Thursday, March 20, 2014

If I had a 9 year old son, would I allow him to carry a My Little Pony backpack to public school?

I was just reading this article by the hard hitting news agency, People Magazine.  In sum, the 9 year old boy loves the MLP cartoon and chose to get a MLP backpack to carry to school.  Is that wrong to get him one?  No.  If I had a son, would I allow them to take said bag to public school?  No.

I get it.  There are those out there that will say that I would be stifling creativity and all that.  Whatever you choose for your child is your own business, but I wouldn't send him with the backpack.

Why?  Basically, why on earth would you encourage your child to take something to school that you know that the likelihood of them getting the crap beat out of them is pretty high?  In many ways, it isn't right.  However, I look at it and say, school is tough enough.  Why make it harder?

School was not fun for me.  I was made fun of for everything.  I have curly hair.  I would develop what my friend would refer to as "horns" that my mom would have to trim off.  My bangs would get so long that they would curl on either side.  It may have seemed rude for my friend to tell me this, but I'd rather know.  We were poor, so our wardrobes were definitely not in the higher class stores as my classmates had.  We shopped at Kmart and the Salvage Freight.  Bad clothes and bad hair?  Check and check.  Let's not forget about my teeth!  My teeth were one hot mess and believe me, people noticed and made fun.  Mom would pack my lunch and I remember once having a boy ask me, "Are you going to eat all of that?"  It was a big baked chicken breast wrapped in foil.  I was in 7th grade and wanted to crawl under the desk.  Most of the time, we got the free school lunch and everyone knew it since they didn't issue new lunch tickets for us each week.  Yup.  Got made fun of for that.  I was a studious kid in high school and an art student.  Oh, yes.  That had "hot!" written all over it.

For several years, I have told K, "You will be made fun of.  No matter what you do, you will always be made fun of at school for something stupid.  It is my job to help cut down on those opportunities." What am I talking about?  K starting wearing deodorant in the 1st grade because she needed it.  No need to get the name "stinky" in the 1st grade.  That is the kind of being made fun of I'm talking about.  "Brush your hair and brush your teeth."  If your teeth are caked in funk and your hair looks like a rat's nest, you might be made fun of.  K's has a lot of hair, but it is baby fine.  If a 2 MPH wind comes by, she ends up with a ton of tangles.  Still, we try.

My daughter has speech issues.  She went through a lot of speech therapy and things have gotten a lot better.  She is still plagued by some but she WAS made fun of for her speech-- in Kindergarten.  Those two girls who made fun of her for a few weeks are still not girls that she takes a particular liking to.  Speech was something that she was working on, but to ask her if she was "speaking Chinese" or "speaking Polish" was something that didn't skip past K's attention.  It hurt.  She cried.  You know what?  It didn't kill her and I didn't intervene.  I didn't jump in and save her.  I gave her some coping strategies and things to say.  Finally, it stopped.  Funny thing is that one of the two girls has speech that isn't so perfect herself.

Now on to MLP.  My daughter has a love for Star Wars.  I mean, she named our new cat Leia.  She has dressed as Darth Vader, Princess Leia and Queen Amidala.  She also has a love for GI Joe and other action movies.  I blame her dad.  (Kidding.)  I sit in a spot where I say that she dressed as those things and Storm Shadow.  Grandma was a little put out because K chooses "boy" costumes, but it is Halloween.  Have at it.  You can be anything you want to be.  I've had people question her like of "boy" themed things.  "Are you sure SHE likes Star Wars?"  Yup.  She's pretty well educated about things of Star Wars, The Hulk, GI Joe and Indiana Jones.  Again, her dad.  Sure shooting that knowledge isn't coming from me.  Nah.  I'm the alternative music teacher for her.  She doesn't get into 1D or any crappy girl music like that.  Kiddo loves Pearl Jam (and for true PJ fans, she is a B/R/Y and Gremmie kind of kid), The Cure, Jack White and Ben Folds.  She just can't dig dad's Norwegian Black Metal.  ;)

