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.


  1. Sandra replied:

    But you did do something; you spoke to the principal. I think you did the right thing. It does sound strange. It might be innocent, but it might not. That’s a pretty big age difference. I would be concerned, too.

  2. MetroDad replied:

    I agree with Sandra, LM. I think you did the right thing. When it comes to kids and a situation like that, I’m a firm believer that it’s better to err on the side of caution. Sure, you don’t want to blow things too out of proportion but if there’s something weird going on, it needs to end now. I hope that it is just something innocent. But better safe than sorry!

  3. Jessica replied:

    Bullshit re: you not being a good mom. You continually blow me away with the type of parent you are.

    I do admire your effort in not overreacting, though – so many people would fly off the handle, perhaps unnecessarily, resulting in the very scenarios you mentioned.

    This “game” does gives me pause and I think it should be looked into – I also fear that this young man may be a victim himself (at the very least being exposed to sexual images/suggestions).

  4. fidget replied:

    why whould a dress make “horsie” easier? that makes zero sense to me. I think you are approching this well – with caution and a whisper verses busting into the school and snatching that kid up my his hair or screaming bloody murder in the principles office. Once you have more facts, if they reflect the need to do so, please rant rave and scream. You are doing what is right for your child

  5. Leggy replied:

    Agree with what everyone else has already said. I think you are doing a good job of staying calm, but you are right to have alarm bells go off. It seems that the teacher and the principal were also concerned about the situation.

    Let us know what happens and how it gets resolved- at the very least, this boy’s behavior is quite bizarre.

  6. CroutonBoy replied:

    You know it probably is innocent, but you did the right thing by mentioning it to the “authorities.” I”m sure they have experience in this and can get to the bottom of it. Don’t stress…you’re doing the right thing…

  7. alala replied:

    Seventhed. I hate these ambiguous situations, where it could be perfectly innocent, or it could be very dangerous, and either way the consequences of being wrong are just so bad. Turns out, parenthood is full of such situations. Who knew?

    But I think you’re doing the right thing.

  8. Anjali replied:

    I think you handled it well. I’m just trying to imagine the innocent verision — perhaps it’s easier to ride on someone’s back if you can hike up your dress to wrap your legs around another kid’s waist? (rather than bulkier pants)? I don’t really know if that was his intention, but I sure hope so.

  9. chichimama replied:

    You totally did the right thing. That’s a pretty big age gap, and well, it sounds odd. You are a great parent.

  10. Ms Sisyphus replied:

    While I admire your restraint, I’m going to chime in and say that getting the principal involved was totally the right thing to do. And I say that as someone who has taught 6th grade,a s well as the mother of a daughter the Bee’s age.

    The situation is squicky. In the realm of normal playground dynamics, a sixth grade boy should have absolutely no interest in playing with a firstgrade girl. Add to that the game of “horsie”, in which I assume she’s riding him, and it’s already distrubing. But the “wear a dress” is a kicker. I’m sorry, but the “it makes it easier” rationale doesn’t make sense. Clearly pants make for easier mobility. Unless you’re trying to lessen the layers between contact of the two bodies. I repeat, it’s very squicky.

    I think it’s great that you didn’t want to be “that” parent. That you didn’t immediately think the worst and then pursue that assumption with the mindless devotion of a pitbull mauling a poodle. But you did the right thing by seeking clarification and then acting on the professional advice you were given. *That’s* what the good moms do.

  11. elise replied:

    For me, I always have the thought, once something bad happens, you can’t take it back. What did you tell Bee? I’ve always tried to protect my kids enough so that I didn’t have to tell them things, but felt forced to tell them somethings. You tend to feel they are safe when they go to school but even if this is an innocent situation it opens your eyes to the possibilities – there are many 6th graders now with adult bodies. My kids are in the middle school now and super small for their age, I worry a bit about them because of that. So far so good. The kids at our schools are seperated K-2, 3-5 and 5-8 grades (three different schools- I know your school is too small for that).
    Good luck and protect Bee first and foremost.

  12. Jaws replied:

    You did the right thing with out a doubt. Better safe then sorry I say. Your a mom its natural for bells and whistles to go off. Go with your gut. You never want to have to live thing If only I had…

  13. Ty replied:

    I don’t want to alarm you, but something similar happened to me when I was around her age. I won’t go into detail, but I can tell there is nothing innocent about what is going on. I recognize the language and the game.

  14. Doppelganger replied:

    I hope I’d react as well as you in a similar situation. It’s so hard, because you really do want to believe the best of other people, especially kids.

    Someone told me once: “You’ll know that you’re being a sufficiently protective parent when non-parents think you’re being a little paranoid.” That seems like a pretty apt guideline to me.

  15. Woman with Kids replied:

    It sounds like you’re doing exactly the right thing. You’re listening to your daughter, you’ve spoken to the principal and you’re aware of the situation. It probably is innocent, but it never hurts to check things out.

  16. Carrie replied:

    I see from your update that they are taking care of things. I’m glad you said something. I am surprised they even have those age groups playing together. When I was working as an aid at an elementary school there was a first grade girl and a fourth grade boy playing in a very sexual manner and we put an end to it. Then their mother came in and gave everyone hell for picking on her kids. None of us knew they were brother and sister. It was WEIRD. I don’t know what happened with that situation.

  17. comfortaddict replied:

    I think that you did the right thing. Something about “horsie” and “pretty” dress doesn’t add up.

    As for being a “good” mom, I think that’s wrong. You’re a great one!

  18. Comfort Addict replied:

    I think that you did the right thing. There’s something about the combination of “horsie” and “pretty dress” that doesn’t add up. You reasoned it through and, informed by passion and reason, made a decision.

    By the way, you’re a great mom in my book.

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