Love Taps: A Game that never was

Photo credits: Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot

Do you remember those old ladies from long ago? You know the ones who butted into your business and corrected you even though they didn’t know you or your parents? They sternly, but lovingly, gave you their unsolicited two cents about your words or behavior, daring you to go and tell your mother? Those nagging old ladies who you wished would just mind their own business and let you act a fool out in the streets away from your parents’ watchful eye…remember them?

I have to admit…I have turned into that nosey, nagging, old lady.

Maybe it’s because I spend an exorbitant amount of time surrounded by young people. Could be because I’m a mother myself, and so my antennas (in my Katt Williams voice) are sensitive to certain mannerisms and behaviors that somehow are adopted by children as proper behavior.

But when you spend so much time with children, you watch…and listen. You’ll see them mirroring behavior that if allowed to become habit will lead them to less than desirable lives. Not on my watch. I refuse to let a child slip through the cracks and BELIEVE it’s okay to be wayward and wild.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not a Ms. Crabtree-nitpicking at every little thing kids are doing. For instance, my 8th grade son was in front of his school talking to his buddy whose back was to me. My son saw me walking up, and a sly smile slid across his face. I wondered what nerdy conversation they were having (I proudly believe my son and his friends are nerds. Cool nerds, but nerds nonetheless. That is a wonderful thought to me, but I digress). Lo and behold when I get within earshot I hear the most explicit language coming from this boy’s mouth. I mean he used the worst racial slur, he had a couple of four-letter words in there and some multi-syllable ones for good measure. My son at this point is cracking up when his friend turns to see me and is totally shocked. I just give him a look as he throws his arms around me and tries to play it off. Awkward moment for sure.

In this instant, I don’t nag or lecture. Cursing, while definitely not actions of prideful gentlemen, it is also not a gateway to the penitentiary. Heck, when I was their age I could curse better than any tavern-goer. I was a pro. So that offense called for a mere reminder to choose words that you would be proud for your mother, friends’ mother, or any adult to hear because you never know who is near. Besides, I told him, use words that tell people how smart you are, that language is for small minds.

See, I’m not a meanie.

But there are some things I absolutely have zero tolerance for. Because let’s face it, some of our babies demonstrate behavior (the PC term is “at-risk” behaviors) that you can scope out their future in just six short years. Baby momma; juvenile ex-offender; recipient of a restraining order… you get the picture.

One thing I absolutely do not tolerate is physical “play” between boys and girls.

For some reason, hitting, pushing, pulling, slapping, and choking are passing as “play” among the children. When I see it, I can’t help myself, I pounce into action to redirect and point out how detrimental that type of “play” can be. I know where it can lead to: someone gets hit and then gets serious. The playing is no longer funny because hits become “real.” Also what I know is that most domestic violence cases start from situations like this.

Yet here is the real jaw-dropper. More times than not, the incidents like this that I’ve witnessed have been girls hitting boys. Almost all the time. This incenses me. For one thing, where are they learning to use their hands to communicate with the opposite sex? I rarely see girls hitting each other or slapping their girl friends, they save that only for “playing” with boys.

In fact, what prompted this post was a recent scene at my children’s school. An 8th grade girl (13-14 years old) turned toward the young man she was walking beside and landed a real quick slap to his face. I wasn’t sure if her hit landed or if my eyes were deceiving me, but sure enough she did it again, and again. The boy’s reaction was disturbingly reserved. My mind was racing with all the things wrong with the picture. Why is this child hitting this boy like she is manic? Why is he allowing her to hit him in his face? How is this acceptable behavior less than 50 feet from your school in broad daylight with teachers, parents and classmates around? And more importantly, what will happen to both of them if he decides to retaliate?

From the look on his face I knew my worst fear wasn’t unfounded. I jumped from my car and stepped in. The young lady (or maybe more appropriate to call her little girl) caught much attitude and tried to front me off (I’m giving away my age, I know). I didn’t go in on her, but I def let her know her behavior was NOT cool. That it was completely unacceptable. I also intend to follow up with the administration, as chair of the school’s community engagement/school climate committee, I’ll propose workshops on teen dating violence for students AND parents. Oh, baby girl should trust, it’s not over.

See my biggest issue is 1.) girls get trapped into this cycle of violence simply from a place of seeking emotional validation. Being hit (for some crazy reason) is seen as showing affection or love. It only escalates as they get older so they are involved with boys who also have the idea of affection twisted 2.) boys are taught not to hit girls, that that is a most egregious offense. Yet when they are being hit, no one steps in to advocate for them or to reprimand the girl.

My mind gave a lens into a potential future for this child who hit this boy, left on the side of a road in the dark of night with black eyes and busted lip abandoned and victim to her boyfriend who she has played hitting games with since she met him. The residual shame, physical and emotional wounds will not heal easily and could follow her into every relationship she ever has. It will reach her children, and the cycle continues.

I also see the future of the boys who play these games. That rush of adrenaline and aggressive testosterone will over take him while his buddies tease him about being hit by a girl or a girl fronting on him, the need to “check” his playmate/girlfriend, until his actions have him spiraling out of control in a rage that leaves his play mate in serious condition and him locked away in a jail cell.

This is real.

This is why I do not tolerate anybody, male or female, putting their hands on others. It is not the way to play.

Hitting games…homegirl don’t play that!

Am I being too extreme? What are your non-compromise zones for youth/teens?

Did you know:

  • Across CDC studies, 15-40% of youth report PERPETRATING some form of violence towards a boyfriend/ girlfriend
  • Perpetrating dating violence in adolescence increases the risk of perpetrating violence toward a partner in adulthood

Are you around teens? Recognize the signs…

Click here for research and stats

Check out more teen dating facts from CDC

Raise awareness- February is National Teen Dating Violence Prevention & Awareness Month

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3 responses

  1. I totally agree with this post. I personally believe that physical/verbally aggressive play is unacceptable. It can lead to the development of negative behaviours that if not redirected in the early stages, will progress to self-destructive character traits. As a mother of two young boys I find myself constantly addressing these behaviours but sometimes fall short, letting the playful hits slide sometimes (after all they’re boys that’s how they play…it’ll toughen their skin right? Wrong). As parents (just like children) we kinda learn as we grow and when you know better, you’re obligated to do better. For these reasons I have been trying to make a concerted effort of nipping all the hitting games in the ‘bud’.

  2. Definitely enjoyed this, Sis. I think so often, young people are looking for ways to connect and they don’t always have access to the best models to do this. So, often we come from homes and/or communities where violence exists…be it verbal, emotional, or physical. And when we come from these places, hostility can become deeply embedded into our spirit and pollute our interactions with others…even when we’re trying to be affectionate. We have to surround our kids with love…at all times. We have to provide them with models that show them how to seek intimacy and affection in ways that are healthy. I agree with you 100%. Keep up the great work!

  3. I just finished a book where one of the characters ended up in the hospital for two weeks on life support because she & her husband went from hitting to him almost killing her in a fit of rage. It is important that we teach our children to keep their hands to themselves & learn to express anger in a more productive never physical manner! Kudos for you stepping out & stepping in. We need more mamas like that!!

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