How rough do you allow your kids to play? I intervene when someone gets hurt – always Sally – but when she engages in the roughhousing I let it go. I didn’t grow up roughhousing with my siblings. I have no prior experience with this behavior at all so my perspective could be way off. My kids’ play could be well within the range of normal, despite the fact that it seems over the top, drives me crazy, and appears violent and horrible. Well, at least highly unpleasant.
I can’t help but think that Luke is acting like a wild animal and poor Sally doesn’t know any better but to play that way with him. But that seems like a slanted, prejudiced, and unkind point of view against Luke. Is it just normal boy behavior and I’m being oversensitive about it? Or even normal child behavior and not a boy/girl issue? Or is Sally feeling pressure to play so physically? She is certainly no angel! She instigates Luke in completely annoying ways that only a little sister, or mosquito, can.
Maybe my grown-up worries and concepts about boys and girls are coloring my feelings about it unfairly. Maybe I’m actually being sexist. I wonder if I’d feel the same if they were both boys? I can’t help but feel like Sally wouldn’t want to play that way if left to her own devices. I know I never would have. I would have hated it. I couldn’t stand “wild” boys when I was a kid. (Truth is I still can’t, even though I’m mom to one. Which is likely part of the problem here.) I’m a girl and Sally’s a girl. So surely she feels the same?
Maybe it has nothing to do with her being a girl. Maybe she really does like playing that way, and not only because her bigger, stronger, influential brother has taught her that it’s “fun.” But, if she is just going along because that’s what he wants to do, will it translate into feeling pressure to let other people do things, physically, that she may not want to do in the future?
I always, ALWAYS make Luke stop when Sally says stop or no, even if she’s giggling when she says it.
Is this play harmful for her? Is it teaching her things about how and when she can assert herself with regards to her own body? Is it teaching her that she needs to relent if a boy wants to be really physical with her? Or is all of that totally unrelated and she is just wrestling with her brother, which is completely innocent and normal?
What is it teaching Luke, if anything, about what he can and should do with girls? Is it enough that I always make him stop when she says so? I talk about respect and trust. I ask Sally if she’s having fun. I tell her that she can refuse to play that way. (Then I say the same thing to Luke, just so it doesn’t appear that I’m assuming he’s the bully and she’s the victim, even though I am.)
Maybe I’m over-thinking the whole thing and they’re just being siblings and kids and not acting out scary gender role scenarios at all.
So, I ask you: how rough to you allow your kids to play?*
*(If your kids don’t play rough because they just never want to, please keep in mind that different kids have different personalities, interests, and energy. It must be tempting to judge me and my kids, but maybe this is one of those times to think, “This parenting issue does not pertain to me,” consider yourself lucky, and leave it at that.)