Yesterday a lovely, sunshiney outing turned cloudy when a commotion in the playground drew my attention and I turned to see Lulu-Pie looking distressed high up in a corner of a jungle gym, a group of three much older boys crowding around her. The little Guy was wedged between them, fists hitting out at the closest boy, roaring at the top of his lungs. As a child who struggles verbally The Guy ‘roars’ when he’s feeling threatened or angry -it’s always an alarm signal and although it’s not the best way to handle conflict it told us right away that something was very wrong there.
The Husdabind was off like a shot to remove our kids from the situation and find out what was going on. What he discovered made me feel sick. The big boys scattered as they saw an adult approaching and a very tearful Lulu told her daddy that they had been calling her a p**sy. At the tender age of 5 she has no clue what the word meant, only that she felt sick in her tummy and wanted to cry because of it. Realising that his sister was in trouble The Guy tried to protect her only to be taunted himself, mocked and called a baby.
I was shaken, shocked to my core. Yes, kids will be kids and there is not one amongst us who didn’t do something really dumb as a child. But the realisation that these much older boys not only knew that word and how to use it in the correct context, weaponising it against much smaller girl, completely unnerved me. They had learnt that from somewhere.
One thought went through my head: “This is how it begins”.
As we were absorbing what had happened and dealing with it a mom walked past us and called her son, the only remaining boy- the other two has vanished. With my heart in my mouth, I knew I needed to speak to her. I didn’t know how she would react, but I knew that I would want to know had it been my son.
With a shaking voice I tried to relay what had happened as gently as I could. To her credit this mama listened to what must have been uncomfortable news for her with a look of shock and thanked me for telling her. Her son, who at that point had reached us, tried to defend himself by saying that The Guy was roaring at them, something I assured him was also not right and would be addressed from our side. The mother and her son left, disappearing into the parking lot and I thought that was the end of it, but a few moments later the boy came back and, watched from a distance by his mom, sincerely apologised to me before going to find Lulu to say sorry to her too. He said that he didn’t know what that word meant and will never use it again. My heart went out to this child – I could see he was a good kid from a nice home who just happened to be going along with the crowd in the moment. I am sure that he was not the instigator, yet the blame had fallen squarely on his little shoulders.
I have so much admiration for the way that mother handled the situation and I wish I had a way of letting her know and thanking her. It could have turned out very differently.
As mothers of boys we have a duty to teach our sons how to treat girls because the way they treat them in the playground will be the way they treat them later in life. It is up to us to lay the correct foundations.
Thankfully Lulu-Pie seems to have brushed herself off and forgotten about what happened. I, however, felt unsettled and sad for the rest of the evening, tossing and turning most of the night. I lay there grieving the temporary loss of part the innocent, carefree, confident bubble that perpetually surrounds our daughter and wondered if my fellow mother was feeling the same in a way. No matter what happened, those boys are somebody’s babies.
Parents, we are all working towards a common goal here. Let’s help each other raise good adults who bring about a positive change in the world. We need to teach our children the right way to treat the more vulnerable members of society, to build each other up, to nurture, to protect and to encourage. It starts with us.