Something potentially incredibly embarrassing happened the other day. Not to me, to my son...so it's all good.
We live on a little back street off a major road in LA. It's tucked away so it's quiet and all the kids ride their bikes around in the summer afternoons. We had some friends over with their girls for an evening of bike riding (the kids) and sangria (for the grown-ups who had to sit around watching them on the curb).
The neighborhood boys saw us out on the street and came to ride with us. They're great kids really. But boys will be boys...and they're growing up fast.
They decided it would be fun to stake claim to a patch of land on someone's yard and tell the girls they couldn't be there. Of course nothing tells a group of girls "Get over here!" more than a group of boys saying "Don't come over here."
And every time the flock of girls - which is how they travel - rode by their "claimed patch" they'd taunt them - you know, just to send a message (the message obviously being "keep coming over, I'll keep taunting you, and together we'll have the best time ever."
I think the first remark was something like "Your bike is girly" and progressed to something like "Boys are faster than girls!" These comments shocked and offended the girls SO much they had to keep riding by to see if they'd heard them right, squeal confirmation of their offendedness, and pedal IMMEDIATELY back to the grown-ups to report each and every affront.
Then Livi came back with "MOM! Do you know what _____ said? He said "Are you skinny or are you fat?"
It's not that the remark was so bad - I just didn't like where it was going. But I knew how to put a stop to it. I would use my "clever" adult abilities and "experience" to show those boys who they were dealing with. MY girls wouldn't be victims. I would make Livi look "cool" and that would shut them down once and for all.
So, I suggested she go back to the group of boys and say "Are you stupid or are you dumb?" Scott looked at me like I was crazy. My friends looked at me like I was crazy. Clearly, I was crazy. I just didn't know it...yet. Damn, Sangria.
Off she pedaled. Armed with her/my witty response.
Not 10 seconds later..."MOOOOooooooooom!" Livi came pedaling back. "Do you know what _____ said? He said 'Not as dumb as you!!'"
And now I understood why kids shouldn't engage in verbal combat. It escalates. I hadn't counted on that. Wow. Bad call.
So I told her, "You know what, honey? I was wrong. You shouldn't have said that. I mean. I shouldn't have told you to say that. It was a really bad idea. Just ignore them."
But I was too late. I had fed the war. The "lines" had been crossed and now this was going to be a game of one-upsmanship for all of them. Girls on one side, boys on the other and they would taunt and torment each other til someone "won" - which meant someone ended up crying. Most likely, it would be one of my kids.
"Seriously. Don't go over there. I was COMPLETELY wrong to tell you to say something back - it only makes the fight worse (of course, it would have been better if I'd accepted this premise 1 minute earlier). This is a bad idea you guys. Just leave them alone."
But the girls were already in a circle formation. Plotting, planning, giggling about the things they could do to torment the boys who were waiting for their retaliation on their little plot of grass down the street.
They biked back to them. Circling them the older boys like a bunch of codfish taunting a pool of sharks. So, so naive.
And poor Ben. Ben just kept practicing basketball and throwing hoops. Alone. In the driveway. Stuck in a netherworld. Unwilling to join the girls because it would show his support for them and he would lose his "manly status", and too shy (and inwardly loyal to the girls) to go join the boys.
Well, the taunts escalated (surprise, surprise - at one point I heard from Izzy that one of the boys said "your mother smells." But I figured I deserved it). Until finally the girls came back and said "They said we have no balls!"
I knew what the boys were saying, Scott knew what they were saying, my friends knew what they where saying. The girls, did NOT.
So Livi said "I think we should tell them we DO have balls, but they can't see them!"
"YEAH! A friend chimed in!" And off they pedaled.
Of course we were howling with laughter. It was absolutely not a good parenting moment but my God it was funny.
They came back and said "We told them we have balls and they're invisible!"
And THAT'S when Ben chimed in. He was indignant. "You CAN'T lie about having balls! It's not right! I'm going over there right now and showing them our balls!"
I couldn't let him do that.
He's at least one year younger than the youngest boy in the group and we have NO idea how long we'll be living on that street. I couldn't let him march over there with an armful of all the balls we own (which is a lot) to show them that we do indeed have balls. I couldn't! He would NEVER live it down!
"Ben. You can't do that."
"Because you can't. They don't need to see our balls. They know it's a joke. They're fine."
"It's wrong to lie. I have to show them our balls!"
Of course, with this, my friends and Scott were rolling in the street, laughing so hard, falling off the curb crying (we're really immature). I tried SO hard to keep a straight face. It was so hard.
"Ben. Trust me. I'm doing you a favor. You don't want to do that."
"No. You don't. You think you do now. But trust me. Later you'll thank me. Let it go."
"But it's the right thing to do."
"It's not. Go play."
He was SO incensed. He couldn't BELIEVE I wouldn't let him show them his balls. How dishonest I could be!
"Come on, it's time for dinner." I tried to divert him.
All the girls came inside and washed up. Ben had a grey huffy cloud over his head because he wasn't allowed to prove that we really had balls and his sister was lying. He was mad. He wanted to do what was right even if it meant defying the girls and facing a posse of older boys alone - with an armful of balls - just to stand up for what he believed in.
And even though he didn't get to, I think it's evident. My son has balls. Anyone can see that.
I just don't think he has to show them to everybody.