Before you go and jump on me for being a horrible adult with no heart to speak of, it was by no means intentional.
Every year for a week my little family goes ‘Up North’ on vacation. We pull along the boat and the fishing gear. I pack two or three bags of books to read, games, crafts, and toys for my Little Lass. We invite another family to join us with kids of their own, and they usually make it for most of the week. Games are played, visits to the local candy store made, and pontoons rented. More often than not all the shuffling results in one of the adults looking after some or all of the kids alone. Today I was that adult.
As the kids have gotten older, they require less minding. So I half listened as the kids played a rather challenging game against each other. Even so, when one of the boys called his sister “Dumbo” my ears perked a bit and I mentioned that that wasn’t very nice. His response was to tell me that it was fine because she was “used to it” and some other boy they knew uses it all the time. I explained very pointedly that I never wanted to hear him call ANYONE that ever again. I then waited for an hour or so before I mentioned anything more to his father.
What followed was, because it was agreed he was old enough to get the idea, a discussion about how speaking to anyone like that, and allowing others to do so without saying something or reacting, was showing that that kind of behavior was okay. That in doing so he was teaching his little sister that it was okay to be talked to like that and telling her it was okay to be used to it sent a message she could carry with her going forward. When we told him we wanted him to be a better person than that, a better man and a better being he broke into huge tears. (Bless his sensitive heart.)
But listen, these are the conversations that need to be had sooner rather than later. Our boys need to learn that words and actions go out to the world and have an effect. Our girls need to understand that they are people worth being, that being smart isn’t a crime and they are equal in standing to their male counterparts. And they NEED to hear it and SEE it from the adults that influence their daily lives.
So I made a little boy cry today, it was heart-wrenching and resulted in the need for cuddles from me and an assurance that he’s one of the greatest little boys I’ve ever met. But by god, he heard us and got where it was going. It won’t be the last time this talk will need to happen. Children forget lessons as quickly as they learn them. We just have to keep teaching.