Wednesday, June 17, 2009

(Homage to Teddy Roosevelt)

My son came barreling into the kitchen weeping about 30 minutes ago. That's not unusual: sometimes another child accidentally hurts him, sometimes he falls off his bike, sometimes he's just upset about a childish injustice in outdoor play. We allow Logan free play outdoors with the other neighborhood children almost daily--all of the collective parents have one eye & one ear open as we allow our children some non-helicopter-parent time. A couple of us set a boundary like, "30 minutes, then come in for dinner." Tonight was like that. I was making dinner, Logan & a buddy were playing with squirt guns, and sticks.

Yesterday, they were characters out of Star Wars; some days they do a cops & robbers type of play. I'm not sure what today's game was, but Logan had chosen his favorite 4' long walking stick for their adventures.


I don't remember whacking sticks about in the air as a little girl. My son is a sensory-seeker, however, and he is 100% boy. He & his little buddies across the street take up long sticks as light sabers, guns, canes, umbrellas, horses, the rubicon, etc. We keep a small collection of the best behind our peonies, out of sight from passersby.

Logan's pal was squirting Lo in the face with water too many times, so Lo raised the stick in play to say, "Stop, or I'll get you with my spear!" His buddy didn't feel threatened--he knew this was part of their play. The neighbor lady whom we've never spoken to before, did NOT think this stick play was humorous, however, and yelled at my son to, "Put that stick DOWN!"

Logan did so, immediately. She picked it up & launched it into her yard...then Logan came running to me, telling me someone had taken his favorite walking stick--"a stranger!"

His father & I went to the woman's house to find out the full story--we were open to her version, and were not angry (though definitely curious). Both boys claimed she'd yelled at them & that they were scared of her--a third neighborhood boy confirmed their story. They all said she was "mean." I wanted to know if her motivation was out of fear that Logan might hurt his buddy--in case she was stepping in to protect the other child, and not just exerting some random judgment over the situation.

Did our son go into her yard? Seems the answer was no, but that he was whacking the stick around, and hitting things. Like what, I wanted to know, like trees? Sure, like trees, her car (she claimed)... "Did my son hit your car?" I asked, "because he claims that he did not." No, in fact, he was not either on her property, nor hitting her car. I asked her to please let us know directly if either of those things ever happened--we instructed Logan, in front of our previously invisible neighbor, that he is to stay off of her property & go nowhere near her vehicle. She said he can swing a stick around on his own property, but made clear that he should not do so on her property, nor the sidewalk (again, we have now established that Logan was neither on her property, nor near her van).

The sidewalk is public property, I reminded her, as my husband said that was not her place.

I told her that these two boys are dear friends, that the other did not feel threatened by mine, that they were playing and laughing, and that we were not clear on what his offense had been. I said, "Boys play with sticks," and shrugged.

"In fact," she replied, "None of the boys I know do."

My husband's reply was classic!!

"Well, we are raising our son to be a man."

Oh my goodness!!!!

Needless to say, it was an awkward exchange. We've lived here for nearly 3 years and never heard hide nor hair from this woman, but she scared the crud out of our boy this evening. Lesson learned. Walk around the "woman's sidewalk" from now on.

Or, better yet, walk softly when you carry your big stick!

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