I’m not angry with you, don’t worry. You’ve continued to be the happy, fun-loving, wonderful little boy that you are. You play and you sing and you tell me about the things you’ve learned in school. You’re so eager to show off your new knowledge and the skills you’re developing and I can’t help but be captivated by your initiative and your growth. Even when you do things that are frustrating, the feelings never last long. You remind me every day how thankful I am to have you and how amazing the world can be when everything is new.
But still, I’m angry.
Your mom and I work very hard to teach you the right ways to behave. We’ve had many conversations about the appropriate ways to react when you’re upset and how to ask for things without whining. We’ve talked about how it’s important to listen to what people are telling you, even if you don’t like what they’re saying. We’ve practiced using your words when you’re upset, rather than growling or crying or running away.
Most importantly, we’ve told you that it’s not okay to hit people.
Again, I’m not angry with you. Sometimes you have an easier time remembering these lessons than others, but that’s natural. You’re still only three years old, after all, and you’re still learning where your place is in the world. There are going to be times when you remember to use your words and other times when you scream and run into the bedroom and slam the door. And all of that is okay.
Part of the reason I’m feeling angry (and frustrated and a bunch of other negative feelings) is because there are some grown-ups who still seem to have trouble with these behaviors. Some people still think that they can hit someone else when they get angry and that there’s nothing wrong with it. They think that violence is acceptable, whether the person is a stranger or a friend or even a loved one.
The real reason I’m angry is because some of these people keep getting rewarded, no matter how disgusting their behavior is.
I’m bringing it up now because, earlier this week, Greg Hardy, a defensive end in the NFL, had his criminal record, which included a bench trial conviction for domestic assault, expunged. Hardy was originally charged because he did some really terrible things to his girlfriend. Even though he was arrested, charged and convicted in a bench trial, he appealed and requested a jury trial. The jury trial case was dismissed, however, because Hardy’s girlfriend had refused to continue participating with the prosecution. Then, this week, Hardy’s request to have his criminal record expunged was granted.
Aside from the legal processes that gave Hardy extra chances, he also continued to be rewarded by the NFL. Hardy was initially suspended for ten games when the details of the assault initially came out. Hardy appealed and the sentence was reduced to four games. He had been cut by the Carolina Panthers when the initial charges were made but he was signed by the Dallas Cowboys in the off-season despite the looming suspension. He has played in four games so far this season and has had some issues keeping his cool. But, even with all the negative behaviors and Hardy’s apparent refusal to take ownership of his mistakes, Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones, is referring to Hardy as a “leader” and talking about giving him a contract extension.
So I’m angry. I’m angry because Hardy is still getting to play and isn’t getting punished for his crimes. (A four game suspension for almost killing a woman is laughable.) I’m angry because people are defending him, despite visual evidence of the harm he inflicted on his girlfriend. I’m angry because media outlets like ESPN support personalities who have implied that domestic violence against women can be a woman’s fault.
Eitan, I know that your mom and I have taught you better than this. I know that we will keep teaching you the right way to work through your feelings, no matter how upset you are. I know that your heart is too pure and too good for you to ever commit any sort of violence against anyone, let alone against someone you love. I’m not worried about you turning out like Greg Hardy or about you even thinking that such behavior is somehow acceptable. If anything, I know that you’re going to be the person who stands up against such crimes and works to keep people safe.
But I’m still angry.