John came home glum the other day. Something was obviously bothering him, and it took a little pulling out to get it: Three kids, led by a girl, were calling him dum-dum in class.
He said it was during work time, so he couldn't turn his back on them or walk away. The girl, Heather, would lean over and whisper "Hey, dum-dum; hey, dum-dum; hey, dum-dum" until he reacted, usually by getting mad or even tearing up. He said he'd told the teacher, who replied, "But John, you're the smartest kid in the class!"
Inside, I rolled my eyes. "I bet that didn't help very much, did it?"
John slumped. "No. It didn't."
John has several very good friends. The teasing didn't seem to be ruining his day, or making him want to stay home from school. It was just a low-level annoyance that distracted him from doing his work and made him feel bad.
Well, we talked about some options. I, good with the snark and talking my way out of problems, suggested saying something back, something ridiculous, like "Hey, gigglechunks," or "Hey, twinkletoes." Ridiculous, but not gross (boogerface, tooterlips), because that would be cause for tattling.
Matt, the union organizer, suggested getting his friends together to surround the meanies on the playground and say "knock it off," a tactic he used against a bullying now-famous hockey player when he was in the fourth grade.
John liked all the ideas. He giggled with glee. He seemed to actually be looking forward to trying one of them.
When he got home yesterday, he was flying high. I asked him how it went.
"Great!" he cried, jumping in place. "Heather started saying 'hey, dum-dum' and I leaned over and said --" and here he put his hand on his hip and got all sassy -- " 'WHAT'S THAT YOU'RE SAYING, CUTIE PIE?' And she made a face like this --" shock and horror "-- and then she stopped! Yeah!"
We're waiting for the sexual harassment suit any day now.