The boy has been having a few little difficulties at school of late. My fault? I don’t think so – though like most such things, i suspect it is complex.
Teasing in the school yard
What i do know is that mostly he isn’t being teased about my transition. Not that there is no teasing at all: but that it is neither incessant nor overwhelming. He occasionally mutters that “he is the only one who ever gets teased” – and that when he is it relates to my transition: but then we try to deconstruct that for him.
The ONLY one? Chatting to other mums on the school playground, there isn’t a one without a story of their precious offspring being teased for something or other. Odd manners. Parental arrangements (divorce, adoption, single parenting). Long hair. Ginger hair. Short hair. This is what kids do and whilst i don’t like it, i do distinguish between out and out bullying and the everyday trading of insults in which they all participate.
Fishing for compliments
(Separate from the above is the issue of whether he is also “losing” a male role model. Not exactly. As andrea keeps pointing out almost triumphantly: i was never going to be an exceptionally blokey dad…not really having any great love for football, or fixing motors, or power tools or…well, any of that stuff.
A few days back, a posse of three grinning “boys” appeared outside my office window: our own, the neighbour’s three-year old and…our temporary neighbour, who for purposes of this counts as a somewhat middle-aged boy. They had caught a large fish in our river and…were all beaming from ear to ear with the joy of it. I looked at them and the fish and back at them and smiled and thought…”boys!”)
Fighting – and head time
Anyway. Teasing apart, our own junior hooligan is in trouble, on and off, for “fighting”. Again, this is nowhere near as bad as it sounds. I wince every time, at school end, his class teacher summons me over for a “little word”. I may be notionally an adult, but in that moment i usually regress about 40 years and instantly feel about as guilty as our offspring ought.
Mostly, its fighting. His play time seems to be a never-ending procession of aggressive incident – though usually with little serious result. And i am relieved, again, to learn that almost every other mum with a boy in his class has to endure the same.
I thought our own must lead the league in being sent to “see the head” – but learned yesterday, with some relief and some amusement, that another class-mate has almost taken up residence in the head’s office.
So no prob there, either. He’s a boy. Boys fight. Usually its not fatal.
So why worry? First, there is the view of other parents. One source of trouble last week was a series of threats. He catalogued all the things that he would bring to school if people were nasty to him (on this occasion, i think he WAS being teased by older children). This ranged from bombs and bazookas and nuclear weapons to…guns and knives.
eeek! teachers heard “knife” and hit the red panic button. Sharp talking to – since whilst the likelihood of him bringing a nuclear weapon is low, they understand knives – and matter mostly closed. Though not without a very serious lecture from myself and andrea, too.
Dealing with a genuinely hostile world
But this week, he was in the thick of it again and…after…he told me: “I thought they were teasing me because you’re a girl”.
Only, they weren’t. Ooops.
Maybe. Except, as i thought about it, something else clicked: something that he HAS had to endure that almost no other child in his year has. Twice in the last twelve months he has stood by my side and heard some bigot in the street confront me: threaten to hit me/kick my head in. On one occasion, that threat was directed at andrea, too.
After, the boy – rather sweetly, i thought at the time – said he wished he was bigger, because then he would have protected us. Sweet!
Or maybe a sign of dangerous stuff to come. How does it feel to be a six-year-old and see and hear your parents threatened and not be able to do anything about it? Dunno. But its one i will keep an eye on…because…and i say this half with pride, half with serious concern for the future: its all very well some transphobe threatening me today, in the presence of a six-year-old. But it would be a very different proposition if similar happened in five…ten years time.
Our boy has a decidely mean streak to him when cornered: not only…but i do believe he has nuclear weapons, and he’s not afraid to use them!