This afternoon, Me First went to the park. It’s just a few minutes walk away, and usually I let him go by himself.
But maybe not anymore.
Or not for a while, at least.
About 45 minutes later, he came home in tears. This isn’t really all that unusual. He’s a high strung kid. He’s an 8 year old boy. Kids can be assholes, my own included. I was expecting the usual playground drama: so-and-so called me stupid, or they ran off to the other park (which is across a big street, so he isn’t allowed to go there alone.)
But this time he said some big boys were calling him names.
I went to the park to investigate, where I found no big boys, but I did find several of Me First’s friends. They weren’t upset, and were also able to relay things in chronological order (a skill my dear boy has yet to master, getting too often lost in the details.)
Turns out these were middle school boys.
Me First was drawing pictures in the sand with a stick. A scorpion, a lizard, a dragon. (See what I mean about details?) He drew circles around them, and was pretending his stick had magic powers that could lure them out of the dirt.
Apparently the Big Boys had a problem with this. Or, more accurately, they had a problem with this “half” boy muttering in English. So they started yelling at him, “Fuck!” (But one of them got it wrong and was saying “Fucks!” Only in Japan.) This was followed by other insults they could muster from their limited English education, crazy boy, stupid, etc.
Me Too was embarrassed. He was flustered. He called them the worst name he could think of, “rascals!”
Then he came home and got a stick.
This is the part of the story where I am not sure whether to be horrified or to laugh hysterically.
Because the stick in question is more like a branch that he can hardly carry. I wouldn’t let him bring it in the house, so it’s been wedged onto the landing outside the front door since summer.
He took the stick back, and poked the boys with it.
Luckily, the didn’t beat the crap out of him. Though they did break the stick. Then gave up yelling at him in English and started yelling at him in Japanese instead.
Me First ran home, and started crying on the way.
They must have run away soon after, because this is where I came upon the scene.
Coincidentally enough, one of Me First’s friends, who he has known since they were both literally babies, just happened to be at the park today. He got scared when the big boys started yelling and ran away (as did Me First’s other friends.) He told his mom what happened, and she was absolutely mortified. That the middle schoolers would pick on a 3rd grader. That they would single out someone who is “half.” That her own son ran away.
She e-mailed me to apologize. By that time, we’d gotten over it, yk? It isn’t a daily occurrence for us, but this isn’t the first time ignorant mofo’s have tried to insult us in a variety of languages, and I doubt it will be the last.
But it opened her eyes. And she talked to her son about people being people, and about not judging someone by their looks. The same conversation we all have with our parents when you grow up in a multiethnic society. (But, man, the stakes are different when you stand on this side, and not the side I grew up on.)
But I don’t think it’s a conversation that happens too often here in Japan.
But it happened at their little house, in the twilight tonight under the street lamps. And that’s small and big at the same time.
Tomorrow, my little family is going to celebrate Thanksgiving. My kids will skip school. We’ll talk about the Pilgrims, and we’ll eat a lot. We will celebrate where I, and thus they, are from. We will reflect and remember the hardships of others, who were also “different.”
Tomorrow, being different won’t be a bad thing. It will be fun.
And I will get all of the big sticks in and around my house and throw them out!