Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ambushed and bitten (Brutal Babe, Part Two)

We've recently expended so much energy curbing Sonny's more destructive instincts, it was a shock to find that he had become a victim of infant violence - and that he had not held his own.

Mum had known something wasn't quite right when she arrived the other evening at the infant care centre to find a little reception committee. At its head was the parent of a older playmate, profusely apologetic. Her son, it turned out, had bitten Sonny in the arm - and quite viciously too, with a full set of teeth. The encounter left Sonny an ugly welt near the elbow, though thankfully the skin hadn't been broken (in case you're wondering why we've uploaded no photos, it's because the little fella was fidgety for the next couple of days and all the snaps were blurred).

Anyway, the staff at the centre, themselves embarrassed over their failure to prevent or at least swiftly disrupt the attack, admitted that Sonny hadn't exactly fought back like a lion after his friend's teeth clamped onto his flesh. Though he has shown great willingness to rip up our newspapers and mail, he proved a flop when a real test came: Instead of biting right back (albeit with his one half-emerged tooth), Sonny had simply commenced loud wailing. When caregivers responded, they found the attacker's jaws still affixed to our son's arm while the victim sobbed ineffectually.

Let's be clear: We are not brawling folk and would walk miles out of our way to avoid unnecessary confrontations. Still, we'd like to think that, if provoked beyond reason, we would be the sort who would counterattack with gusto. Sadly, Sonny's first real chance to prove his genetic mettle showed him a coward at heart. It's a dilemma, really: If one rears a child who is willing to stand his ground when faced with bullies, we would be setting ourselves up for much post-scuffle tidying-up. We might imagine school principals calling us in to tell us of play yard battles Sonny was embroiled in. Much fuss and bother would be saved by encouraging the little fella to always slink from a fight and prudently exit when the fur flies.

Yet would we really be proud of such a character? It isn't fashionable to seem pro-conflict in these peaceable times, when it can seem that no war is a just one and discretion is always the better part of valour. But should there be some worthy principle at stake - even if it is standing up to a schoolyard tough trying to jump a queue - surely there is honour in making a stand?
Ultimately, the appropriate answer is surely that "it all depends on the circumstances, on the winnability of a clash, the balance of principles and the personalities involved". That's anything but a clear, easy guideline - and there'll be no time to play philosophy professor when one is suddenly presented with a scenario crackling with tension.

So how will we guide Sonny on the advisability of not backing down from a fight? We'll have to wait for more of the little fella's inherent character to emerge before deciding how to mould it. If he's a natural scrapper, we'd probably try to dial things back; if, as initial indications are, he's clash-averse, some stiffening might be in order.

Really, couldn't he at least have given that other boy a bop in the nose?