These days, saying “Boys will be boys” in a group of parents is liable to earn you a few raised eyebrows and possibly a mental scolding. Let’s face it, everyone is so litigiously politically correct that allowing children, especially boys, to work things out the old fashioned way is akin to burning them with cigarette butts, and just as likely to get you reported to your local children’s services group.
So, I find myself in a quandary regarding my oldest son. He’s three, and while he isn’t the smallest boy in his little daycare class, he’s by no means the biggest. There have been instances over the last few months where he’s been the target of some small amount of bullying (yes, even at the tender age of 3) and in most cases, he’s responded as society has taught us to respond–by doing nothing.
Dads, you’ll understand where I’m going with this, but for you moms, let me explain something for you. Boys WILL be boys. Boys WILL get in fights and boys WILL have to earn their place among each other. Groups of boys enjoy a pecking order that often has nothing to do with who is toughest, but has more to do with who is the most assertive. As a consequence, boys who are not necessarily assertive, often become targets. It’s a situation I happen to have a lot of experience in.
When I was growing up, we moved from our house in-town to a fairly rural area around Mobile, AL. This meant I also moved to a new school and started 6th grade among kids whom I had no history with. There were no childhood friends with whom I could buddy up to for protection. No, I was on my own. For the first year at my new school, I trekked back and forth from class to class avoiding a certain group of boys. There was also a certain boy in my neighborhood that gave me problems, although to be fair, there was never any violence; just the threat of violence on a daily basis. One day at P.E., after taking verbal jabs from one boy for about 15 minutes, I managed to put him on the ground and convinced him that I probably wasn’t going to be a good target from then on. Ya know what happened after that? Most of my problems at school with other boys just went away. And while I wouldn’t say I was best buds with my previous nemesis’, we at least had an understanding. A similar thing happened a couple of years later with the boy in my neighborhood, and after that, he left me alone too.
Back to the original point: Armed with this knowledge, I’m having a hard time being politically correct when it comes to my son. A new boy has moved into his daycare class and apparently this new boy finds my son a fun person to pick on. Now, if my son pushes the boy back after being pushed himself, he gets fussed at by the teachers. As if maybe he was supposed to either just take the abuse, or go running to the teachers tattle-telling. Yesterday when I picked him up from daycare, I mentioned that maybe soon he’ll be moved up to the next class with his other friends who just moved up, to which my son responded, “Yeah, and then maybe Aiden (this new little troublemaker) won’t pick on me anymore.”
As a parent, and as a dad, this really bothers me. I know how being a target makes a young boy feel and I would spare my son that if I could. However, I also don’t want him to get into trouble and be labeled a troublemaker. So, I’m at an impasse as to what advice to give him. Maybe I just don’t give him any advice. Maybe I don’t say that I don’t want him starting fights and maybe I don’t say that he’ll get in trouble if he gets in a fight. Maybe I also leave out that if the other boy pushes him, he has my permission to return the favor. At least that way he has no preconceived notions about what will happen if he does haul off and smack this other boy.
My other thought is to call up the daycare director and tell her that if my son comes home one more time and tells me that he got pushed by this other boy, that I’m going to give him permission to do whatever he feels like doing and if they want to discipline him, fine, but I won’t be adding to it when he gets home.
Living in fear is not fun and I’m sorry, but sometimes boys have to be themselves and work things out the old fashioned way. Sometimes violence (limited violence) is necessary. Save the peace talks for the boardroom and let playground politics rule the day!