"It's like taking a nap on that little rug when you were in kindergarten."

My 4th Grade Bad-Self, Good Will Fighting

mj, 4th grade, bad self

Do I look like a bad kid?
Was it the haircut?

Ricky never liked me. I’m not sure why. I was well-liked. Stayed off the street and kept my nose clean. In so-much-as a 4th grade boy could do.

We had gone up through grade school together; always in the same classroom.

Heck, we were only nine.

I never had a problem with him. Maybe it was something I said years ago, or maybe he just didn’t like the clothes I wore.

Scratch that, we all wore the same clothes. It was a Catholic school – with uniforms. My male “comrades” and I all wore prison school green pants (a forest shade, in particular) and a very faint light green shirt.

Could it have been my size? I was a scrappy, lean … okay, picture me skinnier than Ewan McGregor in Trainspotting. Let’s just say my “off hours” Sears Toughskins – size ultra-slim – were still too big for me.

sears, toughskins, 4th grade

But hey, he wasn’t Hulk Hogan. Ricky was an average-sized kid. Looking back, he was built how one might picture Mark Ruffalo as a 9 year old.

That fateful day, in the middle of an uneventful 4th grade, my classmate punched my twig-like right arm and invited me to meet him after school in the parking lot.

There was no fear of guns or knives, then.

But the thought of having a tooth knocked out, my nose broken, or a black eye wasn’t exactly the look I was hoping for either.


This was perhaps one of my first experiences of thinking on my feet.

I stammered out, “Let’s meet at my house at 3:30. Unless you can’t handle fighting me there.”

Ricky couldn’t back down in front of the rest of the class.

“Fine then, I’ll meet you there.”


He played right into my hand.

Promptly at 3:30, I strolled outside, legs as wobbly as a new colt. And there HE was, with a few other neighborhood kids. Poised for my destruction.

“Hey Ricky, let’s go inside my house before we fight.”

“Okay, Monaghan! Then, let’s do this.” (Yeah, sounds ridiculous coming from a 4th grade kid, doesn’t it??).

I took him through the garage and into the “utility room.” Little did that mafioso-in-training know that I was taking him to our speed bag.

Yep, dad had taught us how to hit a speed bag and heavy bag from the time we could walk. And I hit that thing almost every day.

As I stepped up on the stool – that’s right, I was too small to reach the speed bag, don’t be laughing now – out of the corner of my eye, I could see Ricky’s jaw dropping.

Parumpt, parumpt, parumpt.
Parumpt, parumpt, parumpt.
Parumpt, parumpt, parumpt.

And so it went for three or four minutes. Me, just busting that speed bag until my knuckles started bleeding from the seams of the bag.

I don’t know who would have won that fight …

had it occurred.

Ricky gracefully bowed out. And asked for some lessons in hitting a speed bag. I, of course, accepted his offer and gave him some instruction.

No broken nose, busted teeth, or black eyes occurred that day.

Those stories are for another time.


Do you remember seeing kids fighting in grade school?
Or were you the one fighting? 


  1. yay! beatdown averted! my hubby still holds toughskins against his mom fir making him wear them!

    • Oh my gosh, they were the stiffest pants known to man and beast. Took years I think to break them in. And the colors were horrible, I mean interesting! :)

  2. Andra Watkins says:

    We played kissing girls on the playground, where we chased the boys and tried to kiss them. Maybe that was assault??

  3. Hi MJ, that is an amazing story, and you must have been a pretty remarkable kid.

  4. A Jedi at only nine years old…creative thinking MJ x

    • I REALLY did not want to get hit in the face. Oddly enough, I probably broke my nose five or six times in my childhood from hitting different objects – mailboxes, clothesline poles, footballs, etc.

  5. Hi,
    What a great idea you came up with, and no doubt he would of treated you differently after that. Very good thinking.

    • I should have mentioned it in the story, but I never had any problem with anyone at that school after word of the incident spread like wildfire. Until I moved and had to start all over again. :)

  6. Outsmarting your enemy without an ounce of violence, now that’s incredible. Doing in in Toughskins…..that’s Badass!

    • I never liked fighting!

