Tonawanda News


October 7, 2010

When a dad needs to be a dad

NORTH TONAWANDA — Whether because of the fact that I am a pacifist at the genetic level or that I am weak, I have never been a fighter.

Only a few times in my life can I recall getting physical with anyone, and those were pretty much childhood instances of people pushing me around too much (or just me and my co-pugilist being idiots). For the most part, I either respond to unkind words with words or, more often, simply ignore the overly pugnacious.

But where I will let pretty much any attack against myself slide, I can envision that laissez-faireism lapsing when it comes to my children. That’s why I can completely sympathize with James Willie Jones.

The Florida man faces misdemeanor charges after berating his 13-year-old daughter’s tormentors on the school bus last month. In a moment of fatherly love that’s been uploaded to YouTube (and, really, are there any moments of anything anywhere that are not on YouTube anymore), Jones threatened the group of students that teased, spat at and physically abused his little girl, who has cerebral palsy.

He wanted to stop the bullying. He wanted to stop what school officials had been unable to bring and end to. He wanted to protect his daughter.

Now, yelling at teenagers (and their school bus driver) is not normal. But when it comes to your children, you’ll cease normalcy from time to time. I don’t know whether I would have done the same thing, but I know that before we had our son and daughter, I never would have remotely entertained the notion.

I can also relate to William Kelly, the Florida man who shot his 18-year-old daughter’s 29-year old boyfriend with birdshot earlier this year — and in a part of the body that the boyfriend will never forget. The father, who was arrested for aggravated assault, said he did so only because the boyfriend was abusing his daughter.

There’s no doubt, to be clear, that shooting someone for any reason is wrong (I’ve been shot at — I know). But, still, I can at least on a primal level understand where he came from.

 Jones, though, falls into a tad more of a gray area. He’s apologized for his actions and urged other parents not to repeat them, but sometimes the little guy needs an ally. You have to let your children learn how to fight their own battles, but even Ulysses Grant needed reinforcements on occasion.

So, no matter how much I debate the issue in my head, I can’t come to a firm conclusion on what my action would be in that situation (instinct might take over, in any case). But just the fact that his actions made me (and, I hope, other parents) think about bullying makes them laudatory in my book (if the parents of bullies won’t intervene, someone needs to).

Jones deserved to be arrested. He deserved to be held accountable.

He also deserved the hugs and kisses I’m sure he received after police sent him home. And, although it doesn’t mean nearly as much, here’s a pat on the back.

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