Other rites of passage, teasing on the playground

What is it about watching someone’s child teasing your child that makes one want to jump into the action, take advantage of being ‘bigger’ and rescue our kids from pain and disappointment? I know protecting our children is the main element to this response but maybe there’s more in there that brings us back to our own experiences with pain when we were young. It feels like we need to fight that injustice. I’m not really sure. All I know is when Matt and I were with the kids yesterday and three boys started taunting our son, it was really disheartening.

My son is super friendly and outgoing and has always felt comfortable approaching strangers and children he isn’t familiar with, asking them if they want to play. He really does make friends wherever he goes and he hasn’t reached that shift in life where one becomes insecure about their likability and how others view them. Yesterday we had a family day and took the kids out to a park to play. Three other boys showed up, mom still getting stuff out of the mini van somewhere. It didn’t take long for Oliver to approach them and say, “Hey, do you wanna play with me?” Matt and I always smile at this because it reaffirms to us that our kid is comfortable in his skin. He’ll have his adolescent years to become an awkward, lanky kid with a cracky voice and oily skin who tries to conceal his insecurities when dealing with how others are viewing him.

For some reason the boys didn’t give Oliver a chance and just said, “No kid, you’re boring. And you’re no hero, you’re a zero!” I’m not sure they even knew what it meant except that it was some sort of a taunt. They likely heard it on a cartoon or a show. But they kept saying it, even though his parents (us) were right there. Matt and I just looked at each other with that, “I know we can’t really jump in right now but how far do we let this go?” look. Oliver just came over by us and said, “Pappa, can YOU push me on this toy?” and that was that.

It seemed pretty painless for my son but it was gut wrenching for me. Maybe it’s because I know that this is only a small portion of how children actually treat each other and it seems to intensify when they get older; the taunts are more hurtful and I can’t really protect my children from most forms of pain. I hate it when they fall and experience physical pain but emotional pain is a totally different world! It’s a world I’m very familiar with as an awkward kid from a really messed up and poverty-riddled home life. I know very well how deep teasing runs into forming how you see yourself but I’m also aware of how crucial it is for parents not to transfer their pain and insecurities onto their own children. I’m sure we all know of parents (maybe we are those types parents) who instill a false sense of superiority in their kids because they don’t want them to experience rejection like they did and it’s a very dangerous path to walk with formative little people.

So we sat and watched and listened yesterday, wondering how our son would interpret what was happening to him. It’s similar to watching kids play with your child and they are doing the ‘run away from the loser’ game, this time your child is the ‘loser’ they are running away from. You can’t really jump in, but you sort of have to. Or do you? I have no answer for this. I just know when my kids are playing the run-away game from another child it is NOT ok and I for certain jump in. I can’t keep them from experiencing rejection but I can help them learn that inflicting it is unacceptable!

The best part of yesterday was indeed how Oliver interpreted and responded to what will go down in history as ‘the playground event’. When we were leaving we asked him what he thought of what they said to him. His response gave Matt and I the assurance that he’s going to be just fine. He said, “I don’t know why they were saying that to me. A zero is just a number. That doesn’t make sense”. Matt and I smiled and said, “Yes, you’re so right. What silly boys who think it’s mean to call someone a number. Great attitude Oliver”. And that was that!

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Rite of passage for girls (the battle of the body)

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8 thoughts on “Other rites of passage, teasing on the playground

  1. Tracie, that’s the best. It made me laugh! I love that Oliver was like Why are they calling me a number?!?! Yet another reason why not watching TV is great…cause you don’t know all the phrases that characters use to put people down so it bounces right off of you!
    I hate, hate, hate when things like this happen. It seriously is so hard to know what to do and when to step in and when not to. Especially because there is no way i would let my kid get away with something like that. The parenting tightrope can be such a stinker!

    • I know, I know. It was an awkward moment and not just because I didn’t know what to do but it’s so harsh to watch your kids get rejected, even if they don’t care about it. The mom wasn’t there to tell her kids to cool it and I think it was more just a case of three boys realizing they outnumbered the little guy. Still, it’s a new phase of life we are entering as my kids get older. Peers!

  2. This totally made me cry to think of three boys being mean to Olivier for no reason, but I love his response! He’s so logical. I hope he able to brush off this kinda stuff for a long time!

  3. wowzers trace, i have been processing those same emotions lately and watching my eiley in groups so friendly and unself conscious, and yet so many other kids saying crazy stuff, makes my heart squeeze up tight. Then my little T-bird with ehr one small blind eye. WE have already had a few park incidents where kids called her a monster and screamed in her face, it took everything i had in me not to throttle the boy, but calmy explain that she was a sweet person, and not a monster and that he could be kind to her…..Oh boy she is now almost three and i am praying lots about the day when she realizes that her eye situation brings insensitive comments. Until then I try to stay calm and trust GOd with all the stuff in their hearts. you are a good Mama!

    • Sve- I totally hear you. I can also imagine what is going on with you and your little ones. It’s really hard to watch them get their feelings hurt, especially when they are just trying to play and have fun with other kids. I guess it’s something we all have to go through. But man! Watching your kids go through it is painful.

  4. hey, we faced it with the boys and now with Becca. She is 13 and is experiencing prejudicial comments. She is going through what most 13 yr olds do, trying to figure herself out. So, it doesn’t help having ‘christian’ kids make comments! It has made her not like her ethnicity. She made a good comeback as well and John and I were quite proud. All this parenting isn’t for cowards and I could never do it w/o praying daily!

    • That’s pretty wild, Mary. Interesting that she’s having a bit of identity issues about ethnicity. I hadn’t really thought about how some kids have to deal with that. I’m shocked at how lame other kids can be but I think it’s mainly b/c my mom was really big on not taunting and always fighting for the underdog so it’s really ingrained in me and it’s how I so want my kids to be. Of course, they don’t always live up to our expectations but these are my hopes.

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