion pretty clear when she gave me the anatomy lesson on how to both cause the most debilitating damage and pain to my victim. Did I mention she is a nurse? Yeah all that healing knowledge of the human body can be a dangerous thing when you mess with her kid I suppose. It was nice to know that even though I would have to be grounded, I had her support… and training.
The next day I planned it all out, set up the location, and everything went completely to plan. We fought. It was a good feeling. Every punch that landed felt gaining my life back. I didn’t even feel his punches. I fought well. And everyone saw it. They saw the chubby nerd they had made fun of, viciously attack a kid a year older, six inches taller, 50 pounds bigger who had it coming.
No one made fun of me about that ever again.
What mom taught me that day and the events that transpired shaped the rest of my life.
- I learned how to make up my own mind and weigh the consequences with the rewards. I learned that real men accept that there are consequences and rewards to every choice. I can’t just do what people expect; sometimes I have to make the hard choice. I have to make sacrifices and that sometimes that is the only way to gain any real success. She left me with the very clear lesson that I could make absolutely any choice so long as I was willing to accept the consequences.
- She taught me that sometimes you have to fight to protect yourself. You can’t do the right thing all the time. It won’t get you anywhere, besides miserable.
- She taught me the importance of strategic and political planning. I waited all day to fight him in the one spot where we were the farthest from any adults who would break us up, where we were surrounded by the other boys and I could fight until I decided it was over. From there I just delivered a message [not sure if this is what you intended?] to Andy and to everyone else.
- She taught me some seriously scary stuff about hurting people if you have to. Seriously, I outweigh her by a good 150 pounds, stand a foot taller, have military and martial arts training and I don’t ever want to piss her off.
Because of these lessons I grew up with pride. I would easily say this was the most formative day of my childhood, and probably the most formative of my life. I was respected after that by other members of the school and I didn’t get picked on much more than anyone else. It gave me courage to stand up to things that I was afraid of. It influenced why I joined the Marines and how I treat others.
I grew up without a father so many men like me never receive these lessons as they should, but I did. I did because I had a mom who knew what it took to make a boy into a man. She said the things that most people wouldn’t, because they are weak. She wasn’t, and because she was strong, now I am, too. I am very thankful that I was fortunate enough to have a mother who could give me the lessons she did.