Ryan from Indiana Asks:
What’s the best way to deal with a friend’s 4-year-old kid who thinks it’s funny to punch me in the nuts while my friends just laugh? Every time the kid is around, I have to hold my hands over my manhood to protect it. I really don’t want to leg sweep a child, but something’s got to give.
Hey Ryan, Yeah, that’s some jacked-up shit right there.
I think the first thing to consider is whether this child might have special needs that present as aggression or physical reactions. It may be a reaction to overstimulation or other triggers. So the first thing to do is to approach the situation with this in mind and handle that discussion with grace, especially if you want to continue the friendship.
And hey, maybe he just doesn’t like you, man. Sorry.
If you’re certain that having complex needs isn’t the case, and after discussion, feel the parents are just being passive, then I think it’s your friends who need to be dealt with for allowing their kid to treat you, or anyone else, like his own personal punching bag. He’s 4. He’s doing what he can get away with.
I can’t, for the life of me, imagine why a parent could stand by and watch — and laugh! — while their child goes all bare-knuckle street fighter on someone and not immediately address such behavior.
Perhaps they consider their child’s bodily assaults on you to be some sort of horseplay or puckish goofing off. Maybe they think it’s cute and that you guys are just wrestling around? I am willing to bet this is the case.
The thing is, though, if you’re in a constant state of guarding your twig and berries in anticipation of a scrotum kick that sends your balls up to meet your uvula or find yourself doing the running man so this whirling dervish of unchecked foolishness can’t land a tibial blow, THE PARENTS SHOULD NOTICE THIS!
I mean, most people are decent enough observers of human body language to be able to identify the physical cues of apprehension and unease you’re exhibiting.
It sounds like this friendship means alot to you, seeing as how you’re willing to try to work through this to stay close to the fam.
So this, Ryan from Indiana, is What Tara Wood Do:
The next time you find yourself in the company of little Sean Penn and his lackadaisical parents, just keep your cool — hands down by your side and unguarded.
If the kid starts up with the flogging again, do that thing where you put your hand on his forehead and keep enough distance between yourself and his flailing and thrashing that he can’t land a body kick or punch.
Look directly at his damn parents (remember, he’s a kid) and simply ask, “Is this for real okay with you guys that your son physically assaults me? No, seriously, I’d really looove to know exactly what about this behavior you find comical.”
I predict they’ll have one of two responses: They’ll either justify it by saying, “Oh, come on, boys will be boys,” or “He’s just having some fun guy time with you, buddy.”
If that’s the case I would encourage you to respond with “Boys should be held responsible for their behavior. Would you allow him to treat another child or an animal this way? I’m all done being battered by a 4-year-old while you laugh like you’re at a Kevin Hart concert. Maybe we can pickup this relationship again when you’ve sorted this out.”
“I know this must seem completely bananas to you guys, but I would much prefer tossing a football or playing Chutes and Ladders or anyfuckingthing, really, other than having to dig my balls out of my abdominal cavity whenever you invite me over. It’s your responsibility as parents to teach your child the importance of physical space and boundaries. When you choose not to acknowledge or correct actions and behaviors that physically, emotionally, or mentally harm other people, then you’re wholly culpable for his actions when you send him out into the world. I don’t want to leg sweep your kid, so until you’re ready, willing, and able to be considerate of me and my testicles, I’m out!”
And it’s true, you know? We as mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts, uncles — whoever is charged with raising children — are responsible for modeling respect and kindness and empathy for humanity.
So if you encounter some kind of hands-off, indifferent, oddly-entertained-by-shit-behavior type of adult who refuses to hold a kid accountable when they are inflicting harm on another living creature, I think it’s well within reason, your responsibility to humankind even, to discuss this with them. Tell them it’s not okay. Call them out on their neutrality.
You might end up losing your friends over this, but maybe you’ll open their eyes to something that’s become so common in their home that they don’t even notice it. They need to notice it. And if they need additional support and help, they need to seek it out.
The kid can’t be expected to practice self-control if he doesn’t know or understand boundaries, and worse than that, is being rewarded with laughter for thwacking people.
Believe me, I encounter folks every single day to whom I’d love nothing more than deliver a swift kick up the asshole. I refrain, though, because my parents taught me that hitting is not okay…and also, you know, jail and stuff.
That’s What Tara Wood Do.