Difficult youth…

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!



5 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    I think you need to help him understand that he did do the right thing by refraining from any action that might escalate the situation.

    I spent a lot of my life replaying in my mind situations in which I wished I’d been more aggressive but hadn’t – times I would have liked to punch somebody for an insult, times I would have liked to end a fight more decisively – and feeling as if I had failed by walking away. Then, eventually, something clicked. Walking away in those situations was the right thing to do. It wasn’t about weakness because I was perfectly capable of taking action, I just chose not to. My issue was about wishing I could communicate that ability to my opponents; it was about pride, not about justice or sense.

    Walking away no doubt kept me out of prison. It may have saved somebody’s life, and that chances are those people went on to do some good things in their lives even if I couldn’t see goodness in them at the time. Walking away was the adult thing to do.

    Your son needs to understand that knowing when to walk away, to be strong enough to let it go, is part of what it takes to be a man.

  2. 3

    Liz Church said,

    Always a good idea to walk away if you can’t avoid the situation in the first place. I’ve never carried a knife. There’s always someone with sharper reactions who can take it off of you. Learn chemistry and carry a pair of heavy metal drumsticks. That’s nutjob-and-bar; no-one’s going to mess with that combination. Also, leave the other end of the alley open otherwise you become the line of least resistance no matter what you’re holding in your hand. Tell the boy to leave off the nuclear stuff – it glows in the dark – they’ll see him coming 🙂

  3. 4

    ….It must be extremely frustrating for you to know that nothing has changed even after you have discussed this issue with the teachers. State law mandates that schools take action to deter bullying behavior. Its the teacher and the administrations job to ensure that every child has a safe environment in which to learn one that is free of ridicule and shame.

  4. 5

    kerri (australia) said,

    twaekwondo, do you have it in your neighbourhood, form of martial arts self defence course, my kids and myself only briefly did it, however i was impressed to see the results in kids young as rafaels age group, if he is angry inside with his school situation, this may help him channel his anger and i reckon he would enjoy it, most boys do. i use to do karate, but the twaekondo is more fun. ps he is a georgous boy by the way. hope all goes well.

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