My kids fortunately live in a world where they are surrounded by all kinds of kids whose parents parent. What I mean is that the kids they encounter on playdates and at school are kids whose parents and adults around them, take the time to instruct behavior and instill values of sharing, kindness and respect.
As usual, most of our best learned lessons have happened on the playground. It's a great place for social learning; I equate it to "speed dating" for kids. You make friends with people you don't know and bond for an hour and then go home. You learn about someone else and yourself and then it's over, but you take those lessons with you forever. The other day my oldest daughter's world came to a screeching halt as she encountered an overly aggressive boy who I think was related to the group of older girls she decided to play with. I'm certain I may upset some people with what I'm about to say in this post but I don't care....
While I play with my 3 year old who is almost independent but not completely, I hear aggressive language toward my oldest daughter. "Harry (hurry) up stupid." was one of many yelled sentences. As a good parent I watch to see what my kid will do rather than jump into every conflict. She looks at me deer in the headlights... That's when I knew, my child wasn't gangster. My head dropped. So she words to me "Mom what should I do?". I say out loud "Is it possible to move out the way or are you stuck dear?". She says to the boy "We are in line and I can't move this person in front of me". At the very top of the line stood a three year old, who like mine, wanted to do big kid stuff but wasn't quite ready yet. Their parent shared my 'why 3 y/o why?'-face as they anxiously waited for their kid to have the courage to walk up the slide ladder. The boy then pushes my daughter in her back with his fist. Nothing painful, she said it didn't hurt but the act was ridiculous to me. Why is this little boy incapable of learning to deal with frustration? Why is violence against another an appropriate way to empower your feeling of helplessness in a situation... especially violence against a girl? Where is his caregiver who is monitoring the situation? He couldn't be more than 7 he shouldn't be at a park unsupervised, even if he is with a large group of kids.
Rather than yell at another person's child and look like a crazy lady, I took my kids out of the situation. "You cannot play around that boy" I said pointing to him. My oldest says "he keeps following us". I said, "Get your last plays in. Tell him to leave you alone. You have 7 minutes left". My older two run off to another area of the park. The boy follows them talking loud enough for me to hear, "I don't know why she thought she had to tell her mother. I was just saying she needed to move out my way". This is when I lost it... inside. But my daughter was gangster. She turns to me in front of him "Mom some people just have no respect for themselves or others" she laughs and then turns back to play. The boy stopped and ran off.
When we got in the car we talked about it. "Mom, why are some boys so mean. Especially black ones". Wow I thought. I was about to dismiss her point and just gloss over it... But then in my head I said yeh why are they? Not that other races of men aren't (aggression is a Y chromosome/testosterone trait) but a large majority of my life has been a struggle with angry, unloved/ing black men. We put so much emphasis into saving them, that I'm not certain we are going about it the right way. Aside from that, I just don't want my girls looking back at 32 on a particular demographic with a bad taste in their mouth. As a slightly disgruntled and "angry black woman" I can't see how this issue of continued empowerment of men is helping our future mothers. I've always wanted to yell, "in a male dominated society you have only one 'strike' against you, I have two!!!". The most successful relationships, friendships, parent-child relationships between black women and black men are those where black women involved with black men force the men and boys to stop taking and start contributing. I logged her statement for a more mature time because I'm certain as she gets older, more black men-black women convos may arise. As we move closer to "not seeing race" I hope not, but they may and I should be prepared with facts and studies rather than my own muddied, personal experience story. For this encounter, however, I focused on a lack of love, because every human could use more love...
I said, "You know dear, some people don't get enough hugs at home. That's not just one color of people that's lots of people". I continued, "You judge all people by their character and actions no matter who they are. BUT, and this is a big but" (which made the kid laugh) "you can't take any crap off anyone, especially a man. No man ever, ever out of anger or frustration puts his hands on you. Do you hear me?" There was a chorus-like "yes" that chimed from the backseat. "Boys have a Y chromosome and more testosterone which makes them physically stronger later in life. You can't allow them to hit you because you could get hurt. It's not ok for boys to hit anyone out of frustration, especially girls." (I'm sad that this was not a conversation that this boy's dad or mom was having in the heat of the moment). "Stand your ground and next time don't defer to me when something happens that you can handle. You are powerful and should tell anyone what you think in relation to your safety and well being".
I was done and then my daughter says "Mom, it's sad that some people don't respect others".
"It is sad dear".
I'm a former teacher and former college athlete, currently working to make life more equitable for all people. My mission is to get parents to partner with their child's teacher.