Sitting in the car, writing a text before I start to drive away from a neighbor's house where I've dropped off a child from an activity at the church.
My middle child (the only one in the car at the time) says "I'm bored."
I tell him I was going to take him shopping. Does he want to do that or go home?
"Oh, sorry. I'm trying to write a sentence", he says, "with the word 'bored' and words leading up to it so that each word is one letter more than the last. So far I have 'I am (blank) (blank) bored.'"
I start offering suggestions. As we drive to the store, we come up with "I am the very bored _______ (a version of his name with 6 letters.)
Then we start trying to figure out if we can think of another word to put after his name that has seven letters. Nothing makes sense, until he says the sentence with the seven-letter word being the last name of his best friend. But then he says something about that is not his name.
I reflexively said "It could be if you married your friend someday."
He looked a little awkward, and then started to say "actually some of the mean kids at school say stuff like that since my friend and I are always together." Then he told me about some stuff his teacher talked about, about not being mean. She used the example that someone might say to her, "You are fat, but don't take it personally." Just because it might be true, doesn't mean it is okay to say, she told them.
I tried to ask the child more about what the mean friends say. After all, I am the GSA adviser at my school, and bullying is a big deal to me. In fact, I was asked if I would talk at a PFLAG meeting in a neighboring county about Gay-Straight Alliances and bullying in schools, so it was kind of on my mind today.
Now my child looked really awkward and wouldn't tell me, instead he started running off down an aisle of the store with the cart. Then he found pistachios and begged me to buy them for him. First I said no, then I said, "If you tell me what the mean kids say."
"The mean kids say things like that word you said earlier."
"So not exactly marriage? What exactly?"
"There are too many people around that might hear."
We wander the store, finishing our shopping, looking a the price of a video game he wants. Finally, when we are in a part of a store where there are not many people, I ask him again, reminding him of the pistachios.
He finally spells silently on his lips the word "L-O-V-E"
"So the mean kids tell you and your friend that you are in love?"
"Does that bother you?"
"Does it bother your friend?"
"No, he just ignores them."
"Does your teacher know what the mean kids say to you? I won't tell her..."
"So she wasn't talking about not saying mean stuff because of mean things said to you and your friend?"
Later in the car...
"When the teacher was talking about not saying things that are mean, my friend spoke up and said that he likes to laugh when someone says something mean. That way, if they are trying to make him feel bad, laughing makes them think they've failed at their goal. But it also keeps him from feeling bad and getting upset."
"That sounds like a good plan."
I wish I could shelter him from this mean world. Children always tease each other about being in "love", but because of the society and culture we live in, it is obviously a little more awkward when the teasing is about two boys possibly being in love. This is the one child that won't talk to me--unless I bribe him, I guess--and I worry about him in particular more than the other kids.
God bless him to be strong, to ignore the mean kids, and to know that no matter what, he always has a safe place with me.
4 weeks ago