Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A Series of Unnecessary Events




I posted a bit of a sanctimonious rant on Facebook today. I know, I know.

I know. I tend to do that.

Upon further reflection of the issue I recalled an incident from a few years back and thought I'd share the experience. It's part of what has shaped my inner mother bear.

We were living in our little white rental house, which was a picket fence and stone's throw away from the public elementary school. That elementary school noise was the bane of my existence during those three years of renting there. But on weekends it was delightfully quiet and so we'd skip across the road and play on the playground, which we usually had all to ourselves.

Paxton was a fairly new baby which means Violet was about three, and Eisley somewhere around five. We had the playground all to ourselves that morning for just about 15 minutes before a woman arrived with her two sons, who looked about 6 and 8 if I had to guess. It was obvious they attended school there. Mom was engrossed in talking to someone on her cell phone.

Now, there's not judgement there, not yet. I've gotten looks myself in a Chick-Fil-A if I spend 5 minutes looking at my cellphone while my kids eat. I don't judge other parents when I see them do this because I spend 24/7 with my kids. I homeschool them, I'm with them all the time. I always drop my screen to answer questions immediately. But I have no guilt spending minutes on my phone at lunch if my kids are otherwise involved with lunch/playing/talking to each other. I mean, there are 1,440 minutes in a day. How can you judge a parent by watching them for just 20 of those? But I digress.

All was well and the boys took an interest in my girls who'd been playing on the jungle gym happily. I'm not always a hover mom, but when kids I don't know join mine on a playground, I will hover then, to protect my kids and to protect others from my kids. A little while later, another set of brothers joined us. They were black, which I mention only because it comes up later, you'll see. Their mother and her friend left them to play, and then went to the far side of the school yard where the basketball courts were. They plopped down at a picnic table chat and left their boys to play with their friends.

While my girls were mostly disinterested in the boys, the boys did seem to try and play with my girls. They were polite, I thought, and being nice to my girls. But I still hovered because I don't trust people I don't know. Honestly. I don't. For good reason, I think you'll see.

Now after a while, with white mom still very engaged with her cell phone convo about 15 feet away, I was standing directly below Violet and Eisley--making sure they wouldn't tumble off where the fireman's pole was {how their mama broke her arm when she was 5} when I heard the older white boy say something so shocking my jaw dropped open. Right in front of me, to Violet, he said,

"I'm going to take your diaper off and touch your private parts."

Before I could recover from my shock and sort out whether that legit just came out of his mouth right in front of me {was he having a brain fart, or was he an especially unwise kid?} he said it again! Again, as if he was expecting a response,

"I'm going to take your diaper off and touch  your private parts."

To my three year old. White boys were smiling because they found this all very funny, black boys looked as shocked as I was.

I believe in kindness and gentleness and not losing your cool. Patience is something I've had to work on, as well as my temper. I was a different mom even just a few years ago, however. Plus, I am a mother bear at heart. The quickest way to flip my Jekyl/Hyde switch is to mess with my kids.

Switch was flipped.

I yelled at this boy in my roughest, ugliest bark, "HEY! You don't EVER talk to girls that way!!! Do you understand me!!??!? That is SO inappropriate!!! YOU GOT THAT?!"

And then I swung around, prepared to fight the other mama bear. But she was on her cell phone 15 feet away, conversation ongoing. What the heck?! Okay, NOW I was judging that mom. If a stranger was screaming at my kids a few steps away...I'd hang up the dang phone and probably ask her what her damage was. Through her sunglasses, I couldn't tell if she was looking at us or not, but she certainly was facing our direction. In hindsight, it occurs to me that she might have thought I was yelling at my kids that way. But at the time, it didn't occur to me and I was feeling resentful that she hadn't been there to parent her own kid and so here I was doing it. And not so gently. Either way, it ticked me off that she was totally oblivious.

Switch flipped again.

"Excuse me!"

She pulled the phone away from her ear.

"Do you know what your son just said to my toddler?!" 

I told her. Also I told her how repugnant that was to hear come out of a child's mouth and a few other thoughts. I was livid that anyone would threaten my daughter in such a vile, violating way.

"What? I don't think so, not my son. Did you say that? [Boys shook their head.] No. It must have been those boys."

She pointed at the two black brothers. The boys who'd been disinterested in my kids, clearly wanted to play with their friends more than my girls. The boys who were polite enough to be shocked when their friend made a disgusting, pervy comment. The boys who also happened to be black, they were now falsely and unfairly accused of something despicable by an adult. It hurt me to see. I cringed, maybe visibly, but certainly inwardly as well.

And I could not help but think to myself, Why "must" it have been those boys??? Because they're black? 

