Matt Heath: Hard lessons learned from schoolyard fights

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Parents in 2014 won't tolerate anything but an absolute smooth ride for their children. Photo / Thinkstock
Parents in 2014 won't tolerate anything but an absolute smooth ride for their children. Photo / Thinkstock

My son turned 5 and started school last week. It was an emotional time for me. He is so small and his uniform so large. His shorts hang below his knees and his backpack is as big as he is. Very cute.

The drop-off was bittersweet. An end of an era for me but the start of an exciting adventure for him.

As I strolled across the rugby field leaving him behind my eyes welled with tears.

I couldn't help but look back and think, if anyone bullies my little boy I'll take a baseball bat to his parents.

Clearly an over-protective parental instinct gone wrong. As a New Zealander I should have imagined using a cricket bat.

But I bet I am not the only dad to have visions like this. As a parent you do everything to make your precious children happy. The thought of some little turd making them sad gets the blood boiling. Obviously you can't wreak vengeance on the turd.

You would have to go after the parents.

And I'm not saying I would wreak parental vengeance - just that I fantasise about it.

In reality, there is no need to worry. There's probably less bullying at my son's primary than at any school in history. It's an amazingly well run and positive place. Every child I've met has been lovely and the staff, teachers and parents are ridiculously nice to the kids.

Maybe that's a problem.

Parents in 2014 won't tolerate anything but an absolute smooth ride for their children. Most schools are doing their best to make this happen. But if in the future the education system succeeds and completely eradicates bullying and bad times, what kind of wussy kids will come out the other end?

The adult world is packed with arseholes. Isn't it better that children learn how to deal with them at school where they're safe?

I was bullied at school and I turned out great. It was horrible at the time but I learnt valuable life lessons.

I was the smallest in every class photo right up to fifth form. On top of that I had the rudest haircut in the world. A lethal combo.

Aged 7 while playing in the school fort, I made a joke about a big popular kid named Lloyd. He held me by the hair and punched me in the head until I lost consciousness. From him I learnt to joke and run.

On my first day of intermediate I rode in wearing my new BMX helmet. Unfortunately, when I took it off some kids noticed my hair was the same shape as the helmet. They grabbed my brain bucket and beat me round the head with it yelling "helmet head". The very thing meant to protect me was used to mete out a vicious beating. Pretty ironic. From those guys I learnt never to wear protective head gear.

In the third form some big kids took a dislike to my school bag. They kicked the crap out of me and threw my lunchbox on the roof. I struck back after morning interval, swinging the corridor door into one of their faces as he ran to class. Then at lunch, I tripped the other one down a flight of concrete steps. They both ended up crying in the sick bay. From them I learnt how good revenge feels.

Would I be the person I know and love today without some old-fashioned terrifying childhood bullying? No. So can mild bullying be a good thing?

If we followed my fuzzy logic, schools would be like the planet Arrakis in Frank Herbert's Dune. A precipitation-free desert wasteland full of terrifying giant sandworms.

Our children would be the Fremen - a race that grew tough to survive. They would wear stillsuits to recycle their body fluids and carry the crysknife, a sacred weapon that must not be sheathed until it draws blood. Our powerful children would destroy the pampered House Harkonnen atop their giant sandworms, their eyes glowing blue through addiction to the spice melange.

Of course, no sane parent would send their child to Arrakis. You don't see rich mums and dads buying houses in bad neighbourhoods so their kids can attend tough schools.

In the end, human interaction is both positive and negative. Successful humans can handle both. If kids experience no negative interactions at school they may not be prepared for it in the real world.

However, if a modern-day parent experiences their precious little baby being bullied they will reign vengeance upon the world. Catch-22.

So schools should probably stick to making life easier for kids. Children can learn about a-holes for themselves when they're older. And, as long as no one slips up, I won't need my baseball-bat fantasy.

- NZ Herald

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