Since I put it out there, that whole thing about Kevin getting punched in the arm at school, I feel that I owe some follow-up.
It’s not something I’ve taken lightly, and I’ve agonized a little over whether to do anything about it or not – namely, contact the principal and/or the teacher of the class in which this happened. Bullying is not something we, as a family, are unfamiliar with. I was bullied pretty much all through school, and we dealt with a pretty serious situation in which Kevin was being bullied back when he was in fifth grade. He even took part in a radio program a year or two ago that discussed the topic of bullying.
The thing is, as Kevin gets older (and being my first-born, he is, unfortunately, sort of the guinea pig in our parenting adventures), I am discovering that it becomes a slippery slope, this inclination of mine to want to step in and take charge of situations. As Michael has pointed out to me, Kevin is at an age where he needs – and wants – to figure out who he is, as a separate person from his parents. He needs – and wants – to be given room to deal with situations on his own, in his own way. And as much as it hurts me as his mother – who wants more than anything to protect him and keep him safe – I am realizing that if we don’t give him the chance to deal, he’s never going to learn how to deal. We are his safety net at this point, but he’s starting to spread his wings a little and find his way in the world. Hopefully we’ve given him the tools to do just that.
So, in the end, after much discussion between me and Michael, Michael and Kevin, and me and Kevin, I decided to do nothing because that’s what Kevin wanted. Although Kevin admits that this other kid “got carried away,” Kevin does not seem to be afraid of this kid, or of going to school. He’s had an extremely positive experience overall at this school, and given all the information about the situation, it seems pretty clear that my going to the teacher and/or principal would rock the boat unnecessarily for Kevin and probably cause him more harm than good. He says that’s why he lied to me about the bruises to begin with – because he knew I’d make a big deal about it and he didn’t want me to intervene. (And although this does not justify his lying to me – which I emphasized to him – I do get what he’s saying.)
All that being said, I of course still don’t like what happened. At all. Michael insists that this is a boy thing – boys of a certain age begin rough-housing in this manner, it’s pretty harmless, yada yada yada. As I said to Michael, it’s all about testosterone and who can piss the farthest, and it seems to carry over well into adulthood for a lot of guys, this whole ego-tough-guy-machismo thing. I don’t like it. I don’t like “play” that involves violence or inflicting injury to someone else, and I’m not going to condone it – I don’t care if it’s “typical” boy behavior.
This led to some friendly but heated discussion last night. I asked Michael, “What if it was your daughter who came home with bruises like that? Would you be okay with that?” “That’s different,” he said.
Now that our kids are getting a little older, and we have a bona fide teenager on our hands, differences in child-rearing are crystallizing not only based on the kids’ genders, but on the parents’ genders – moms tend to see things differently than dads do and to approach certain parenting issues differently, and expectations of the children themselves seem to be different based on whether we’re talking about a daughter or a son:
~ Rough-housing among peers, even to the point of resultant visible bruising, is apparently viewed as typical, harmless behavior by dads when the subjects are boys. Not so with girls. I, as a mom, however, don’t like it or approve of it for either boys or girls.
~ A fourteen-year-old son might be cheered on to some degree by his dad with regard to pursuing a girl he liked. If that fourteen-year-old boy actually kissed a girl (totally hypothetical; as far as we know, it hasn’t happened); Dad would be mighty proud. What if it were his fourteen-year-old daughter? Would Dad be cheering her on to pursue a boy she liked? Nah, that’s different. (Don’t forget, I reminded my husband, that the girl you might be cheering your son on to pursue is somebody’s fourteen-year-old daughter.) How would Dad feel if his fourteen-year-old daughter was kissed by a boy? Well, he seems resigned to it. Me? I think fourteen seems awfully young now that I have the perspective of a lot of years behind me. I honestly don’t want to see my fourteen-year-old son or daughter pursuing or kissing members of the opposite sex.
These are just a couple of examples, but it’s certainly food for thought. And clearly, dads have double standards and I am way more fair-minded than my husband!
Things are promising to get very interesting around here.