"OK," I say. I think the kid is just a little overwhelmed by her attention. 7-year-old boys still think girls have cooties. But some things are better left to experience. She needs to learn for herself what boys are like.
She gave him the flower, but his friends were there, teasing him. He tore it up, and she whimpered. Then he punched her in the eye.
This isn't the first time he has been downright rude to her. I watched them play catch, and he never let her actually catch the ball. He'd throw it up high, straight up, so he could be the one to catch it. If it got anywhere near her, he'd knock her over to get there first. His knee even hit her in the head as he scrambled over her. I was sure he did it on purpose.
Especially since earlier, when she asked him to come play, he was saying to his friends, "I don't want to play with that white girl."
After he punched her in the eye, I figured it was time for some parental intervention. First I talked to my kids. I gave them a quick history and science lesson. About melanin. About skin color and different physical traits. About Africa. About slavery. About the Civil War. My oldest is six, and we hadn't gotten that far in our history lessons.
And maybe I didn't really want to tell her about all that. I liked my child's innocence. She doesn't see that skin color makes any difference than eye color or hair color. It's just another thing that makes us different and unique and beautiful.
I talked to the neighbor boy about it too. Only with him, I said, "You know, now we have a black president. But President Obama has a black father and a white mother. He is a symbol that when blacks and whites work together in friendship, they can make good things happen."
He just stared at me. I'm not sure what he thought about what I was saying, so I just plunged ahead. (That's the problem with Sagittarians. When they put one foot in, they stick the other in too.) So I said, "And we like having you here, but we wanted to be treated with kindness and respect."
He still didn't say anything, and I don't think he's been to our yard since. Maybe I've planted a seed to break the pattern of racism in his life. Or maybe I've just alienated him and prevented a friendship from flourishing. I'm hoping for the first.