      Lisa, those Toughskins were like straight-jackets. You had to break them in like a bucking bronco. Skid into mud, wash them a million times, take them to the creek and scrub them against stones. Okay, maybe not that bad, but pretty bad. :)

  7. Wow, MJ! I LOVE this story. Look at you. You had grit where it counted. I really didn’t see where the story was going either, which made the outcome that much more awesome.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Chipmunk!

      Isn’t it amazing what a little fear and panic will do to stimulate the thinking?! I lucked out in that situation.

  8. Great story. Grade School. Ah the memories. I remember jumping off a teetter totter and the other girl getting the wind knocked out of her. I remember a big girl once on the other end of the teeter totter, banging down really hard on her landing and I flew off! Seems I had a lot of teeter totter incidents!

    • Teeter totters were vicious. I can remember kids cracking heads, limbs, etc. when someone jumped off. Mainly the boys. Sorry to hear about your situation on the TT. That’s rough.

  9. I never witnessed a fight, and thankfully never had a fight. I was the object of the bullies scorn, but it seemed to all be verbal. Maybe they knew that, back then, my limbs would have snapped like a twig. Now I’m friends with one of those bullies. Motherhood (and in her case Grandmotherhood) softens the bully edge.

    See, Master Jedi really fits you, good mind tricks young Skywalker.

    • Wow, never witnessed a fight?? You were most fortunate. Sorry to hear about the bullying. Kids are brutal.

      I didn’t get bullied, nor did I do the bullying. Just wasn’t my style. Though I did get in a few scrapes.

      I’m liking that Master Jedi thing, though I wish it were true. hehe

  10. Judy Berman says:

    Quick thinking on your part, Michael.
    I remember nearly being the punching bag in about 4th grade. My defense, other than that year, was self-deprecating humor. It’s hard to hit someone when you’re laughing at them – or, that is, with them.

  11. Cousin Mary says:

    I sure could use that punching bag for my son, Andrew, who just finished fourth grade. He would think he died and went to heaven. And I remember that bag in the basement! Times have changed in some ways… playing on the Wii versus punching a bag for one!

    • Hey Cuz, thanks for stopping by. So good to virtually see you.

      You should get Andrew a punching bag. Nothing like hitting the real thing. Although I am a fan of Wii.

  12. When I was in college, driving home one day, I came across two boys outside the elementary school pounding each other into the sidewalk. I took my adult civic duty seriously, stopped and broke up the figtht. They yelled at me! They walked off arms over each other, backpacks over the other, grumbling about the stupid guy that wouldn’t let friends have a little fun. I guess that 4th graders don’t make good pacificists.

    • That’s funny, Oscar. At least you stopped the fight. Shows how little it takes for young kids to go at it. And here they are uniting over you breaking it up. If only they had a little wisdom at that age, eh?

  13. Yeah. Fight fire with fire, MJ!

    Only, there was no fire.

    No one got burned.

    But this vital lesson was learned.

    “In some cases non-violence requires more militancy than violence.” ~ Cesar Chavez

    >I didn’t get bullied, nor did I do the bullying. Just wasn’t my style.
    – I think this quote tells me why.

    “Non-violence is not a garment to be put on and off at will. Its seat is in the heart, and it must be an inseparable part of our being.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

    >Do you remember seeing kids fighting in grade school? Or were you the one fighting?
    – ‘No’ to both.

    Yes, there was teasing and some nickname-ing, which is very different from the name calling and punch throw-ing that is commonplace today.

    My nickname in school was ‘Our Lady of Bones’. If the naughty boys were bunched up when I passed by, one would say aloud, “Our Lady of Bones!” and the rest would chorus, “Pray for us!”

    I liked the attention. :-)

    >my classmate punched my twig-like right arm
    – Today, I’m still called ‘Our Lady of Bones’ by my schoolmates because I’ve barely grown. Know what I’m sayin’? And I’ve acquired more skinny-being-inspired names. A few have to do with twigs.

