Sunday, June 14, 2009

Don't call me Bitch, BOY!

Speaking of gender expectations ...

Today at church, one of the teens was in a room with a bunch of younger children, dropping F and S bombs left and right. The Boy came and alerted me when the teen told my eldest girl (9 years old), upon seeing her drop a toy, "Pick it up, bitch!" In a joking tone.

Oh no you don't. Not my child and certainly not in my church.

The Husband went and found the teen's father and alerted him to what happened. The teen's father was visibly appalled and went off to handle it. (The Husband would have addressed the teen directly, with his father present, but couldn't find him.)

At home, we let The Boy know that at church, it is fine if he wants to speak up himself, and tell the other person, "Do not talk like that around the younger children," or more personally, "Do not call my sister that." And we went on with our day.

Um ... duh? I'm empowering my son to defend his sister's honor?

Went upstairs to where all the kids were, with The Husband. Explained to The Princess that at church, she should feel comfortable standing up for herself. We did some role-playing. We talked about the fact that no one has the right to call her names or speak to her with disrespect. We talked about whether she has ever heard her mother or father talk to each other like that, even when we disagree.

I don't condemn the teen ... okay, not too much. He's just trying out new behavior, experimenting with his "dark" side. Trying it out in front of younger children is pretty turkey-ish, but hopefully it will lead to a long conversation with his parents.

Still, I think that if The Princess had narrowed her eyes, put her hands on her hips and said, "Don't call me bitch, BOY!" it might have had a more lasting effect the next time he thought of talking to a girl with disrespect.

As for me, I feel a bit turkey-ish that my first thought was about empowering her brother, not her. It is startling to find yourself unthinkingly falling into attitudes you didn't know were lurking inside.


Jess said...

re: empowering her brother first -- I totally know what you mean! There's something about older brothers, and that expectation of the role of "big brother" to a little sister that brings that instinct out for me, too. I try to couch it in terms of older and younger rather than male and female, but if I'm being honest with myself I know that there's more to it than that.

Now that my daughter is getting older and more able to stick up for herself, I'm choosing the two-pronged approach -- telling her to stick up for herself but not to be afraid to ask for help if she needs it -- and telling my son to pay attention, and if it looks like she needs help, not to hesitate to offer it.

We'll see how long this lasts. They're in different school starting this year and for the next five years until he's a senior and she's a freshman in high school. A new adventure!!

uuMomma said...

This is new territory for me (no boys!), but the one thing I'll say about this is: The Boy was the one that came to you--not The Princess. If she had come to you with discomfort first, the way it rolled out probably would have been different and your second thought would have been your first (though I imagine myself rushing toward that teen with my mean-mom face on and a whole lot of steam coming out of my ears). I'm sure there's some other issues lurking--I mean, who DOESN'T want someone bigger to stand up for us and wouldn't it be nice to know that someone has your back, even if it is another kid. Maybe the way to reinforce it now is to tell The Princess that she should feel free to speak up when she's concerned about her brother, too.

TulipPoplar said...

I wonder if there is something of an "older child" thing going on here too, not just an older brother. I noticed the other day that I was telling my older child (age 8) to try to make things easier for her sister (age 5.5). As it was coming out of my mouth, I realized I was perpetuating with my older kid exactly my own role in my family of origin: fixer. I don't like being the fixer in my family, but now I know how it happens!

So I finally said "You don't have to fix things for her..." As if one correction will undue 6 years, basically, of having her be the responsible one.