check under your seat–there’s some GORP and a map

When I was growing up, there was a candy store in my hometown that sold penny candy. When I was in 4th and 5th grade, my friends and I would stop there every day on the way home from school for some Swedish fish or chocolate coins. If I was a better memoirist, I'd remember the name of the old woman who ran that store, but I don't. I'm sure that as a kid, I only cared about her as a purveyor of sweets–maybe I didn't even know her name.

I can't imagine that a store like that could survive in this day and age. For one, there's the whole profit margin issue. For another, the 'strangers' and 'candy' combination is not very popular these days. Which leads me to today's main topic.

The Bee's best friend is a girl I'll call Peony. Last week, I ran into Peony and her mom as they were walking in to school and I was leaving. Her mom stopped me and said, "I have to tell you something, can you hold on?" I stopped and waited for her, and when she came back out, she told me that Peony had picked a dress to wear to school that day, which is unusual for her. As they were walking to school, Peony told her mom that the reason she wanted to wear a dress that day was because she and the Bee had been playing with an older boy (a 6th grader) during recess the previous day, and he had told the Bee to wear a 'pretty dress and pretty shoes' to school the next day (the Bee had not worn a dress, I'm happy to report). Peony's mom and I agreed that this was kind of weird, but possibly innocent. We briefly talked about whether or not we should say anything to anyone at the school, and decided that it might be sort of overreacting to do so. I called landisdad and told him about it, and he agreed that we shouldn't say anything.

That night, I asked the Bee what she did at school that day, and during the conversation, I asked her what she had done at recess. She told me that she had again played with Peony and this sixth grade boy. We asked her a bunch of questions about it, and she told us about the boy asking her to wear a dress. We had a fairly general conversation about how it shouldn't matter to your friends what you wear, and that no one should be telling her how to dress. Then she told me that he wanted her to wear a dress because he liked to play 'horsie' and it was easier if she was wearing a dress. Alarms started going off in my brain. It was a somewhat odd conversation, with landisdad and I shooting troubled looks at each other, and trying to remain outwardly calm while we peppered her with questions in the mode of Frank Pembleton.

There's a part of me that's worried about being the overprotective mom that's reacting to everything bad that could possibly happen to her child. After all, just two weeks ago, I had to talk to her teacher about the whole Lily situation. I don't want to be the cause of some internet article about 'sixth grade boy sent out of school for non-existent sexual harassment.' I don't want to be the mom of a kid no other kids will play with, because she makes a federal case out of every interaction that ends poorly for her own child.

Then last night, we went to a school function, and Peony's mom came up to me again and told me that her daughter had talked about the 'horsie' game too, but when she tried to get her to explain it, she wouldn't. She said, "I think we should say something. Everyone I've talked to about it says we should." We found one of the teachers, and just asked if she knew the boy in question. The teacher basically came out and said if we know of a problem with this particular kid, we need to talk to the school about it.

I talked to the principal this morning, and he said he would look into it today. I told him that I found it hard to imagine that this was anything but an innocent situation, and he said, "well, we have to check it out." I find myself going back and forth between feeling like this whole thing is getting blown out of proportion, to feeling like I want to go to this kid's house and kick his scrawny behind. I have the feeling, too, that Peony's mom thinks I'm not taking it seriously enough, she keeps saying to me, "but he didn't say that to Peony, he said it to the Bee." So now I'm not a good mom, because my daughter is being targeted, and I'm not doing anything.

March 29, 2006. thoughtful parenting. 18 comments.