I’ve never thrown a punch, administered a headlock, or busted out a set of nunchucks. I’ve never karate-kicked, or wrestled, or even slapped someone.

I’ve never been in a fight.

I’ve seen a few scuffles. One time in Brooklyn I saw a guy get pummeled against a street sign and one time in high school two girls in my class attacked each other over a mishap at a volley ball tournament. All I remember is how messy it looked; the sweat, the cursing, the red marks from where the punches fell. I was fairly certain I wanted to avoid any situation where I might get someone else’s spit and blood on my face.

On a handful of occasions I’ve had the impulse to lash out. Like one time when Verzion sent me a bogus bill and made me stay on the phone for five hours transferring from department to department only to hang up on me just as they were about erase the erroneous charge.

I punched the air and drop kicked my phone and if I could have afforded a plane ticked to India I would have flown all the way over to the Verizon customer service center just so I could strangle the dude who hung up on me. But, alas, I was too broke and too lazy to make the journey.

As a mom, I’ve communicated my non-violent ways to my daughter.  I’ve quickly interjected every time she raises her fists in frustration or pushes a friend when the whole sharing thing goes awry.

For the most part she’s gotten the message that hitting and punching and kicking and pinching and strangling are not okay. And I’ve been thrilled!

But a few weeks ago she was out with some friends and two “big boys” came up out of nowhere, hit her in the stomach, and then pushed her down. And a few days later on the playground my daughter took a bite to the arm for lingering too long at the top of the slide. Both times Sage just gave this look of shock. Her shoulders shot up to her ears and she folded her arms over her chest in a protective stance, “NO,” she shouted. Then, “Mommy, Mommy.”

And now I’m starting to wonder if maybe I need to shift my tune. Do I want her to just stand by and get pummeled? Do I want her to fight back? Maybe I should be telling her not to hit unless… someone else hits her super hard and is being a massive jerk or not to push unless someone breaks her skin with their teeth.  Maybe I need to make her a pocket-sized cheat sheet that spells out the types of offenses that warrant retaliation.

A simple push= just walk away

A push + a punch= push back but not too hard

A push+ a punch+ a kick= retaliate any way that you see fit

She could carry this little guide around and pull it out any time she does not know how to respond. “Oh crap, someone is tossing sand into my eyes, I have tried saying no, I’ve tried running away, what now…Wait, let me check the sheet. Hmmm relentless sand tossing equals a light kick to the shin. Got it!”

The problem is, it’s just never that clear cut. At times she is the one who has encouraged the hitting or kicking. Maybe she’s taken a toy, maybe she’s used words to tease. And how does that factor into the equation?

And even if I could come up with an appropriate response for every situation, there would be no way to explain the grey areas in every human interaction. Like maybe the pusher was going through a really hard time. Maybe he was teething or adjusting to a new baby sibling or maybe he had just shit his diaper and was feeling really irritable. How would I even begin to explain all these factors?

So it’s easier to just say “no hitting, no punching, no biting, no kicking, no strangling” and hope she’ll figure out how to navigate her own way. Or… I suppose I could also follow her everywhere for the rest of her life and throw some of those punches I’ve been saving up all these years. “Hey you, yeah you! That’s right kid in the adorable overalls. Did you just punch my kid? I thought so. You mess with her you mess with me. Got it? Now have you ever heard of Karate…”