Ice Charades

Last week, I was thrilled to hear back from our new school principal indicating her support of initiating Stand Up to Bullying Day.

Eight hours later G yelled to another boy at the skating rink, “You’re a girl!”

I still don’t understand it.

There I was, sitting on the bleachers, thinking about the Stand Up event, watching G run though his basic level 2 skills and then seeing his jubilant smile as he was handed the bright orange patch indicating he had passed. He skated off the ice, ran over to me for big hugs, then rejoined the kids on the ice. I watched him skate off with an older boy–chasing each other and laughing. I was relieved because if he’s not alone during free time, skating in awkward circles, he’s usually bothering the girls.

Blame it on Tourette. Blame it on OCD. Blame it on adoption. Blame it on gender issues. Blame it on being an 8-year old boy. Blame it on bad parenting. It’s probably all of the above, but social situations are difficult for him. He frequently misses social cues and he’s frequently misread as well. (One of his current tics involves sticking out his tongue and rolling his eyes.) Either way, it’s not unusual for these things to end badly. I couldn’t hear anything through the music, but I continued to watch what seemed like an odd, though happy, game of two-person tag.

As he ran over after the session the first words out of G’s mouth were, “Mom, I called that boy a girl, and his mom said, ‘Hey, don’t call him a girl!’ But I wasn’t trying to be mean. We were on the ice and we were just joking around. He told me my penis was in my heart and I had a hot vagina.”

“A what?”

“He was just kidding, Mom. Mom?”

The other mom was glaring, waiting for me to do something with my kid.

G continued, “He’d call me a name and then I’d chase him. Then I’d call him a name and he’d chase me. We were… what’s that called?”

Flirting? I thought. “Name calling,” I said. “Not allowed.”

Then I told him not to worry about it. He just had a major win with his new patch, and there are precious few wins in G’s life. I hugged him and kissed his head, glancing in angry mom’s direction to make sure she was watching.

I saved the lecture for later. We got ice cream. We went home. Days passed. Later never happened.

I know the simple answer is “I don’t care who called who what first or how much fun you were having, no name-calling.” That’s my standard approach. I should probably stick with it. But, in this case, I’m not so sure. Is it boys being boys… or bullies… or flirting? I don’t know what’s worse.

For now it seems like watchful waiting is the best approach–like we do with suspicious cells. Take a deep breath, keep a close eye, and see what unfolds. Time will tell if he’s beginning to flirt or bully or be bullied. I suppose the worst I might have done is hugged a child who needed a scolding–a child who was called a “hot vagina” moments before and took it, correctly or not, as a sign of friendship.

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