Discover more from The Remarkable Fools Letter
the joy of bleeding
on the mosh pit floor
My son recently broke his nose.
He was playing soccer. He was playing against older, larger, more aggressive, more powerful boys on the triple “A” team.
He went up for a header against their goalie. He challenged this bigger boy. Their heads connected. His nose exploded with blood.
He was upset.
I was upset.
It’s not likely for the reasons you’d think.
He was upset because he missed. He wanted to prove himself and to score. He was upset because he got pulled from the scrimmage.
Were you upset because you were hurt bud?
Not at all he replied, getting hurt is part of it.
I beamed with pride. I taught him well.
I wasn’t upset that he was hurt. I was not worried that he may have have a concussion. I was worried that years of playing aggressively with him, of teaching him about pain, and domination through play would get erased by a culture of holding back and playing safe.
When both of my children were younger, I played rough with them. Once with my daughter, we were running around the splash pad. I was holding her on my arm. She was ‘Supermaning’. Then? The unthinkable happened.
She flew through the air.
But instead of flying around the earth so fast that she turned back time, she did more of a true ‘Chris Reeve’ imitation and landed square on her face.
The whole community of lefty doo gooders was watching.
Be careful came the warnings.
Judgemental clucks came from the mouths of men and women alike.
Be safe they croned!
When my son was four, we played ‘world cup’ in the alley next to our house.
Don’t be a Brazilian son I would constantly remind him.
Brazilians dove. They faked injuries, rolling around on the ground and wailing.
In front of their home crowd, they gave up once down.
The Brazil football team in 2014 was nothing less than disgraceful.
Every time I kicked the ball, I gave it a just enough spice - just enough spice such that it sometimes stung, just enough spice that it would sometimes knock him to the ground.
He’d get up laughing. See dad, I’m not Brazilian.
So much pride.
You play this like a hockey player dude!
He beamed and smiled.
When we played, I would play with just enough aggression, just enough dominance and edge that he would know that he needed to battle. I pushed to the edge of frustration. When I could see he was almost about to give up?
That’s when I’d relent a bit. Only then I’d make a ‘mistake’.
Only then, I’d let him score.
But even then?
I’d push him. I’d attempt several times to recover.
He had to battle for every inch.
As a hockey coach, I could tell who played with their dads like this. These kids could battle. They took pride in hanging in. They were aggressive on the ice and kind in the dressing room. They were lions.
Then there were the kids whose dads were ‘careful’.
They held back. They lacked the jam. They had no potential of becoming a glorious little ball of hate1 on the ice. I’d never pick any of these kids. I only want a team full of people like number twenty nine.
Life is tough and rough.
I like my people that way.
Growing up, my dad wanted me to ‘toughen up’.
After years of therapy, learning and working as a therapist, I’m going to be a remarkable fool and say no.
HOW you toughen up is essential.
When faced with bullies, he wanted me to fight back, defend myself and be tough.
Back then, I needed someone to be caring and show concern.
I needed someone to be tough for me and go raise a great big holy hell to the bullies and their dads.
I needed a number twenty nine to go smash the shit out of someone for me. My dad’s intention to expose me to the pain of being alive and to teach me to stick up for myself was a good one. He missed one important step.
He didn’t find a way to make pain fun.
My son learned to accept pain through play and pleasure.
He learned to hang in and face the overwhelming adversity of a dad who would not surrender an inch easily through games filled with love and play.
Physically, I learned to toughen up through music.
The mosh pit was my teacher.
There, in a furious crowd of steel toed boots, studded leather and sweaty, shaven headed or mohawked punks, I found a brotherhood. We’d get stomped, elbowed, pushed and crushed. There I learned how to take a hit and give a hit.
It was violent. It was chaos. It was glorious. It was fun.
More times than I can count either I, or another took a boot to the face from a stage dive. More times than I can count I’ve seen people smash each other over violently only to pull each other up the next moment to lyrics as graceful as SHUT UP SHUT UP I DON’T WANT TO HEAR YOUR FACE!
Our actions had consequences. We learned to experience and enjoy pain in a big, chaotic supportive game. What’s more, we continued even when the music stopped. Shins, chins and faces smashed while skateboarding.
Our testes became punching bags for the crossbars of our bikes.
The warnings of be careful never entered our ears. Our parents never said that. Instead we heard Have fun! (and TRY to stay out of trouble).
I loved the things that have helped me toughen up.
That’s the key.
When pain becomes fun, we can grow beyond it. We can realize that both physical and emotional pain are part of the price we pay in order to be in the game.
As for my fears about my son?
They were unfounded.
The next time out on the pitch, he went up to challenge another teams player for a header. He got the ball this time.
That and the other child’s nose.
That child’s nose?
After celebrating his goal, he shrugged and apologized.
The other kid?
Blood on the field, the ice or the floor of the mosh pit is part of the agreement. It’s all part of the game.
Verbeek clocked in at 5’9” and 190lbs. Little ball of hate indeed!