pop quiz hotshot: the bro v bro edition


Buster is sitting in a chair in his pajamas reading a book and working his binky.
Chicken walks up to him and sucker punches him in the solar plexus.
Buster starts coughing/gagging/screaming.
Chicken air-punches across the room, saying, "I! Just! Wanna! Punch!"


a) Throw a copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on the floor of the bedroom like a football coach with undiagnosed bipolar, and roar "HEEEEEEYYYYYY?!?!" while pointing at Chicken's face and glaring at him with what you can only hope/assume are the eyes of the devil herself.

b) Say NOT okay UNacceptable NO way kid UH UH ABsolutely NOT and the word "never" about 37 times.

c) Offer to punch him in the stomach and see how he likes it. When he laughs in your face, try to take that as a compliment; he knows you would never punch him. 

d) Wrap him gently in your arms. Tell him you love him more than anything. Sit down with a pen and notepad under a fluffy blanket and, together, write down all of the things you can think of about punching.

d part 2) When he says, "Punching is hitting someone with your fists and it feels so good," nod generously and say, "You're right, it does feel good to punch! But let me ask you, how did Buster feel when you punched him," and he responds, with a sly little grin, "He was happy," resist the urge to say,

"OH REALLY HE WAS HAPPY? SO HAPPY, HE WAS, HUH? JUST ECSTATIC TO HAVE BEEN GUT PUNCHED WHILE READING A STORY IN HIS JAM JAMS? OH YEAH? HE WAS? WOW. WOW. You must be like AN EXPERT IN FEELINGS because when I heard him start gagging and crying with a confused heartbroken look on his little face I THOUGHT HE MIGHT HAVE FELT SAD AND SCARED but NOOOOOO you're saying he was HAPPY that his big brother the person he looks up to and trusts and loves the most in this whole world just walked up to him and HURT HIM FOR NO REASON AT ALL. YIPPEEE."

But only resist it after you've gone all the way through to the end of your passive-agressive little rant in your head, because let's be real, you need it. The only thing that feels better than punching is a fully-realized fantasy of being a big dick to a little dick.

e) Say "BELIEVE ME I know how good it feels to punch somebody." Pace in tight circles chuckling at the floor and muttering, "OHHHH HO HO HO BELIEVE ME. If you don't know, well, son, you better ASK somebody."

f) Make a big dramatic show of checking on Buster, the way a 1920's silent movie actress might check on somebody. (Big arms! BIGGER! NOW FLUTTER!) Because the books say not to reward those behaviors with attention.

g) Force Chicken to apologize to Buster because we're living in a goddamned society and you can hear all the voices of that society muttering things like "hummina hummina permissive parent hummina spoiled brat hummina hummina participation ribbons."

h) Excuse yourself from the bedroom real quick and panic-text your best mom friend.

i) Excuse yourself from the bedroom real quick and google "4.5-year-old violence CRAZY HELP ME"

j) Come back into the room very calmly as if you'd just taken a Xanax. Collect the boy from his bed and snuggle in the chair together. Begin by apologizing for losing your temper, and explain that the reason you got so angry is because underneath you were really scared that Chicken might hurt Buster, or make Buster feel not safe. Stroke Chicken's hair. Invite the brothers to hug, and when they do, wrap your arms around their bodies and take a deep breath. Believe that everything is going to be okay.

k) Watch as Buster winds up and clocks Chicken in the chest.

l) Have the following conversation which seems like the greatest fucking idea since HBO Go:

You: Hitting is not something that is okay in our family. Do I hit Daddy?
Chicken: Yes...
You: NO. NO, I DO NOT. And does Daddy hit me?
Buster: Yes...
Chicken: Yes you doooo....
You: When have you ever seen me hit Daddy or Daddy hit me.
Buster: Ummmmmmmmmmmm
You: Never. Never. You've never seen it because we do not hit. Chicken, do you know what would happen if Daddy hit me?
(he goes very still)
Chicken: (whispering) what?
You: I would take you and Buster and we would leave Daddy and never ever see him again. Never. Not ever. Never again.

m) Sit there and watch your older son sob, but not just regular "I stubbed my toe" sobs. These are the "I'm trying to be brave even though I'm scared" sobs. The really bad ones. Start to understand that you might have gone off-track. Just a bit. At the end. 

n) Try not to cry when he puffs up his slender, heaving chest, and sticks out his jaw, and sobs, "But... but... but... but when I am big enough? (Sob)... I will go back to him."

o) YOU ARE A MONSTER. This isn't that TMZ voice in your head that says you're a monster when you forget to let the kid put his own toothpaste on the brush. This is the Dan Rather voice. The one from deep down. The one who has SEEN SOME SHIT and knows SHIT when he SEES IT. This is the voice that sucks.

p) Spend the next 15 minutes reinforcing all of the reasons that your family is not leaving anyone. Reiterate, forcefully, that NOBODY IS LEAVING. Understand that it is one of the mysteries of humanity that an accidental phrase sticks more determinedly in memory than the most well-crafted speech. Remember that time someone said, off the cuff, that you weren't that interesting or funny. Remember everything about that, where you were standing, the shoes you were wearing. Someone said something nice about you at your high school graduation. "Katie is... something... and can always be counted on for... something..." Whatever, you're not interesting or funny.

q) Tuck him into bed. Stroke his hair and tell him, "Did you know that you grew inside my body before you were born? Did you know that for almost a year we were one person? Sometimes I wish I could keep you inside me forever, so we could always be together, and so I could know you're safe and warm and held every second of your life. But you know... there are a few things I don't have inside my body. Like junior pedal bicycles with training wheels. And all your friends at school. And Christmas trees, and chapter books. So it's probably best that you're out here, where it's interesting."

r) Go directly into the kitchen and make two strong margaritas and while you drink them write a blog post and right at the end there realize that your final thought tonight was: I don't have a Christmas tree IN ME. 

s) The dishes. Not.

t) All of the above.

what's funny
what's goddamned hysterical
is that cocktail glass
hand wash


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