    Again, I like the creativity and the fondness behind the monikers.

    Oh yeah, the attention, too. :-)


    • Love the quote by Mahatma Gandhi.

      I was able to avoid the fight in this situation, but there were others where I wasn’t so fortunate.

      I suspected that Our Lady of Bones (now you’re OLB, hehe) was not the violent type. :)
      Oh yeah, and WERE/are the attention-getting type! *prolonged laughter*
      So nice that they asked you to pray for them, eh?

  14. You know, with that lead up, I was certain you’d have cookies or something inside. Never would’ve guessed a bag. Cool thinking! I never fought ~ at school or punk shows. I’m more of a lover than fighter, but in grade school, you could find me on the swings and those bars that gradually got higher and higher. I loved to swing around and around and around on them until I was dizzy. Which I think explains a lot about me as an adult.

    • Hmm, should have thought about cookies. Would have saved my knuckles a bit.

      I can’t see you being a fighter. Seems out of character for you. I was always scared to go too high on the swings and the bars. Thought I would fall. Some of the neighborhood swing sets weren’t cemented into the ground and there were instances of kids “tipping” over the whole swing set.

  15. Very cool way to put a stop to that fight. I’m sure the bully was imagining you pummeling his face like you were hitting the bag. It’s just too bad that couldn’t have been caught on tape!

    I was a very shy, wimpy girl in school. The only two fights I was ever involved in were sneak attacks from a couple of bullies. Other than that, I wasn’t stupid. I never started anything because I knew I’d be the one who lived to regret it. :)

    • I probably couldn’t have hit him at that age, but it scared him knowing that I had skills.

      I can’t believe you were ambushed. Was it boys or girls? If girls, you must have had some tough kids in school.

      • Skills can be pretty scary sometimes. :)

        The ‘ambushers’ were girls. The only boy who even sort of beat me up was a jerk who when to my junior high. And I kind of brought that on myself. He was following me home making all kinds of crude comments and, after awhile, I got tired of it…but wasn’t sure how to respond. So, bright girl that I am, I turned around and spit on him (only time I’ve ever spit on a person in my life). Worked though. He never spoke to me again. :)

  16. Brilliantly handled especially for a 4th grader! :)

  17. I concur with the Jedi references. The force is strong in you.
    There were fights at school although I don’t remember any of them being so serious. They did involve lookouts so the combantants could resolve their differences without teacher interference. Punishment generally resulted in standing outside the headmasters office for all to see…

    • Ah, the lookout was a necessary piece of any “tete a tete.” Occasionally that could keep you from getting in trouble with the teacher or monitor.

      I like the punishment at your school. That would have embarrassed most of the kids I knew.

  18. That’s thinking outside the box–and inside the boxing ring!

  19. That took a lot of nerve and quick thinking, MJ! If I were in the same situation, I probably would have thought of that brilliant move AFTER my face had been knocked in at the bike racks. Lucky for you, you were quick on your toes. (And that picture is adorable!) :)

    • I was lucky in this situation, Dana. In other circumstances, I was able to deftly block some punches with my body and my face. :)

      What is with that haircut in my picture, though?? I think that was the old cut it outside on the patio, by the parents, haircut. hehe

  20. Wow that’s awesome! I bow to you ohh mighty man of knowledge. I’m with the Skywalker references. Also I’m loving the new gravatar pic, although I have to ask, would that be coffee or tea you’re drinking?

    I’ve witnessed plenty of fights at my school, all pretty brutal, the closest I’ve actually gotten to being in one was quite a few years ago. Ran into this girl bully, nastly piece of work. She ‘pretended’ to bump into me by accident and in the process wacked me in the stomouch with her bag so I shoved it back in her face. It was all around the school afterwards, made me feel pretty nifty, for a shy kid 😉
    I also remember beating her in a PE lesson for who could do this: http://www.sixpacknow.com/Abs_of_the_Month/Justin/justin_plank_exercise.jpg for the longest and I won. Now THAT was awesome. The look on her face phaaa :)

    • Thanks, Becky. I believe I was drinking English Breakfast in that picture. I do drink both tea and coffee. Always with the proper mixture of cream.

