Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Apparently We Are NOT Free To Be You and Me

I thought we lived in the U.S., the land of the brave and the free. When I think Afghanistan under the Taliban, I think that world is so far removed from our lives, in terms of there being prescribed laws of what a woman can or cannot do. Or what a boy can or cannot do. I've never told my boys that they cannot do this or that because only girls do that or only boys do that. I've given them the freedom to make up their own minds, even when that involves some degree of ridicule from peers or even parents of peers. My older son's favorite color is purple, but thankfully deep purple and not lavender. My younger son's favorite color is pink, and, unlucky for him, that's a color that most of society considers to be for girls only. R has been ridiculed on many occasions by people of all ages, but, at age four, he still really likes pink.

He also loves his mama. If I am doing something, he wants to do it too because he likes to do things with me. R likes to bake and watch Korean drama (mostly to delay bedtime) and pick out clothes that make him look handsome. Last week, I put on nail polish for the first time in front of him. I don't usually wear nail polish because, what's the point, right? With three kids, there are chips and cracks within the hour. I've had three manicures in the past five years and one doesn't even really count because I didn't get any polish. So R was very curious as to the entire process of nail polishing. He wanted to try it out himself but I knew if he put it on his hands, he was just asking for trouble. So I let him put it on his feet. He went to preschool the next day and got some flack for it but it didn't seem like it was a big deal.

But it was a big deal. At least to one little boy. He could not accept that R had polish on his toenails. He couldn't stand it and decided he had enough after five days of R coming to school with painted toes. So he ripped off the nail on R's big toe in his attempt to get the polish off. When I picked R up yesterday, the teacher did not mention anything but when we got to the car, R told me that Jacob had hurt him. R said Jacob really wanted to get the nail polish off and attacked him. I could tell by the dried blood that it hurt a lot. What made me doubly upset was that the teacher did not say anything about it. I went back in with R and asked the teacher what had happened. She said she forgot to tell me about it. In every other preschool or school my sons have attended, the teacher would either write up an incident report and send it home or call me after an injury. I can't believe my son's foot was bleeding and the teacher did not do anything. When I got home, I was still in shock and told Stewart what happened. Stewart blew out of there faster than any tornado (this was pretty amazing since he's been working from 5 PM to 5 AM on a project at work). He went to talk to the teacher and could not get any guarantees from her that Jacob would not hurt R again. So R is not going back.

I'm still reeling from the incident. It's a little shocking that Jacob would be that upset by R wearing nail polish that he would attack him over it. R had told me before that Jacob only had a mom and no dad so I had been more forgiving of his behavior than I would have been otherwise. R had told me in the past that Jacob had pushed him or been mean to him, but I told R just to stay away from him. I could tell that the boy needed more attention and more love. He hugged me once when I picked up R from school and I had never even met him before. So I can understand why the teacher would try to help Jacob rather than just kicking him out. But enough is enough, her saying that she could make no assurances that Jacob would not hurt R means that she is choosing Jacob over R. I can't be part of the village raising Jacob if doing so is at the expense of my son. Someone needs to show Jacob that he cannot use violence to make someone else conform to his ideas of right and wrong. Sure, he may think it's strange that a boy would have nail polish (yes, pink) on his feet, but that doesn't give him license to attack that boy over it.

I know some people might say that I set R up for this problem, but could anyone have predicted that seeing a boy wear nail polish would incite violence in a preschooler to the point where he would rip off another kid's nail over it? I can't help but think that Jacob may grow up to become another Dharun Ravi or even worse. I always thought that I didn't have to deal with problematic bullying until my kids were older, but now I know I was wrong. R is going to enroll in martial arts today. As the younger brother, he's been used to being picked on to some degree but now he needs to learn to stand up for himself. Isn't that sad? I'm going to teach my four year old son that violence is the answer. Not just because of the martial arts, but because if anyone taunts R in the near future about his long hair or fondness of pink, I'm not going to stop him from kicking you in the face.


Nuree said...

I wanted to cry reading this. I'm SO sorry that R had to be in such physical pain because of nail polish. but I am really glad to hear that you wouldn't limit favorite color choices b/c it's deemed a "girl" color. I'm proud of you. I hope you went to the Principal and explained why you pulled R out. I would be horrified and so angry too...

Stephanie said...

Ohhh, I am so sorry. For the record, E's favorite color was pink for a very long time and R wore nail polish to school A LOT - mostly on his toes and sometimes on a finger or 2 and usually green (because that's what I wear, to be honest, it wasn't his choice).

That said, I am so sorry. Sorry for R. For you. For the anger and heartbreak and complexity of it all. You did the right thing. Hope it gets sorted out somehow. Geez. Maybe you need a vacation - to say, Tokyo???

Sharon @ Red Poppy | Pink Peony said...

That is horrible and completely unacceptable behavior on the part of R's classmate AND teacher. I can't believe it. I'm sorry!

Eunice said...

Thanks for the support friends! Now the problem is finding something for R to do everyday. I'm not finding any martial arts studios open every day!