At the corner of the street leading out of our neighborhood was a fighting gym called Combat Fitness.
From the street, through the window, you could see a full size boxing ring inside and hardcore fighter types going in and out.
I found it fascinating.
Less than a mile away, in our cozy little housing development, every resident you asked cited the best thing about living there by saying, “It’s safe.”
Suburban code for “Everyone here looks like us.”
While just down the street, men and women of all shades and sizes who believe that feeling “safe” is the unsafest thing you can want in life, are actively beating the shit out of each other – for practice.
One day while driving by Combat, I was chatting with my daughter, who was in the first grade at the time.
We were talking about the difference between a “good dare” and a “bad dare.”
“A ‘good dare’ is something that inspires you to be brave and take a shot at something you really want to do, even if it scares you a little,” I said. “So long as it feels safe – like learning a sport or an instrument.”
“A ‘bad dare,’” I continued. “Is something that someone else is pushing you to do because it’s what they want you to do.”
“Like, jumping off of a roof into a pool,” I explained. “That’s not brave… it’s dumb and dangerous and there’s no reward for trying it.”
The car grew silent as we approached the stoplight.
I felt accomplished as a parent.
I’d laid down some succinct “dad wisdom” and my daughter’s quiet contemplation of this golden nugget of truth was likely saving her from untold troubles she would otherwise face.
With my fatherly halo burning bright enough to tan my bald skull, I turned my gaze to the fighting gym to see what was going on inside.
“So, Dad,” my daughter said, breaking the silence. “If I dared you to go into that gym, would that be a ‘good dare’ or a ‘bad dare’?”
She had me cornered.
I remember John Carlton saying once that “8-yr-old girls know everything that is going on around them.”
It made sense.
He was framing it in a lesson about not underestimating the intelligence of your market.
“People aren’t stupid, so don’t talk to them like they’re stupid.”
Yet, after I became a father, I questioned his logic.
Kids need a lot of careful guidance, I would think.
Plus, John has no kids, so he just doesn’t know the reality of it.
So much for that.
I was being called onto the mat (literally!) by my own daughter, who was not even 8 yet.
And, what I did and said next would show her more than I ever realized about me.
Next Sunday I’ll tell you what that was… and, spoiler alert: what it feels like to get punched in the face by a guy older than your dad.