Fight club

Moving to Australia from Denmark has provided us with some stark opportunities for comparison. Most notably, in the way our kids – mini- and maxi-CBRbound, now aged nine and 12 – become assimilated into the Aussie way of life. As this happens, it’s understandable that we idly compare how they might have turned out if we’d never made the move. It’s like a personal version of the movie ‘Sliding Doors’ is constantly playing in our heads.

One thing that has become apparent to me is that Australia has a markedly different attitude to violence when compared with our experience of Scandinavia.

The so-called king/coward punch has achieved mass public consciousness here, whereas I would have to explain the concept from scratch to a Nordic visitor. Incidents of overt aggression on Canberra’s roads are not just confined to newspaper and Facebook posts – we’ve seen them for ourselves.

But all of this was still wallpaper to us until earlier this week, when mini-CBRbound came home with ripped trousers because he’d been in his first schoolyard fight.

I don’t know if it’s unusual that our boys have reached the ages of nine and 12 without ever having been involved in a fight, but it didn’t seem out of the ordinary in Denmark. I don’t even know whether mini-CBRbound was in the right or wrong when the fight broke out, and anyway, such things are rarely black and white.

What I do know, is that our little nine year-old, goaded by taunts of ‘wuss’ and other such things, felt that a fight was an accepted way of resolving the issue at hand. Cue a ‘Sliding Doors’ moment. Would this have happened in his old school? Almost certainly not – I’ve written before about how personal safety and the rarity of recourse to violence was one of the most wonderful things about living in Denmark.

Is this normal for Australia? And should I come to expect regular similar events for both boys? It’s too early to say.

But what I can say is that when your nine year-old comes home telling you that a fight has taken place, and that his whole class were cheering and whooping for the other boy; when he tells you that he has no friends, and that he is sad because his brand new school trousers have been ripped in the process, there is little you can do but bundle him up in a hug, tell him that there will be better days, and encourage him not to compare his old life with his new one (even though that’s what you are doing in your own head).

Mini-CBRbound bounced back admirably. He showed no signs of school-itis the next morning, and bore no grudges towards his playground adversary. But he is stung by the feral cheering of his classmates for the boy who isn’t an outsider, the boy who is ‘one of them’, and the message that sends will take a little longer to counter.

11 thoughts on “Fight club

  1. Oh Mark, that is not acceptable in ANY school. Hopefully you’ve been in already to speak with the teaching staff/principal about this… and my fingers are crossed for you that they are a school that has very effective ways of dealing with any bullying issues and can also pave the way for your son to find some good friendships amongst his peers/year group. It can be tough being the new kid… I know from experience! Hope it all gets a little easier for him soon.


    • Thanks for taking the time to comment on this. Sometimes I hesitate to write about the bumps in the road, since we genuinely do love life in Canberra, but it feels fair to anyone in similar circumstances who may be considering a move to acknowledge that there will be moments like this too. I think the incident itself has been coming. I have noticed a strange easiness with the escalation of aggression here — kids choosing to respond to some perceived slight with: “Yeah? Do you wanna GO?” As a kid, I struggled with how to respond to that kind of thing (which is just as prevalent in the UK) but as a parent, it seems even harder — especially when trying to convince mini that responding in kind may seem like a solution but it really isn’t. I don’t really know the answer but your words of support are appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Steve says:

    I had the same experience at my first grammar school where the 3rd years used to beat the 1st years up and take our dinner money. Then teachers sais “it was character building!?”. At least you can solve the “outsider” issue. He is a loved member of your family and all the others at his school aren’t. That makes them the outsiders!!


    • He is loved, dearly, but it’s also kind of sad to realise that the schoolyard experience hasn’t changed much since the 50s and 60s, and that the environment he is in seems to be okay with that. He’s a positive and upbeat kid, and he’s fine now. My longer term concern is how his character is being shaped by such experiences.


  3. This is such hard territory, physically and emotionally for any child to be on. Your boy sounds resilient and, of course, he’s clearly loved unconditionally at home which is what he needs above all else. The insider/outside dynamic is especially painful when it’s played out in a group setting too. And, and…he went back in to school to take his place the next day. That will have signaled his resilience loud and clear. Sending you all good vibes and parental solidarity!


    • Thanks Anna. You are right. His response to it all is probably the most encouraging of all. I think, because of my personal loathing of bullying, it’s an issue I am hyper-sensitive to, but it’s hard to equip a kid by proxy with all the skills he will need to deal with the situation. It can only be iterative, with each new episode leading to a new conversations about all the possible responses that were available… eventually, hopefully, I can equip him with enough, and with the judgement, to emerge unhurt and untainted by such things, but these are not easy things to do, and I wish I were better at it.


  4. Liz Savage says:

    Oh feeling for miniCBR and that awful experience. Sadly, what I know of the machismo culture over there means this may not be the last encounter of its kind. But, what a testament to you and Mrs CBR and your parenting that he has held on to his own sense of self, his own OKness (more pop psychology than good English! ) and his own values in going back in the way that he did. Courage, my friends! X x


    • Thanks Liz, and I think, sadly, you may be right about the cultural norms here, which is why I blogged about it in the first place. He’s a good ‘un, and resilient. My favourite mini-CBRbound story comes from when he started ‘big school’ in Denmark. Mrs CBRbound took him into the playground and he sat on a step, watching all the kids playing together. “Why don’t you go and join them?” she asked. “Nah, they’ll come to me,” he replied. And in five minutes, they had, to see who this new kid was. He has confidence and good self-awareness, I just hate the thought of someone trying to knock it out of him. But the point is, if anyone is equipped to deal with the situation, it’s him.


  5. Oh, I missed this post Mark … this is awful, and you should write about it. (I hope neither of your children have experienced anything more like this since then).

    Stick by your values. I sometimes felt in a minority with my/our parenting in this regard, but I just could not accept violence as a way of solving problems. It’s disgusting.


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