The first time I ever punched someone in the face I was in kindergarten. I would like to say it was the last, but I grew up in a manner in which fighting was at times necessary. That first time though, I have not thought about it in years.
It was an older girl that I punched. She must have been in the fourth or fifth grade. We were on the bus and she was making fun of me. She often did. I was as quiet then as I am now and just a tiny little thing. I suppose I was an easy tar…get. She was making fun of my teeth, I remember that. Telling me they were yellow and asking why I couldn’t afford a toothbrush. Then she started in on my clothes, laughing about how dirty and smelly they were. I’m sure she was right. We couldn’t afford a washing machine. Years later I tried “earning one” for my family by working at the appliance store in the neighborhood but that’s a story for another time.
I didn’t punch her because she said I smelled or made fun of my teeth. I punched her when she said something about my dad. Called him a name that I didn’t even understand but I knew it was bad. She was making fun of my dad who had just been hauled off to jail a few weeks previous. Taken away by two tall men in suits that knocked on the door three days before Christmas.
I let them in.
I watched as they put him in handcuffs in front of me and I remember screaming and crying, begging those men not to take my daddy away. Asking why they were doing it.
The girl I punched in the face punched me back. With quite a bit of force. We were both suspended from the bus for a week. It has taken me thirty five years to figure out that my dad probably at some point in time hurt that girl and that she was making fun of me to ease some pain he inflicted.It also just recently occurred to me that her older brother is the one who hurt me a couple of years later, filling the void in the neighborhood that my dad had left vacant.
These memories, these connections, I never would have thought about them differently if I was not doing the work I’m doing now. I would have just had vague whispers in my brain of that mean girl I punched one time. The girl that was in just as much pain as I was. Who I’m sure still is, just as I know I still am. Thinking about these things hurt and they open up faucets in our minds that may be easier not to turn, but I’m grateful I can think about it differently now. That is how we make this madness stop. How cycles of violence and hurt can be broken. Acknowledge, recognize and know that children are hurting everywhere because of this and that kids who are hurting hurt other kids. Physically, emotionally or God forbid in ways we are all far too familiar with.