I can not tell you if race motivated her accusation because I can't read minds and for all I know it might have been her pathetic response if two white girls were standing there instead, but I did feel it was a hugely inappropriate response. Not only was she calling me a liar, she was unfairly accusing two kids who probably have grown up with at least some form of racial prejudice already. I cannot know what it's like, but I can only imagine I'd be sensitive to false accusations if I also grew up experiencing racism.

I honestly did not know whether it would help those boys or hurt them to hear me counter, "Why?! Because they're black?!" So I didn't. But I had their backs, and I told her I was right there when her precious innocent darling verbally sexually assaulted my toddler. That he said it twice. Right in front of me like some little idiot. {Idiotic indeed, but no name-calling took place in real time. I did not call her son an idiot, although I was thinking it.}

White mom was not as combative as I was and so we left quickly after exchanging a few more pathetic words. Hopefully that little dude will think twice before saying something like that to a girl again. And honestly, that sort of speech is a red flag to me. Either there's been sexual inappropriateness in that kid's life OR he's still curious about the opposite sex and his parents aren't the types to, you know, teach them social manners.

People love to tell me how socially awkward my homeschooled children will be. Right. Well, that's a ill-researched stereotype, first of all. But if sending my kids to public school means they'll be exposed to this sort of unwanted talk from kids on the playground--probably when a teacher is NOT right there to hear it--I'm pretty glad I'm sparing my kids that sort of social experience homeschool critics insist is so important. No thanks!

Now, I know there will be some people just as shocked as I, but there are also who take a "boys will be boys" attitude toward this incident. Kids are curious. It's normal. Blah blah blah.

Well. I disagree. Wholeheartedly.

I say this as someone who, as a teenager, had an adult man basically scream the same thing {in so many words} at me and my mother during a road rage incident. It was awful. One of the worst moments of my life, waiting for that red light to change so we could escape hearing about how he was going to take our pants off and...you don't need to hear the rest. But it still to this day is the #1 worst memory of my entire life.

No. I'm sorry some think so little of boys. Boys are perfectly capable of being taught to control themselves and their words. We insult them with this "boys will be boys" attitude. They are capable of learning and employing self control. We do them no favors by rolling our eyes and shrugging our shoulders when they choose to act like little idiots toward girls. Please. I won't have it. Don't defend it. Not my son.

There've been other incidents too, with boys. And my girls are homeschooled. I'm currently trying to decide whether or not a boy at our homeschool enrichment school on Fridays is crossing the line or not. Hard to say, I'm not there. At best, he can't keep his pinching hands or cheek kisses to himself...I can see how some might think it's endearing when he says he is "going to marry" my daughter. At worst, it's teaching my girls how to expect to be treated and I don't like that.

Good thing they have a good daddy who takes them on daddy-daughter dates and proactively shows them how a man should treat women. I was raised being told that aggression from boys on the schoolyard is how we know boys like us. Don't you agree this is dangerous? To teach girls to expect aggression as a form of fondness?

No. That's pretty messed up when you think of it.

So, today I posted this to Facebook:

I'm preemptively teaching Paxton to keep his hands to himself, his lips off girls cheeks, and that being playfully aggressive toward girls isn't how we show we like them. Because I shouldn't have to--but have been forced to--teach my daughters how to handle unwanted kisses, touches, and that they don't have to put up with being repeatedly pinched by boys who also tell them they want to marry them. It's like some parents WANT their sons to have a run-in with a mama bear or something. 😒 You're not doing him any favors if you don't talk to your son about these things, whether you think your darling is capable of such behavior or not.

I would also like to say, that Violet has insisted for months that she doesn't want to marry, and wants to live with us when she grows up. I said the same thing at her age, so I don't expect her to keep that promise. But I can see how being told by a boy she IS going to marry him one day is bothersome.

We talk to our kids. We talk about private parts. We talk about gentle touching with animals and friends. We talk about keeping our hands to ourselves. We talk about talking about inappropriate topics and how to avoid them. We talk about all these things so as to teach our children, so as to protect them and others. AND YOU SHOULD TOO, with your kids. For everyone's sake.

True social awkwardness doesn't come from homeschooling. It comes from inept parenting.
That's that.

Cheers,
Heather aka Fierce Mama Bear




2 comments:

  1. My jaw dropped when I read that line as well! I don't understand why the excuse "boys will be boys" is accepted by so many people. EVERY child needs to be taught how to treat and not treat others. Doesn't matter if they are a boy or girl! You could not have put it any better.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I SO agree, Jessica! And my jaw dropped too, the first time he said it, I was absolutely and utterly dumbfounded.

    Thanks for the comment! :)

    ReplyDelete

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