Mr. Pants was mad when I turned off the TV tonight. His face squinched up in anger, he crouched a little, winding up, and came at me.
I knew he was going to hit me, square across the chest, and I didn't do anything to stop him.
"Do you want to hit me again?" I asked him calmly. He looked like he was about to. Then there was a moment of confusion I can't really describe and he ended up sprawled across my lap, almost kind of hugging me.
I had an ulterior motive.
I've spent quite a while in the past two days dealing with some beyond-the-pale meanness that has been directed at Mr. Pants on the school bus by two slightly older kids and it's starting to wear me out.
But here's the thing: when I ask him what did he do after the kids spit on him? he shrugs his shoulders and says, "Nothing," or "I tried to get away," and I am (a) relieved but also (b) pissed as hell and wishing we could teach him to throw a good punch.
Which (a) would get him in trouble and (b) goes totally against everything I believe.
So that's out.
But what does a pacifist have to offer their child when a just authority is nowhere in sight and the sharks are circling?
I thought we would talk about turning the other cheek at bedtime, and then he came at me like that in the living room and I figured I'd better do as I wanted done, right?
So, that happened. And then we went upstairs and he got dressed and brushed his teeth and came in for a story. But first I told him I wanted to talk to him. "What do you think Jesus would tell you to do if someone was hitting you?" I asked him.
"I don't know."
I'll spare you the details and just tell you the socratic method didn't go so well. So I took the shortcut and told him about the other cheek.
"What do you think about that?"
He looked unimpressed, "I don't think that would be very good because they might just say yes and hit you again."
"Yes, they might," I admitted. "But what happened downstairs just now when you hit me and I asked you if you wanted to hit me again?"
I don't think he had an answer.
"You were kind of confused, I think."
"So, what do you think you're going to do tomorrow if the boys spit on you again?"
"I'm going to say, do you want to spit on my right shoulder, too? ...and then what are they going to do?"
"I don't know, but I'd be very proud of you if you said that, and I'd be really curious to find out what happens!"
And I am very curious. And did you know curiousity counteracts fear? I think it counteracts anger, too.