      Glad you stuck up for yourself in the purse incident. And you got the bonus of your reputation spreading across the school – nice! Beating here in PE, priceless.

  21. Haha talk about brains over brawn! Thinking about it now, I’m surprised that I never got into a fight at school. Then again, that was probably due to the fact that I was homeschooled most of like grade school career (until high school). Great read, thanks :)

    • Hey Nate, how you doing?

      Great job avoiding a fight. I was kind of an average kid, but got into several altercations between grade school and high school. I’m sure I’ll post more about them.

  22. You were a brilliant kid, MJ. I never thought that quick on my feet. If someone had a problem with me, I’d just panic. Once a boy slugged me in the stomach on the playground and I couldn’t breathe, just fell to the ground. Fortunately, I had older brothers who all acted like my bodyguards. Great post and love that picture of you!

    • Hit D-Woww in the stomach?? I have four sisters – all younger – and would have hurt that young lad pretty badly if I would have found out about something like that. Glad you had older brothers, as well.

      How about that picture, and my Edward Scissorhands haircut?? WTH? :)

  23. Oh my goodness! What a cute story. That picture does not do you justice. You were *so obviously* a bad ass before your time. :-) I like how you think.

  24. Hey MJ!

    I love this post! I love your picture, you were a cute kid and a smart one at that 😉

    I never had a fight in grade school and neither did I see one but I witnessed plenty of them in high school! I hate fights but it seems like they are a rite of passage for most guys. Is that true?

    Lovely post once again! x


    • Glad you never got in a fight. Witnessing them is bad enough. Not sure why they have to happen, but sometimes guys are just not very smart, I guess.

      Thank you for the kind words. You do have to feel sorry for me, with that haircut!

  25. and just in case you are wondering, I am ria from http://www.riatarded.wordpress.com! roasted keyboard is a domain I bought! haha :p

  26. Too funny. Good for you for thinking on your feet!

  27. You were pretty clever as a 4th-grader! I would have run, screaming like a little girl (of course, I was one). I enjoyed your post, you area talented storyteller, MJ.

  28. Wow! Mj You were a really intelligent kid. :) You won the fight with out even using your hands on someone. I hope Ricky is not reading your blogs. :)

  29. sunshine says:

    Great story, MJ and awww, what a cute grade school snapshot of ya too!
    To answer your question about witnessing fights in grade school…nope, can’t recall a time anyone got rowdy enough but hey, I was in the peace and love scene so, who knows?
    Just wondering if you kept in touch with Ricky after grade school?
    Okay, have a great week!

    • Oh, Sunshine, that’s sweet of you to say that about my rag-a-muffin picture.

      I did not keep in touch with him after grade school. We moved out of state for three years, and then came back to the same city, but in a completely different area. My guess is, he wouldn’t even remember the situation at all.

      Hope you had a great weekend.

  30. This is a hilarious post! You cracked me up on this one… and I love the photo! I went to a parochial Lutheran school. We didn’t have enough people to fight with! I had 3 classmates, and shared a classroom with 2 other classes that were equally small, so not much fighting took place.

    The real thing was, my Dad was a well-known “bad ass” in town, and nobody messed with me or my siblings. Everyone knew if you messed with the Knuth (pronounced “Kuh NOOTH”) kids, their old man would come beat the tar out of them AND their parents. I had trouble getting guys to date me for the same reason! Everyone was afraid of the old man.

    Oh, and my poor brother had to wear the Toughskin “slims” too, but I was never fooled by the “slim” label. My brother could punch, wrestle and fight like a pro! I guess that’s where they came up with the Wrangler jeans! I never wanted to wrangle with him!

    • Thanks, Lori! Wow, didn’t realize your school was that small. Only 3 classmates – you better get along, huh?

      Kind of nice to have old dad as the enforcer, except you also had to deal with that, too. I can only imagine having to come to your door with dad at home. Ouch for the young man.

      I’ll bet you held your own with your brother. :)


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