As a young child I had a lot of problems dealing with bullies and rumors and kids at school. That’s not a revelation unique to myself, I realize. Most people have. But I was lucky in one major respect. That is that my dad had a technique for helping me to cope with these situations, while at the same time instilling a love of wrestling for me.
Enter: Benji the Wrestler.
Benji was a kid who wrestled. He was a lot like me. He was so much like me that it seemed a strange and amazing coincidence every time I heard a story about him. (Okay, I’m gonna level with you- he was me.)
Every time I seemed to be going through something tough- a bully trying to beat me up, or turn my friends against me for whatever reasons motivate people to be awful to each other, there would be my dad. He’d come to my room at bedtime and tell me a story.
The story had three main parts:
1) the problem (the bullies, the “mean” teacher, whatever it was that was making my life hard to deal with as a kid),
2) the “Problem-solving part” This almost always came in the form of my dad asking me something like “Sounds pretty tough Luke, what do you think Benji should do here?” afterward we’d workshop any solutions, no matter how sensible or senseless or emotive and he’d treat me with understanding. He also never talked down to me as a kid and I really appreciated that. Heck, I still appreciate it.
3) The action sequence. This was super important!
A) it served to give me time to absorb what we’d talked about, all while preventing the stories from becoming lectures or preachy.
B) it indoctrinated me into loving the sport and associating a difficult pastime with positive memories
C) It showed that even a kid with problems at school could (with hard word and determination), be the hero. It would be a challenge, sure, but since Benji never gave up, no one could really beat him. (Even if he lost a match, he wasn’t truly defeated so long as he maintained a good attitude).
I miss those stories. In retrospect, I miss how these insurmountable problems could be faced and I could take the time with someone who cares about me to work through options together rather than having to face them alone. I miss the reminders of how you can work around any problem if you find the right solution rather than just reaction to it. Not surprisingly, I also miss wrestling.