We have been discussing the case of Grayson Bruce, the nine-year-old boy who was told he couldn’t carry his My Little Pony backpack to school due to bullying concerns on Mommyish. I’ve been thinking about this kid a lot, mainly because I have a nine-year-old myself, and even though she is a girl I know what it’s like for a kid to be bullied and made to feel “not cool” because they still play with certain things or are interested in things other kids tease them about. My Little Pony, especially the Friendship is Magic reboot, is extremely popular with elementary school kids. The show addresses issues like bullying, being different, sticking up for yourself and friendship. It is funny and silly and joyous and a great show for kids in this age demographic, kids who aren’t yet navigating the pre-pubescent politics of middle school, the kids who are starting to learn to find their own identities but who still want to sit on your lap sometimes before they go to bed at night.
I’ve got a nine-year-old girl, but she wasn’t that different from my son who was nine not that long ago. He is 11 now, and I still see flickers of his childhood, even though it is starting to become hidden by a veneer of coolness, of pulling away, of sarcasm and eye-rolling and less time asking for hugs and more time asking for the trinkets of teenager-hood, the band T-shirts, the shooter video games, the skateboards, the heavy metal song downloads. He is growing away, growing up. It wasn’t so long ago he was like his sister, my girl who still plays with dolls and loves cartoons, who combs her pony’s hair and comes home with her feelings hurt because she was told that reading isn’t cool.
Nine is so young. So young. Nine is new to this earth, nine is nothing. In the span of a life, if we are lucky, nine is a drop in the bucket. We all say this, like broken records, we all sigh and hold our hands and we say kids today grow up so fast and they do, they do when my kid comes home and tells me that someone told her dolls are no longer cool and when they ask us if they are getting fat and we read the horror stories, elementary school kids getting stoned in the bathroom and committing suicide and a million other awful things no child should ever be exposed to. Kids today grow up so fast because the world makes them, we make them, we make them when we teach them that if they don’t like a backpack a kid wears to school that we tell the kid he isn’t allowed to wear the backpack, the logic stated so eloquently and simply by Grayson Bruce’s own mother who said saying a lunchbox is a trigger for bullying, is like saying a short skirt is a trigger for rape. It’s flawed logic, it doesn’t make any sense. It isn’t the bullies picking on a kid for his backpack choice who are told they are wrong, it’s the kid with the backpack. Which is a totally normal thing for a nine-year-old kid to want, to carry. Any person should be allowed to carry the accesory they want, but when you consider the age of Grayson, this so new to this earth nine-year-old, and the message we are saying is that this item made for children and marketed to children and meant to be beloved and treasured by children is not for you, that’s a dangerous and disgusting message we are sending to our kids.
I’m on the clock. We are all on the clock with every passing day, and every goodnight story, and every request for a doll or toys or stuffed animals to sleep with or cartoon backpack/lunch boxes to carry. We will eat our dinners, and hold our children on our lap, and we will wake up and be inundated with requests of cell phones and demands of lip gloss and fraught conversations about birth control and our sons telling us “That is for babies.” I don’t worry about a nine-year-old carrying a cartoon backpack because that is who should be carrying it. I worry about the nine-year-olds who – so new to this earth, think these things are not for them, that they exist to be made fun of, to bully the kids who want to carry them.
Kids today grow up so damn fast. We force them to.
(Image: getty images)