Yesterday morning, I got punched in the balls.
It was Ben. On my way out the door I went in for my ration of morning hugs from the boys. Isaac is easy; even at six, I think he’d be happiest if we were fused together. Elijah, too – though I did have to pry him away from his art project. But Ben is a slippery little guy. He has endless hugs for his mom, but he rations them for me. So instead of a hug, I got a punch in the balls with a laughter chaser.
This is a universal experience for fathers of sons. If you have sons, they will mercilessly zero in on your privates with intentional and relentless fury. I’m sure it’s somewhere in Proverbs: “One person pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth; but both will be punched in the balls by their sons.”
When you have gotten punched in the balls, there is no remedy other than time, but there is a universal reaction:
- Your hands immediately move to protect the vulnerable area from further assault.
- Your face contorts into a grimace of pain as your head drops back.
- Your eyes close and your mouth curses.
- Your hands move to your hips and your knees slightly bend; if it’s really intense, you drop down all the way down to the floor, head in your arms and knees drawn in, the ultimate posture of defeat.
- When it becomes possible, you briskly walk around, as if doing so lessens the pain, only to find that it deepens before it abates.
The good news is that Ben is four, and the pain didn’t last. As I was leaving, Mary took Ben into her arms and began explaining why it’s a bad idea to punch daddy in the balls.
“Benny, when you get older, you’ll realize that your balls become very sensitive, and it hurts really bad when someone hits you there. And that’s why it’s important not to use your hands for hitting.”
I was laughing as I pulled out of the driveway. As a parent, there are a million conversations like this you find yourself having with your kids.
“And that’s why it’s important to NEVER put a plastic bead in your nose.”
“And that’s why we don’t fart out loud at school.”
“And that’s why we wear clothes when we leave the house.”
Here’s what I want to say: Be careful with your loved ones. Because you know them so well, you know their vulnerable places. You know exactly what to say that would drop them to their knees, and sometimes you’re angry enough to say it. You know how to shut them out, punish them, and make them pay.
Don’t do it. It never helps; it never makes you feel better. It only escalates the violence.
And that’s why it’s important to stop yourself before you let the real missiles fly.
And that’s why you talk about the issues before they become inevitable explosions.
And that’s why you apologize when you have gone too far. Don’t justify yourself, simply say that you realize you hurt them and that you’re deeply sorry.
Because sometimes, we’ll lose it. Sometimes, we’ll say it. Sometimes, we’re so angry and hurt that we don’t feel like we can stop ourselves.
Let’s be kind to our loved ones. Let’s protect their vulnerable places instead of exposing them to more pain. And let’s apologize when we fail to do so.
We can do this.