AJ started reporting earlier this year that some of the other boys were tickling him. He said it would start during the morning when everyone was arriving; sometimes as the boys walked by him they’d reach out and tickle him, or if they were sitting next to him. They told him, or he inferred, that they liked to hear his laugh – that it is particularly funny. All well and good, but he didn’t like it and he told them to stop. It didn’t help so he came to us with it.
We’re lucky we’ve had him in a martial arts class now for 18 months. In our particular studio, the 2nd rule of engagement is “If verbally attacked, use the three T steps: Talk, Tell, Tackle.” I was able to immediately remind AJ of those and tell him the next step was to tell a teacher or other adult. Which, Duh, that is what he was doing – telling ME. But I’m not able to help him in the moment at school, so we got his teacher involved and she assured us she would keep watch on the situation.
I was diligent for a couple of weeks, but soon I stopped asking AJ every day about it – I can only imagine he was getting tired of the question, and there didn’t seem to be anything else to report. The holidays came and went, and I had hoped it was cleared up.
But Friday he got into the car and told me tearfully that he just thinks he needs new friends. It’s been happening again, along with other pestering from a couple of kids. To his credit, he has yet to “Tackle.” Well, I take it back: He says he has tried a couple of his defensive moves (it’s jiu jitsu, so it’s holds and evasive stuff, not punching or kicking)… and that they didn’t work -- or the kids laughed at him and said, ‘You don’t even know karate.’ (DUH.) He’s so small, and the real world is so different from “on the mat,” that I can picture things not going exactly how he expected them to go.
Anyway, I emailed his teacher again today and she was sorry to hear it’s still going on. I named specific kids this time. I’m tired of pussyfooting around that – I don’t care if I’m That Parent. And she told me, before my second Reply, that she’d already had words directly with the two kids mentioned, as well as with AJ: to TELL HER. He needs to speak up, and he knows this but is still hesitant to do so. I know it’s because he doesn’t want to be embarrassed or have it held against him in the future.
In thinking about the whole thing today – getting more and more “mama Bear” about it as I did – I realized DH and I need to back off the tickling, too. I admit that I’m bad to engage in it with both kids, leftover habit from when they were babies, you know? And another confession: I tend to get really mad, really fast, when DH tries to tickle me. Now: I realize our kids see us as a safe zone, and that a little lighthearted tickling before bedtime is quite different from kids on the playground, but... I just don’t want it to be a grey area. If tickling causes negative feelings at school, maybe it should be avoided at home, too. And as I told his teacher, “Stop” should mean stop in ANY physical-space situation. Boys and girls, both, need to know that, without question.
My Mom says that my Granny could never abide tickling of any kids; now I have a reason to agree with her. Besides, they're growing up. Probably time to stop playing goochie-goo, anyway.