Three Looks

Two boys, who happen to share my last name, were engaged in a rather heated disagreement last week (Perhaps they were discussing provincial equalization payments?) when the younger of the two came up with a profoundly old-fashioned solution. I believe he put it this way: “Let’s fight.”

Both lads immediately turned to me. Their look wasn’t so much a search for approval so much as it was a statement of fact: “We’re doing this — no matter what you say.” I paused for a moment before blurting, “No swinging.”

My wife was immediately and utterly appalled. “No fighting! Stop them!”

Before I could begin to explain why I believe that in a more perfect world all boys can verbalize all of their disagreements and peacefully process all of their problems, but that occasionally, as long as there is not a great imbalance of power, and both boys want to engage, it’s ok to let them wrestle some truths to the ground -– the two knuckleheads were already rolling in the grass.

My wife went running for the water hose, in the hope of dousing the combatants into a state of peace and equanimity. While she was searching for the UN of household accoutrements, the younger of the two was already displaying great energy and enthusiasm. Eventually, though, the bigger, older brother won out, thus ensuring that the moral order of the universe would prevail, at least for at least another day.

As the boys, now exhausted but in an apparently peaceful state of mind, walked away, I gave my wife a knowing and thoroughly self-satisfied look, and I began to quietly congratulate myself. “Power, you have such a deep and intuitive understanding of male adolescents. Perhaps this gift might lend itself to an article in “Old Times”? I can see it now: ‘Power the Boy Whisperer.’ Perhaps someone might, in a splurge of creativity, then turn this piece into a documentary? I wonder if we could get this done in time for the Toronto International Film Festival?”

My momentary reverie, though, was immediately interrupted by a loud bang. It turned out that one of the combatants still harbored some ill feeling, and had impulsively decided to put his fist through a wall. The dream of “Power and Peace in Our Time” immediately dissipated.

The look my wife gave me at that moment suggested that, perhaps in hindsight, we might want to save that “Boy Whisperer” article for the winter edition of the school magazine. My only consolation was the realization that we had already missed the Hot Docs deadline.


16 thoughts on “Three Looks

  1. Awesome.

    I had the same scene unfold except the younger brother used to be able to physically dominate his older brother. After His brother had a growth spurt, a fight broke out which I let unfold until the older had His younger brother in a headlock and natural order was restored.

    My wife didn’t quite get it, but I told her it was a guy thing.

  2. As the youngest of three boys I can say that some of my biggest fights were with my brothers especially when engaged in sport.
    The best part was that I grew to be bigger than them. I don’t remember my parents protecting me (or them from me!)
    It prepared me for life.

  3. As Gawain says in Gawain and the Green Knight, “True men can but try.” When he says that, he’s trying to appear admirably modest in public (while privately thinking himself pretty darn close to perfect). Then, of course, he goes on his quest and is forced to learn that he’s actually imperfect, which is to say, human. The Green Knight imparts the lesson with good humor and even some affection (after all, it’s just a shaving nick), but Gawain flies into angry self-reproach and stamps around in a most unchivalric manner. You’ve taken your lesson on board with much more grace and humor than Gawain can summon, and I salute you, sir.

    Growing up with a father who was a Navy SEAL, I was rarely tempted to say “Let’s fight,” and now that Fletcher is 6’5″ and 225 lbs, I still can’t say it. So I’ve always been a whisperer, but not for the reason you dreamed of, but out of sheer self-preservation. Noisy bunnies don’t last long.

    Thanks for the wonderful story. I’ll put money down you turn this into a school address and alumni magazine article, anyway.

  4. There have been worlds in which, every once in a while, gentlemen would resort (or proceed?) to fisticuffs. Not sure about the water hose. Are wet pugilists less pugilistic?

  5. Thanks for this, Jim.

    I still think you have a great message about ‘boys’ that should be shared with a larger audience.

    I’m a fan 🙂

  6. On the subject of male intuition, I once heard a story of a prominent Toronto executive who was having difficulty at home setting boundaries for his brawny teenaged son who was inclined to ignore any and all guidelines. Finally the executive announced to his wife that he and his son would have a winner-take-all brawl in the basement, and if his son won, he could do whatever he liked whenever he wanted to. The wife was understandably upset and opposed to the proposed solution. Finally, when the appointed hour approached, his wife was increasingly hysterical, and as the scene was being set, the son suddenly withdrew, and agreed to do what he was told in future. A friend asked the executive what he would have done if the fight had taken place. He replied that he was planning to lead off with a swift kick below the belt.

  7. Thanks for the blog – as a mother my first thought was: what happen to the kid that put his fist trough the wall? I hope everybody is ok 🙂

  8. A Power Top ten…creative, thoughtful, chick full of wisdom…May I use UN of household accoutrements in my next speech ?


    Sent from my iPhone

  9. lovely piece, jim — great wisdom in letting them battle…and some good common sense from mary — i like the notion of the garden hose…

  10. Genius! The one physical fight I had with my older brother Rick–I had trash-talked him after beating him 1 v 1 on the home basketball court–he punched me in the throat as hard as he could. Didn’t quite want to hit me in the face, didn’t want just a body blow, didn’t want to leave a bruise.
    Almost killed me.
    Have a great start to the year.

  11. Love the blog post. The 9 year old version of that often brews in our house. I called them upstairs in the middle of some argument they were having that was escalating and told them to punch each other in the face (praying that they would not do it and that my point would get across that the fight would not solve it). For the moment it worked and there was no punching. The “punch” came later when they went to bed and they told their mother (my loving wife) that I was trying to get them to punch each other. The look I got was precious. I had some “splaining” to do.

    It worked for the time being but I am sure this will end with a punch through the wall at some point. I am just hoping it is drywall that can be repaired easily…:)

    All the best with the start of the school year.


  12. Dear Whisperer – You left out the third act: boys together at the dinner table, having a hearty meal (to replace the energy expended and prepare for future bouts) and engaged in conversation with each other and the family, the scuffle all but forgotten. Finish that article and screenplay! Your dream is alive.

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