My kidlets are sensitive souls. They come by it naturally as, even today, I find that I can be easily hurt by the words of others.
I will admit though to being completely unprepared to face the issue of bulling so soon and with someone so young. My little guy is only three. He should be more worried about being called a stinky sock or poopy head, not a freak.
Yesterday was a big day for the little man. As we dressed in the morning he was trying to figure out what to wear for the class Valentine's Day party. The teachers had said that they could all wear something red, pink or white and I reminded my little guy about that was we got dressed.
He told me that he really wanted to wear a purple shirt. You see purple is his favourite colour . . . well besides pink. Seeing as he didn't have any purple shirts I said he could as his sister to borrow one of her shirts. Excitedly he picked out a lovely light purple shirt. It had dark purple ruffles at the top of the sleeves and pink & purple flowers on it. He loved it.
Apparently another little boy, one a bit older at 5, felt the need to take it upon himself to tell my son that he shirt was not the right choice. He turned to my son and asked him why he was wearing that shirt "you freak".
Freak?! FREAK?! I suspect that was the first time my little guy had ever heard that word but the way in which it was said to him made it pretty clear that it was a bad thing.
From what I understand those words crushed my sensitive boy. Reduced to a puddle of tears in the corner begging to go home to mommy, daddy or his big sister.
Luckily the teachers there are amazing and it was dealt with in a manner that I feel good about but the damage is done. He asked to change. He asked to take off the shirt he loved so much and put on one that was acceptable, one that was a "boy" shirt.
It was a battle to find a shirt that he would put on this morning. "I no like colour" was repeated over and over again.
Kids can be mean but this is different. This was an attack on him because of the fact that he was wearing something deemed to be a "girl shirt" and this is something that needs to end.
I am trying to raise both of my kids in an environment where they can do or be anything they want. My goal as a parent is to raise happy, healthy kids who are comfortable enough to be who they want to be and are respectful of others and their choices. It is up to us as parents to instill in our children that gender does not determine what they can wear or what they can say . . . it is merely a facet of their being.
Pink is not for girls. Boys can and should play with dolls. Girls can be race car drivers and boys can be stay-at-home parents. There is no need to be pigeon holed into roles because of their gender.
How do I protect my sensitive boy from those who don't feel the same? How do I teach him that it is okay to wear a purple shirt with beautiful flowers on if he wants to? How do I protect him from the kid whose parents don't feel the same way I do?
I worry that I can't. I wasn't able to yesterday.
As a parent I am prepared to deal with my kids being bossed around, being called silly names that still hurt or occasionally being left out . . . or doing those things to others. Learning how to interact with others, testing those boundaries and finding their places in this world is what kids do. I wasn't prepared to deal with something darker. My three year old was made to feel little, was called a freak because he didn't fit into what society deems to be the norm. He is THREE.
We as parents need to look inside ourselves, let go of our preconceived notions of what is "normal" and allow our children to be who they want to be. We need to teach our children that it is okay to be different and that we treat each and every person we meet with respect.
Words hurt. They leave lasting scars that can change the course of a person's life. They can strip a young boy of his love of colour.