Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Contact sports

Yesterday was a rough day at camp for my kiddos, with both coming home from their respective programs with injuries. My son ran to show me his wound as soon as I came to pick him up -- "My friend Luke scratched me!" he said, all excited, and apparently none the worse for wear. His teacher came up solemnly and handed me an "Ouch Report," in which the injury received an official write-up:
"Your child received the following injury at day care today: scratched on the left arm by peer. The first aid administered was: soap and water."
I guess this level of reportage is necessary nowadays, and his teacher was clearly concerned that I would be concerned, but here's one of those terrible secrets of being a mom of a kid with impulse-control and personal-space-respecting problems: barring really serious injury, you're always a little relieved to hear that your child was the recipient of aggression and not the perpetrator. I assured the teacher that these things happen when kids play and I wasn't planning on pursuing litigation of any sort, and home we went to show off the scratched arm to Dad.

Although a written report seemed a little over-the-top for a playground scratch, how I would have loved to have one for my daughter's camp injury, since it would have shown that someone in charge was paying attention. She reports that she was playing ball with some kids, and she and one boy went after the ball, and the boy pushed her out of the way. The place he pushed her was her chest, and there may or may not have been some intentional chest-groping. It happened fast and when my daughter realized in what body part the pain was, she mentioned to a girl she'd been friendly with that day that the boy had touched her "private part." The friend then ran off to tell a counselor this juicy piece of news, and the counselor promised to talk to the boy. At about that time my husband came to pick our camper up, and so we won't know until this afternoon whether there are any repercussions. She's pretty much made up her mind that it was just an innocent push, and I've tried to reassure her that she was right to speak up while simultaneously pointing out that sometimes when you're playing with boys stuff is going to happen that isn't deliberately private-part touching. These days, with so much training in schools about good touch and bad touch, kids are drilled to be so hypervigilant, I wonder if things don't sometimes get blown out of proportion. On the other hand, with some of the contact between boys and girls I've read about going on in middle school and high school, I wonder if we've taught girls to be vigilant enough.

It's a narrow line to walk, isn't it? As the mother of a daughter, I want my girl to respect herself and not feel she has to let boys take advantage of her to be popular or loved or just a member of the mainstream. On the other hand, as the mother of a boy, and especially as the mother of a boy with impulse-control and personal-space-respecting problems, I hate to think that we'll get to a place of such zero tolerance that a brush in the hallway or a push on the playing field will automatically become grounds for charges of sexual harrassment. The years ahead in middle school and high school are going to be full of these sorts of quandaries with my daughter, I know. But after this week and our vacation next week, she's going to finish the summer at my son's camp, where they give "Ouch Reports" for minor skirmishes and the teachers have eagle eyes. Allowing me to save up some Mama Bear energy for September.

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