Just last night, K told me that she had been invited to a birthday party this weekend for one of the boys in her class.  C has been in class with K since 1st grade.  Both have a love for Star Wars.  I texted his mom to say that K was talking about the party, but forgot the invite at school.  She texted me back that C wanted "no girls" but then she mentioned K and he consented.  K will be the only girl at the boy bowling party.  I texted Charla back and said that K will be just fine with all of the boys.  C knows that, too.  You see, C is moderately autistic and K has kind of been a constant for him in class. He'll cry or have particular issues.  Despite this, K is probably one of the very few kids that has NOT made fun of him.  We've talked about how C's brain works a little differently than everyone else's.  She understands.  She has a tender heart and I know that C's mom knows that K has been a quiet supporter of C for quite some time.

So yes, I'll probably be flogged with a wet noodle over this post.  It's okay.  I'm good with constructive criticism.  Not everyone parents the same and not every text book is the way we need to raise our kids.  It is a case by case basis, but even such-- I wouldn't send my son with a backpack full well knowing that he's gonna get the snot kicked out of him.  That's the kind of bullying that you can prevent.


ChupieandJ'smama (Janeen) said...

I'm all for free expression and letting kids be who they are. But I agree with you. Kids are mean. I would let him have the back pack and tell him this is our "home" back pack. Just have him take a plain one to school.
I was a picked on kid too (chubby...). It's no fun and there's no need to set a kid up. And the other kids aren't going to care that we now live in a PC society. Some kids are like rabid dogs and they attack for no reason. You can't expel everyone. Although you may like to ;)

Bailey's Leaf said...

I absolutely agree. I would let them have it as the home backpack, but definitely not go to school with it. The child is 9 and presumably in the 3rd grade. You might be able to rock that in Kindergarten without being made fun of, but definitely not at that age. So very sad.

Rach said...

I've been pondering this since I first saw a mention of the boy and his backpack.

There is an extremely avid group of MLP followers who are male who refer to themselves as "Bronies".

I suppose that 9 year old counts himself among them.

I think if I had a nine year old boy who wanted an MLP backpack I'd lay it all on the line for him. You can have one, but you'll most likely be teased about it. I'm not spending money on a new backpack if this is the one you decide you want. Be prepared.

He's nine. Yes, he's still a little guy, but he's smart enough to see how things could be.

The truth is, if he's a kid who's picked on and teased, they'll find any reason to do so. I've taught long enough to know that for whatever horrible reason, there are those who are teased and those who aren't. There me be a little ribbing among friends, but there are also those kids who are picked on and teased mercilessly. We (teachers) can do whatever we can to stop it from happening in OUR classroom and on the playground, and can try to protect those kids, but they're STILL gonna be picked on.

It breaks my heart. Kids are mean and ruthless and cutthroat. I was only mildly ribbed about things as a child. B was teased much more in high school and had a miserable time of it.

So, back to that backpack...we can only do so much to protect our children. As I always say, we really have no idea how we'll react to any situation until we're in it, but I would hope I'd be able to convince my son--brony or not--that he really needed a plain pack. In fact, in our house, as a general rule, we avoid character items so maybe that would be our out. Who knows...

Sure, you can say that kids shouldn't be cruel and kids should be able to dress however they want and carry whatever they like, but that's simply not the way of the world. All the compassion training in the world falls by the wayside when I group of kids (or adults for that matter...) get together and decide to gang up on one. :o(

Bailey's Leaf said...

K was made fun of in Kindergarten because she had navy blue snow boots. They were plain and one of the boys told her that she had "boy" boots. Nothing about the boots said boy. I had purchased them at the thrift and they were neutral. I bought her boots the following year from LL Bean that were flowered. The same boy was in her 1st grade class and never gave her a problem. Yes, kids will make fun of you about anything. It's horrible.