Yesterday, my son came home from school upset. He told me that two girls wrote a note about a boy at the school who has trouble controlling his emotions. The note, which was passed around the after-school program, said:
“Jack* is a cry-baby. He is a loser and no one likes him. He should be kicked out of school because he cries all the time and bangs his head on the table like a three year old.”
My son was upset because Jack’s feelings were hurt. I was upset about the girls’ behavior.
This prompted me to think about boys and girls. My mind then wandered back to some of the comments received last month when Reno Moms Blog asked the community: “When is a boy too old to be in a women’s locker room?”
What do girls’ writing mean notes at school and boys entering a locker room have in common? On the surface nothing, but when presented with the question about how old is too old for a boy to enter a women’s locker room, some threw out ages like 4 or 8. Some said never. Many moms responded with comments about teaching boys respect and courtesy.
No one responded with comments about teaching girls respect and courtesy.
Generally, there seems to be no shortage of discussion about the importance of raising respectful and courteous boys. I agree this is important. Similarly, there is no shortage of discussion about the concern for girls – protecting their privacy; protecting them from mean girls or aggressive boys. I agree this is also important.
But what about our boys?
There seems to be less acknowledgement or understanding that boys need privacy too; and that protecting boys also a legitimate concern.
It bothers me that there isn’t a bigger emphasis what our boys go through and that many times, when there is a conflict between a girl and a boy, adults are quick to blame the boy. It concerns me that boys are often painted as the aggressors in while there are more than a few aggressive girls roaming the hallways and playgrounds at school.
Recently, a co-worker expressed some frustration because a ten year old girl had been calling her eleven year old son repeatedly on their home phone, following him around at recess, trying to kiss him, and asking him to be her boyfriend. When he basically said “leave me alone” the girl began telling other kids at school that he smelled bad, was ugly, and stupid.
I know that not all girls are mean, and not all girls are aggressive. I also know that not all boys are innocent. To be fair, I also see many parents teaching their boys and girls how to be respectful and courteous, and correcting behavior that is inappropriate.
But, times have changed since we were kids. Our culture has changed, and boys need protecting too. We hear a lot about girls being mean to other girls. But, mean girls don’t discriminate. They can be mean to boys too. It’s true that boys still pursue girls, but girls are also actively and more openly pursuing boys, and if they don’t get what they want boys are at risk of being hurt just like girls.
In December, a little girl ran up to me following my son’s holiday program.
“I want to come over to your house but HE (pointing at my son) told me he doesn’t want me to come over. Why doesn’t he want me to come over? Can you tell him that he has to play with me at school? He has to like me. It’s not fair if he doesn’t. I want to have a sleepover. Can you tell him to invite me to your house?”
She was relentless.
This little girl’s mother was standing right next to her. She said: “If you’d like to have her over, it’s okay with me if it’s okay with you.”
It was not okay with me. The little girl did not come over, and in the weeks that followed, she took every opportunity to let my son know she was angry about it.
This wasn’t the first little girl to try and push her way into my little boys’ life when it was unwelcomed, and if I’m being honest, that scares me a little. However, instances like this have prompted me to have a few serious conversations with my son about boundaries, and how to handle situations such as the ones I’ve described in this post.
To be clear, I am not suggesting that there is anything wrong with assertive girls. Many of them will grow into strong, powerful women, and I believe women should go after what will make them happy. I just think it is important to teach boys and girls about being respectful and kind in their thoughts and actions, and that starts at an early age.
Actually, I think it’s more than just important. It’s critical for our future. We are, after all, a community of moms (and dads) who are shaping the next generation. Let’s work together to protect our daughters and our sons. To teach them to be respectful, courteous, and kind. Let’s make the next generation best it can be.