Monday, August 2, 2010

Violence at Home

by Julia Buckley
I live with a man and two boys (but in some ways three boys). Each day they spend a good half hour mimicking scenes of extreme violence just for the fun of it. There are lots of gun sounds (really elaborate ones that I can't make, and couldn't make when I was a kid, either); there are long periods of wrestling on the floor, during which they yell things like, "You're already dead! I killed you when you walked in the room!" and "No way--I deflected it with the pillow" or, alternately, "I jumped out of the way and it ricocheted off the wall!"

Today while I was trying to have a serious adult conversation with my husband Jeff, my ten-year-old ran in the room, touched his father, and then left again, closing the door behind him. Jeff started laughing. "What was that?" I asked, my mind still on the bills.

"He put a grenade in my pocket and locked us in," he said proudly.

We could hear my son giggling in the living room.

Still other times they like to call out movie cliches while they practice their stylized violence. Today my oldest son, grappling with his father, yelled, "Why kill me? It will be pointless once the Wisnewski files come out!"

Their dad tried to escape into the bathroom, but I heard our youngest opening the door of that once-private place. "Graham!" I yelled. "Leave your father alone while he's in there."

Graham peeked into my office, all innocence. "I was just shooting a couple of poisoned darts into him," he said, shrugging.

Geez. Why can't a girl understand? My sons think I am a major square with no sense of humor, especially when I call a halt to the violent play. My oldest has already informed me that not only am I not cool, but I am "meaner" than the other mothers he has observed.

Even if I wanted to join in their manly fun, I wouldn't be able to, because I just don't get it. This is a club to which I don't have membership. I'm mostly content to watch them from the sidelines the way I would watch a strange animal behavior at the zoo.

Their need for violent play is entirely separate from violence itself. My sons are still shocked by real violence, but this false stuff is as old as the hills. The reason their fantasies must include elaborate weaponry and faux wrestling might just be wired into their brains, and it's as difficult for them to explain as it is for me to comprehend.

I just think of the way rams slam into each other, locking horns for no apparent reason, and assume that there is a parallel in the human world.


Elizabeth Zelvin said...

I was outnumbered by the guys at home too, Julia: my son plus, first, his father (my ex), then, his stepfather (my current hubby). But in our house, there was less weaponry and more fantasy, ie my son the half-orc hitting a wizard over the head and running away with the bag of platinum pieces. In fact, my husband once got demoted from paladin for just such thievish behavior. I just spent the weekend with my son, his wife, and my two granddaughters, and the experience was quite different. For one thing, they used up more than a roll of toilet paper in two days. ;)

Julia Buckley said...

Haha. Yes, I often wonder what it would have been like if they were girls--there would be more tea parties, but also more crying, I'd guess. My friends tell me that in general boys are easier to deal with, as girls can be more complicated.

Shaun Webb said...

I know all about violence I'm sorry to say. Due to a miscarage of justice I became a registered sex offender. But now I used it as material for my first novel A Motion for Innocence.

Sandra Parshall said...

Actually, rams *do* have a reason for locking horns -- they're establishing who has dominance over the other. And that's the reason behind an awful lot of human male behavior, whether it involves physical violence or not.

Your three boys would enjoy the new movie Inception. (It gave me a headache.)

lil Gluckstern said...

Your sons sound wonderful. I have daughters and they are simply more shriekier, whinier, and, yes, there is more crying. I don't know if boys are easier, or the testosterone demands more of them physically. All I know is that I like my boy clients a whole lot. They are much more direct. And I must see "Inception.!"

Julia Buckley said...

Sandra, they did like Inception. They had to explain it to me, and I still didn't really get it.

Lil, thanks--I do think they're wonderful, despite their love of guns and such. :)

Sean, I'm glad to hear you're channeling the legal problems into your writing.

Kevin M. Fitzgerald said...

Julia, my name is Kevin Fitzgerald and I grew up with the Buckley's in Oak Park. My friend was Jim, Jeff was younger and Janet older. I read with sadness of the passing of their Dad recently and haven't been able to reach out to them after all these years. I interned at WBEZ in the late 70's while in college. Could you please pass on my best wishes to them all? I can be reached at Thanks fitz

Anonymous said...

I don't know who's running around on-line and commenting for me, but I'm Shaun Webb and I wrote "A Motion for Innocence." I can be found at While I don't who commented for me on August 2nd, I do agree with them and suggest people read my book!

Anonymous said...

Shaun Webb shows up anywhere he thinks he can hawk his book. He is a Level 2 offender who despite his claims otherwise is as guilty as guilty can get. He brags about his refusal to comply with the terms and conditions of his release and status, he trolls unsuspecting females on twitter and and stalks any (female) never a Male who doesnt quite fall for his story or praise his book high enough. Why he picked this blog is beyond me?