It was the sweetest right cross ever. Pow! Right on the nose, and slap bang square between the eyes.
Let me first clarify, it was an accident. Actually it was an accident waiting to happen. We’d had our fair share of bruises and one or two black eyes before. Rather I had, because while I always pulled my punches, Ryan had free reign to let his 12 ounce gloved hands fly loose.
In case you hadn’t figured it out yet, and were wondering how such a monster had the audacity to write a parenting blog, don’t worry it was fully consensual as we were sparring.
On this occasion I was teaching him how to box. At 14, the kid had lightning quick hands and a ferocious bravery, so when I say it was all I could do to give him the experience of landing a punch while keeping my own nose intact, you’ll get the picture.
As a dad, teaching my son how to defend himself has been an absolute privilege. It’s been a journey that’s taken him to black belt and beyond, to China and back, and far beyond my own capabilities.
What always impressed me the most was his distaste for violence. You see I’ve always held the belief that violence has to be a last resort dictated by the actions of others, so together we delved into the psychology of aggression and the motivations that provide the catalyst.
In this day and age it’s important that kids not only learn how to defend themselves, but more importantly understand how to avoid danger and defuse an escalating situation. It only takes one fight they could’ve walked away from to result in either party sustaining a fatal blow which then destroys both lives.
This is a message we must tell our kids. I hesitate to prioritise our sons here, but the statistics do speak for themselves.
But back to the story, and as we were about to wrap up I decided to end with one final flurry to test what he’d learned from the session. I pushed forward throwing a flurry of punches from different angles which caused him to back away and cover up.
He sought to change levels and make distance but he was now up against the wall with nowhere to go. Having dropped his left hand I saw an opening and threw a fast right cross into the gap. Intending for my glove to find nothing but air, I was horrified when he suddenly went on the offensive and snapped his head towards me as he coiled to unleash his trademark hay-maker.
It was one of those moments where everything happens in slow motion, yet physically there’s nothing you can do to stop what’s about to transpire. I hadn’t thrown the heaviest of punches, but the speed of the shot, coupled with his sudden turn, meant that he walked straight onto it.
It obviously shook him, but this boy doesn’t react by shying away. His expression darkened and I could see that temper ignited, he was about to start swinging for the fences. Now I didn’t want to be on the receiving end of that, and equally I didn’t want him hurting his hand which tends to happen when one throws indiscriminately.
The safest option I had was to rush in and scoop him up in a bear hug until he could settle down. Then it hit me. No not a punch this time, but guilt. Oh how it washed over me, and I was devastated. I sat him down against the wall and all I could do was apologise and plead for forgiveness.
His nose was bleeding, and his eyes were soaked from the shock of the blow. Thankfully his nose wasn’t broken, but he’d have at least one black eye for sure.
Now I know that there’s always a risk of injury when you’re sparring. Goodness knows I’ve been hurt enough myself, and seen Ryan take his fair share of hits. But not from me! I just can’t do it.
By now we’d moved into the house, and after I’d sat him on the floor waiting for his senses to fully restore, I suddenly realised that I was in floods of tears. Actually, devastated doesn’t even come close to describing how I felt, and it must have been at least 15 minutes before I was able to stop hugging him and apologising.
I think it was the depth of my emotion that struck him the hardest, because suddenly we were both in tears, before bursting into laughter. “Will I have a black eye dad?” he asked. “OH yes son, it’s gonna be a belter?” “Cool.” he said. Seeing my confusion he explained “I’ve just taken a punch from an adult, and it didn’t put me down.”
I instantly knew what he meant, as would anyone who’s survived a sparring session that went a bit too far. His black eye would be his badge of honour, and he was happy to wear it for a couple of days.
I was always proud of my boy. He had nothing to prove to me. But I was absolutely bursting with pride after this. As for him, seeing that display of emotion from his dad had illustrated what he always knew, yet cemented it in a way he hadn’t expected.
If I could turn back the clock, I’d never have thrown that last punch. But given how we connected that day, I’m glad I did. We still laugh about it, and it’s become one of those great memories that punctuate our past.
We were however slightly more careful after that…..slightly.
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