Friday, May 6, 2016
The other day at school drop off I witnessed Tricky being teased. I'm sure kids have been mean to him before, but it was the first time I'd ever seen it happen.
We were hanging around the classroom door, waiting for it to open and a few girls in his grade were there too. They were all chatting and laughing, having a nice time.
Then the mood shifted when one girl, who is usually lovely, noticed Tricky's pink water bottle.
"Errrrr, you've got a PINK water bottle!!! Girls, look, Tricky has a PINK water bottle!" she squealed.
Tricks tried spinning around so the girls couldn't see his water bottle on the side of his back pack, but the three of them pounced on him and stopped him from turning. They weren't being violent, they were just mucking around.
"Let me see! It's PINK!!!" they laughed.
He made some funny faces at them and they lost interest in the water bottle, but as a groups of kids are want to do sometimes, they picked something else.
"And you don't have any freckles! That's so weird!" The girl said.
The other girls crowded around his face to have a look. Their freckled noses scrunched up with sun damage and scrutiny.
Tricks looked rather confused and asked who wanted to play chasey. They all said yes and off they went.
It was bizarre standing there, watching it unfold. I didn't want to step in, I wanted to see how he would handle it without me. I'm a fan of kids working out their own issues with guidance rather than mum stepping in every time to fight their battles, and since this was a low level teasing I felt it was a good introduction to standing up for yourself.
That he tried to make them laugh shows he's my kid. Humour is my weapon of choice. That he tried to change the subject also shows he's my kid. If my first weapon doesn't work, running away is my only other strategy. But I want him to have more.
When the doors opened we walked in and had a chat.
"What did those girls say about your water bottle?"
"They made fun of me because it was pink. Maybe I should get a new one?"
"You chose that water bottle because it's your favourite colour. Do you think someone who isn't hurting someone should change what they're doing, or do you think someone who is teasing someone should change what they're doing?"
"I think the person teasing shouldn't tease."
"Yep. And what can we say if someone says they don't like our pink water bottle?"
"It's just a colour! There's no such thing as boys and girls colours!"
"Right on, little guy! If that is your favourite colour, then it doesn't matter what other people say."
We did our usual kisses on his hands (so he can place his hands on his cheeks during the day if he feels like he needs a kiss from mum), and as I left he ran off to play with his friends.
All day I wondered if I'd done the right thing by not intervening. Should I have stepped in? Should I have said something at the time? Mentioned it to the girls' mums? They would have been mortified that their children were teasing and would have told them off. Or was holding back and arming him with words and reason the way to go?
Tricks has grown up in an environment where we try not to gender toys and accept that toys are for playing with and pretending with, no matter what colour they are or who they are aimed towards. He loves Lego, cars, plays rough and tells poo jokes. Other times he nurtures dolls and is Brozen - a bro who likes Frozen. His favourite colour is pink and he wants to be an army officer when he grows up.
He's a wonderful mixture of masculine and feminine but I realize that he could seem weird to some people who are only used to rigidly defined gender roles.
So I equip my boy with strategies to use when someone teases him and hope for the best in a schoolyard that can be cruel sometimes. It's just a colour. Although in my head I'm shouting inappropriately at a six year old "It's just a fucking colour and it's called sunscreen, bitch!".