By Meika Rouda
I got that call the other day, the one mothers hate to get, the one from the director of the school saying “Nothing urgent, your son is fine but do give me a call, there is something I would like to discuss with you.” This isn’t good. She isn’t calling to say what an amazing child you have, she is calling because your son did something inappropriate and it is worth bringing to your attention. I called her back and she told me what happened. She was calm and didn’t think it was a big deal, she knows my son well, but she thought it a good idea for me to know so I could talk to him about it at home.
Apparently during nap time, my son told a girl new to his class to “go pee in your bed.” There was no touching or anything physical just a mention of a bad idea. He is known to be full of bad ideas, like this one, usually to do with urine or flushing things like Barbies down the toilet. He told another friend to pee all over his sister’s bed and, well, the boy did it. Or another friend to pee on the slide at the park -again, the boy did it. My son never participates in the act of course, he just tells other people to do things they shouldn’t. I have spoken to him about it several times but he is mischievous and apparently likes to see what he can get his friends to do. I don’t know how I feel about this trait but I think he is just testing boundaries and seeing what he can and can’t get away with.
So he had this suggestion for the new girl who was upset by his request. So upset that she didn’t nap, avoided my son all day and told her mom after school who called the teacher and the director of the school. I don’t think my son is a bully but I am not sure. I think because he was so late to potty train, he has anxiety about his body functions (especially before nap) and was probably seeing if this girl wet the bed then he wouldn’t worry if he did.
Anyway, this girl was very, very upset and when I tried to talk to my son about what had happened -how we don’t ask other people to do things with their bodies, especially when they say they don’t want to -he just shut down and said ” I don’t want to talk about it.”
I know he was talked to at school and probably rehashing what had happened wasn’t what he wanted to do but I was hoping to get to the root of why he asked the girl to do this. Was it because he needed to go to the bathroom before nap but didn’t want to ask the teacher? Did he just want to see if she would do it? Did he wet his bed? But when I brought it up again, he told me the teacher had already talked to him and he didn’t want to talk about it.
So when does something like this, which I think was innocent testing, become bullying? When the intention is to hurt someone or force them to do something they don’t want to as opposed to bringing up a bad idea and letting them decide to do it or not? Is it if there is a threat involved? Does bullying start this young, at age 4? I am really hoping this isn’t a continuous theme, that the more comfortable my son is with his own body functions and using the potty, this issue will go away but maybe it won’t. Maybe it will be something else. How do we manage bullies, especially if you love and adore them and know they are good kids who just happen to have bad ideas sometimes?