My 12 yo dd has been homeschooled up to this point. Also, up until several months ago, she didn't roam the neighborhood on her own, apart from our immediate block. She'd been wanting to do more on her own for a long time, and it's been a struggle for dh and me because of all the gang activity in our neighborhood, and because of how we see prostitution and drug deals taking place here and there. But she really needed a broader canvass and didn't like always having dh or me with her -- not that she wants to do anything bad, she's actually a very cautious and conscientious girl: she just likes the feeling of being on her own.
So, several months ago, we started letting her go on her own for three mile walks with our big (mostly Labrador) dog, up to a nearby park and around the track and back. She takes these walks nearly every day, and hasn't run into any problems so far. She now also takes some walks without the dog to see her one good friend in the neighborhood, and sometimes they go hang out at the park on their own, and they hadn't encountered any problems until just recently.
About a week ago, I think it was last Saturday, dd came home and said some kids got really upset with her. She and her friend had been playing basketball at the park when a group of about ten kids came over and started playing on their court. Since the adjacent court was empty, dd told her friend, "Let's go to the other court because I don't like sharing," and the kids followed them over and asked if she had a problem. Dd said she didn't and just wanted to play on her own court. I wasn't there and dd wasn't able to remember the whole interaction word for word, but somehow it culminated in at least one of the kids claiming that dd had told them to "get their (ethnically descriptive word) asses off the court."
While I wasn't there and I'm not trying to be "that parent' who assumes their little darling can do no wrong, I DO know that dd didn't say that. She's not mean -- but she also doesn't worry much about all the different ways that a statement like "I don't like sharing" can be interpreted.
Dd and her friend decided to leave, and were walking off when a lady came up and said, "Don't you girls let them run you off!" And the lady hung around with them for a little bit and the other kids went off and she didn't see them anymore that day. She has since noticed at least a couple of them while walking at the park and they didn't approach her or really act like they recognized her, so it sounds like there may not be any fallout from this.
After the incident, I suggested that some people might feel hurt by her saying, "I don't like sharing." She was like "Well I DON'T like sharing!" And she felt like the other kids were kind of rude to just converge on the court that she and her friend were already playing on, when there was another completely empty court they could have taken. I suggested that maybe they were hoping to play all together and she said, "Well, I don't want to play with a huge group of kids I don't even know!" I should add that she hasn't had much basketball practice up to this point, but is trying to get better, and feels uncomfortable when surrounded by kids who play much better.
I feel like I'm often jumping in and critiquing her interactions with other kids, rather than just listening and supporting. Now that she's moving into the teen years, if I can't change this tendency of mine, she may very well not feel like opening up to me much longer. So I really want to be more careful about just jumping in wtth advice.
But I also worry about her, even though I know that, when I was a kid back in the 70's, my friends and I roamed a lot on our own, and certainly had our share of little altercations, and lived to tell the tale. However, we didn't live in an ethnically diverse neighborhood like the one we are raising our girls in, so the conflicts never turned into accusations that one party or the other was being racist. Not that we couldn't still be just as mean and hateful -- but when racism is brought into the discussion, it just seems more potentially explosive. But maybe I'm over-dramatizing, because if one adult accuses another of being racist, it's such a serious thing. Maybe with kids it's like a lot of other of childhood name-calling where the kids can hate each other one day and be best buds the next. Maybe it's not so serious when children do it.
On the one hand, I feel so great about my daughters growing up shoulder-to-shoulder with kids of all different ethnicities. But on the other hand, I worry about my daughter who is so assertive about saying exactly what she thinks, and who never pretends to feel one way if she feels another, because at least one kid in that group did accuse her of being racist.
Dd has also really been wanting to go to public school, and will be starting in our neighborhood public middle school this fall. 8th grade was my absolute worst year in school, but I know my dd is not me and she really doesn't want to wait 'til 9th or 10th grade. So it looks like she'll be out there in the thick of it. I console myself by remembering that at least she has the choice of coming back to homeschooling if at any point she wants to -- but I still worry and wonder about the best way to help her through this time. Thanks for listening, and any insights you may have are very welcome!