I was standing in the kitchen wearing nothing but my SpongeBob underwear, pretending to be Jackie Chan. Dad stopped my air punches to pull my thumbs out from my clenched fists.
“Stand up straight,” he said. “Left shoulder forward. Legs shoulder-width apart. Knees slightly bent. Hands strong. Chin down. Eyes up.”
It was playful at first. I thought we were just doing “guy stuff”, but then he got serious.
LISTEN: Sean explains why he’s teaching his twins to fight back on Mamamia’s latest podcast for new parents, The Baby Bubble:
“You need to use your words” he said, looking me directly in the eyes with his hands on both of my shoulders.
“And while it’s important to always try to walk away, self defence is necessary sometimes. I just want you to feel confident that you would know how to fight back if you had to. Do you understand me?”
I did understand him. I’ve always remembered that moment and the proper way to throw a left hook. But what really stuck with me was that my pops never actually taught me how to fight. Only how to fight back.
I myself became a father, of boy-and-girl twins, 17 years later. I didn’t have time to think about passing down my father’s “don’t fight, fight back” advice at first, because babies just cry and poo all the time.
But as our twins learned to sit up and started noticing each other more and more, my daughter started to exhibit quite aggressive behaviours.
She would hit her brother in the face when she got excited, or pull his hair if she wanted something he had. In fact, a few times I actually caught her climbing onto his face like a WWE wrestler and bouncing on his head with glee as he shrieked in distress.