Getting home from work is my favourite time of the weekday. I come through the door, both kids get all excited…it’s fantastic.
Yesterday, though, when I got home, the 10 month-old started laughing and kicking his legs as per usual; but Isaac, our 3 year-old, stood with his back to me, watching CBeebies.
“Isaac,” I call, “Daddy’s home!”
He turns, and I instantly notice a large scratch down his left cheek, about an inch or two long.
Eyes widen. “What happened?”
My wife appears at the kitchen door and beckons me over. It turns out that some kid in Isaac’s class at preschool has been picking on him: calling him names, and whatnot. From what she can gather, it’s been going on for a while. Today it progressed into a physical attack, with the bully clawing his nails down Isaac’s face. The teachers didn’t know what had happened, because Isaac was too scared to tell them the truth. It was only when he was at home that he opened up to his mum.
I start seething, and approach Isaac. I lift him up so he’s standing on the dining room table, his eyes level with mine.
“What happened to your cheek?” I ask, in my softest voice, even though my jaw seems to be in a permanent state of clench.
“Someone scratched me.” He looks at me, big eyes all innocent. He tells me the bully’s name.
“Is he mean to lots of boys and girls?”
“No. Just me.”
I give him a big hug and put him down onto the carpet. By now, my blood is boiling. I mean, literally boiling. I can hear it bubbling in my veins.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I would never hit a child. But, right then, all I wanted to do was flying knee kick the bully in the face, roundhouse him in the knees and then scratch his face with a rusty spoon. Livid, I was, and to be honest I’d never known anger like it. I wasn’t throwing furniture around or anything; just stood in the lounge, fists clenched, snarling like some kind of caged lion. If Charlie Sheen reckons he’s got tiger blood, he should meet an enraged parent. It’d make his tiger blood look like kitten wee.
I couldn’t help but imagine the whole scene: Isaac’s expression when this kid called him names, the pain he must have been in when he was scratched. By now, my anger crosshairs had shifted to this child’s parents. I wanted to put a brick through their window and torch their car. (I didn’t, obv.)
The right thing to do, of course, is to speak to the teachers, which we’ll be doing first thing on Monday. Isaac knows that if it happens again, he goes straight to a teacher or supervisor. The irony is I’ve even written about what to do if your child is being bullied, so I’m taking my own advice: something which doesn’t happen often.
It’s a funny thing, the natural instinct for a parent to protect his or her young. We’re nothin’ but mammals, as the Bloodhound Gang once sang, although in an entirely different context. Approach a bear cub, and its mum will blunder over and take your face off with one swipe. Try to nick a bird’s egg, and prepare to get your eyes clawed out by a furious pigeon. Scratch my son, and I’ll punt you through the nearest window. Either that, or I’ll have to put up with telling the teacher.