A scenario that has played out several time over the course of my life has been on a loop in my head over the last several days. It goes a little something like this.
7-year-old Rachel: “Mom, (insert boy name here) was really mean to me at school today.”
Mom: “Don’t worry, it just means that he likes you.”
In any given situation the boy in question probably did something relatively small. Calling me a name (there was a boy named Matt in my kindergarten class that never called me Rachel. He always substituted a mean name), telling me that my pants looked weird, chasing me and my friends through the playground when we told him to leave us alone. Just small indicators that they didn’t actually care about what we had to say or our identities.
But now, imagine this scenario.
19-year-old Rachel: “Mom, Jim called me stupid and then forced me to wash his dishes.”
Mom: “Don’t worry, it just means that he likes you a lot.”
Wait, what? That doesn’t make any sense.
Just let me say, this scenario didn’t actually happen in real life. I know that if I would have said this to my mom (or dad, for that matter) they would have said, ” Jim is clearly not a good guy. What can we do to help you get away from him?”
My point here is that as a seven year old a boy being mean meant that he liked me. As a 19-year-old it is a sign of abuse. So, I really have two thoughts here.
Thought number one: Why are we setting up our daughters to believe that if a boy is mean to you it means they like you? That is clearly not the case and I don’t think we should be teaching our kids these things. As an adult if I believed that mean-ness was a sign of affection I probably would have ended up marrying Jim. You’d be hard pressed to find someone more “affectionate” than him.
Thought number two: Why are we teaching our sons that it is not okay to talk about their feelings? I feel that it is critical to teach everyone that violence is not an effective way to communicate.