Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Vigilante Playground Politics

So. Calvin was beaten up by a lollipop yesterday.

Here’s how it went down, the best I can piece together:

Apparently, some kid who routinely makes other kids’ lives miserable decided to hold down one of Calvin’s friends and try to force-feed him a Tootsie Roll Pop (previously licked and rolled in dirt). Calvin, deciding that was not cool, evidently dismissed the idea of alerting the recess monitor to the situation and instead decided it would be far more efficient to simply give the perpetrator a hearty shove. The kid fell over into the same dirt he had wanted Cal’s friend to eat, relinquishing his hold on the kid (but not on the sucker). As he fell, he threw the Tootsie Roll Pop point blank at Calvin’s face, where it bounced twice…once off his cheekbone and once off his forehead. It left two surprisingly impressive angry red marks.

So I ask you: victim or aggressor?

Luckily, his teacher decided upon victim, which is why I only learned of this incident after the fact, and through Calvin himself as opposed to through the principal (never been there, never want to be). However, I will admit I wasn’t quite sure what to say to Cal in the face of this story. Should I commend him for sticking up for his friend, or reprimand him for not leaving the whole thing in the hands of the monitor? Honestly, I’m a bit proud of him for taking the bull(ying) by the horns, so to speak, but I have a nagging feeling that’s not the ‘correct’ response, is it? I suppose I ought to be preaching peaceful resolution to conflict, but to my mind, the conflict was already well underway by the time he acted, not likely to end in anything other than a mouthful of dirt, and quite frankly, a well-reasoned argument is not exactly my middle son’s style. Let’s just say that Gandhi? Calvin is not.

I never really understood the expression ‘hot-headed’ until Calvin came along. He was born a biter (and I do mean born a biter...breastfeeding him was loads of fun) and really didn‘t give up the practice until he was well into preschool. By that time, I had naturally lost all my friends, their own toddles sporting track marks of teeth indentations up and down their arms. No, it wasn’t that bad, but it was bad enough. He outgrew that phase, we both re-made plenty of friends, but his natural aggression remains.

After one week of karate, for instance, his instructor observed (semi)-jokingly that we ought to get him into cage fighting. He’s scrappy, he’s relentless, and he takes everything personally.

These characteristics work well in the sports arena, but unfortunately, his temper is just as quick as his flying side-kick. He has a staunch sense of right and wrong (much like his father, if you ask me) and any injustice (perceived or real) leaves him boiling mad. And I do mean boiling…I’ve never seen a face turn quite this shade of crimson. He goes from his default mode of calm, quiet, thoughtful boy to tomato-red fury in .01 seconds. Needless to say, I can picture him morphing into a miniature, bright red Hulk in this playground lollipop incident perfectly.

He’s a man of extremes--he’s either burning hot, freezing cold, deliriously happy, or in the depths of despair, with absolutely no middle ground--and once he’s decided upon a course of action, he rarely wavers. When he’s wronged, he never forgets. When he was four, a neighborhood friend kicked him (probably accidentally) while wrestling on the ground at birthday party, and he’s never forgiven him. Ever. Three years later (a lifetime in kid-years!), that child is still dead to him. If I mention his name in passing, he levels a dark look at me and reminds me yet again of his long-ago crime. When he was in kindergarten, Nate (two years older) was having some problem with another child in the lunch line. While we drove home from school that afternoon, Calvin listened intently as his older brother catalogued his complaints about this child, waited until I had finished giving my (moderate) advice, then said quietly from the far depths of the car: “Nate? I’ll take care of it.”

He’s mafia material, my son.

And so Lollipop-gate doesn’t surprise me, but it does worry me. Will the incident be investigated further? Will retaliation be involved? How will the playground politics play out today?

Alas, Calvin’s also a man of few words (surely another admirable quality in the world of organized crime!) so I doubt I’ll ever find out. Maybe that’s for the best, however.

Don’t ask, don’t tell, right?
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