Do kids have the right to not be touched by other kids if they don’t want to be?
When I frame it like that, I’m pretty sure most people would give a resounding yes. In fact, I think anyone who isn’t some kind of freak would say “Absolutely!”
And yet, when I asked someone to keep the kids in her charge from pushing my kid around, I got the old “Boys will be boys” line.
Really? So, based on that logic, it would be okay if it was a boy or a man touching a girl or woman against her will? How about pinching her? How about kneeing her from behind? How about a good old fashioned shove?
That’s all okay because they’re male and that’s just how boys and men are?
As those folksy politicians love to say… That dog don’t hunt.
Here’s the backstory…
My son plays in a recreational basketball league. He’s about average size and weight for his age (7). The other boys are similar with minor variations but there are a couple of twins that are notably taller and bigger and I suspect they are either on the late end of six or possibly seven as they are a grade lower than my son. Another huge kid is eight already. How they are all on the same team, I have no idea.
My son is very mild mannered, easygoing, friendly and kind. He gets along with everyone and makes friends wherever he goes. He is NOT aggressive, obnoxious or the kind of kid that goes around pushing, pinching or shoving other kids. That’s not to say he won’t engage in some wrestling and sparring with his friends but those are activities where there are two willing participants.
Every week at basketball practice, I see both of those twins constantly putting their hands on other kids. I don’t get the sense that it’s totally malicious but when you go and pinch someone when they’re running alongside you minding their own business, it’s probably not going to be well-received.
When you take your place in line and intentionally shove the kid in front of you and make them run into the person in front of them, it’s f#$%ing obnoxious and uncalled for.
When you run up behind someone and knee them in the back, you’re crossing the line as far as this mom is concerned.
Never mind that they will block and take balls from kids on their own team during a game. Never mind that if they want a ball at practice they will just take one from someone else.
Those things suck and reek of poor sportsmanship but they’re not really hurting anyone.
But the other stuff? I watch it happen every week. Once when my son tried to tell the coach one of the twins was pinching him repeatedly during drills, the coach blew it off. I told my son the next time someone puts their hands on him, he should get right in their face and yell at them to knock it off but he’s not a yeller and even when he does speak up, nobody hears him in a loud gym full of bouncing balls.
So…I watched it happen again today and I’d had enough. My son doesn’t cry or complain about it but the fact that everyone blows it off is sending a message that I don’t want him to internalize:
It’s okay for people to cross your personal boundaries, put their hands on you and hurt you and no one is going to do anything about it. You have no choice but to take it.
The coach was late so the twins’ dad was filling in and the coach’s wife was helping keep the kids in their respective lines during drills, something that is totally necessary when you’re dealing with ten 6-7 year olds (and a pair of totally unruly twins).
When I saw Twin A go and shove my kid from behind for no apparent reason and Twin B shove him a moment later, I didn’t even think. I just got up and approached the coach’s wife and said “Can you please tell Twin A and Twin B to stop shoving my son?” Her response was something along the lines of “They all do it. Boys will be boys. What can you do?” and kind of threw her hands up in the air.
And I said something like “I understand boys like to horseplay but my son is constantly being pinched, pushed, kneed and grabbed by both of them and he’s just minding his own business. It’s not horseplay when only one is doing it and I don’t bring him here every week so he can get his ass kicked. I signed him up to play basketball”
And she responded with something like “We can’t control everything that happens, there’s only one coach and ten boys”
And I said “I get that but he tells you what’s going on and nobody ever tells them to stop—so you’ve been made aware of it and still choose to ignore it. As I said, I don’t bring him here for that. You’re in charge so please do something about it” and I walked back to my seat.
And across the gym she says you’re welcome to come over here and help. And I looked her straight in the eye and said “Oh, really?” And she said “Really” and I suspect she thought I would just quietly shut up and go back to reading on my phone but I didn’t.
I got up and joined her and proceeded to herd children and make very pointed eye contact with the twins.
And when nobody else was listening, I whispered to both of them “You touch my kid again and I promise he’ll give you a black eye”. I know it was wrong but I was just so tired of the bullshit and since nobody else seemed to care, it was up to me to give them fair warning.
But guess what? They didn’t touch him again.
The really sad part is that their parents are actually nice but in my judgy observation of the mom’s parenting of their three year old, they have no idea how to set boundaries with their kids; lots of empty threats are made and then mom turns right back to her phone while her little one runs through the middle of the game AGAIN and then throws Matchbox cars at random people. That shit hurts!
She laughs it off, makes another empty threat and back to the phone she goes.
I fear for the future of this country and that’s NOT hyperbole.