I’m so glad I waited a few days to write this post because it’s definitely one that could have been written in bitterness and haste.
Friday night my five-year old was a victim of bullies. I am so not looking forward to our first experience with school–which happens to start in 42 days.
We were at our local park helping pass out flyers for a concert that was taking place. When we were done we went down to the playground so the kids could play while we waited for daddy to join us. Mr. Man darted straight for the merry-go-round which has become his new favorite structure every time we are there. I was walking around with Little Miss so I could be her spotter when she was climbing stairs and such. I kept glancing over at the merry-go-round at him and he seemed fine. After awhile I started to notice some kids that looked like they were in the midst of a debate with him.
I started walking that way and I could hear my son say, “I AM NOT A BABY!”
Once I got there I asked him what was wrong and he told me they were calling him a baby. I looked right at the boys and nicely said, “He’s right. He’s not a baby. He’s five years old and he is going to kindergarten soon.”
They all kind of chuckled and then started whispering to each other. I decided I needed to stay there for awhile because I knew Little Miss was able to navigate the structures just fine now. Those boys were relentless. There were about four of them and when I asked them how old they were they all said they were six or seven. So, they were only at least a year older than him and they were calling him a baby? Not cool.
Mr. Man was so great to keep telling them that he wasn’t a baby, he was going to kindergarten soon and he was five years old. I defended him a few more times myself and then just started getting annoyed. Little Miss and another two year old girl came and got on the merry-go-round around this time too. Mr. Man jumped off to push and after a few rounds around they started saying, “We need someone else to push because that baby can’t make it go fast.” I told my boy he was doing a great job. I also told them they couldn’t go too fast because there were some smaller ones on right now. THEN they bent down toward my girl and said, “Don’t you want to go play somewhere else now?” Umm. NO! I told those boys, “The girls can stay on for as long as they want. When they decide to get off then you can go faster.” They kept trying to persuade them to get off and I kept telling the girls they could stay on as long as they want.
The girls eventually got off but I’m happy to say they did it on their own accord.
Mr. Man got back on the merry-go-round and I followed Little Miss to a slide. A few minutes later my boy comes running up to me and says, “Mom, how much do I weigh?” Excuse me? What? I looked at him, looked at the boys and then said, “You are 30 pounds but that doesn’t matter, okay?” He ran back and told them what he found out and they all started laughing. Once again they started calling him a baby and said he wasn’t as big as they were.
My boy is five years old, 30 pounds, 39 inches and wears 3T/4T clothes. We make smaller babies. Who cares?
I had been texting my husband during this time asking him when he would be there because these boys were not being nice and I just thought we needed to leave. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get them to leave without daddy’s help so we stayed.
The part that put me over the edge before daddy got there was when they wouldn’t let up and decided to now ask him, “Well, if you aren’t a baby…what reading level are you?” Ugh. Is that how you measure someone’s importance? Sure, I understand the importance of reading levels and such over the years but what six or seven year old would ask another kid that to determine if they were good enough?
At this point I looked at my boy and said, “If they aren’t going to be nice to you, you’re going to have to get off and go play somewhere else, okay buddy?”
Daddy arrived a few minutes later and I filled him in on what was going on. I also informed him that I’ve been dealing with this by myself because their parents didn’t seem to be anywhere around. He started hearing the boys calling him a baby and taunting him so he started mean mugging them. It seemed to help for a few minutes and then they just kept being sneaky about it. At one point I saw one of them start pushing him and he had his hands on them in defense. I went right up there and told my boy to stop and asked them not to put their hands on him. I didn’t want their hands on him but I also wanted to take the opportunity to make sure my boy knew he wasn’t allowed to touch them either. I don’t see things one-sided and I don’t think my child is an angel. I need to teach my child in every circumstance.
I kept telling my husband that we should leave so we could get dinner but we wanted our kids to be able to play too. It wasn’t a few minutes later that I caught out of the corner of my eye my boy leaning forward, with a look on his face that I’ve never seen before, screaming “I AM NOT A BABY!” I marched right over to the merry-go-round, told him, “You need to get off now and do something else. These boys have been mean to you the whole time and you don’t need to put up with it” and then I turned to the one boy and asked, “Can you show me where your parents are? You have not been nice to my boy the whole time he’s been here and I would like to talk to your parents.” All of a sudden he was silent, trying to point in circles as he spun round and round and then my boy got off the structure, ran off into the trees and started bawling.
I’m pretty sure I am partly to blame for those tears. I think I embarrassed him. But how long do you stand back and let it happen before you intercede? My husband went over to talk to him and he fought the hugs and words he was trying to offer him. It took everything in my 8-month pregnant, mommy heart NOT to cry–but I could feel those tears welling up in my ears and I had to look away.
Another dad came up to talk to me and assure me that my feelings were justified. He said, “What amazes me is how young bullying starts. And it starts with examples. Where are their parents? At the concert while they let their kids play alone over here on the playground?”
It’s true. Their parents where NO WHERE to be found. I just couldn’t believe it. I don’t consider myself a hovering parent but my goodness, who in this world lets their children play alone on a playground while they sit across the creek in chairs listening to a concert?
We ended up convincing our children that we needed to leave to grab something to eat. We also took the time to let Mr. Man know that he didn’t need to be around those type of people.
We walked up into town to put our name on a wait list for dinner. Daddy and sis went to do that and my boy and I sat on a bench. I started talking to him about what happened and he moved to the other side of the bench and didn’t want to talk to me. I told him if he didn’t want to right then that was fine, but that I would like to talk about it later.
He said, “Fine. Let’s just talk about it now, okay?”
It hurt my heart that he was so hurt by those boys. In that moment, and a few moments since, I’ve told him that his size doesn’t matter, he’s a really cool kid and there are PLENTY of people in our lives that love him. I think he knows that but he has a hard time not being accepted. We’ve always called him the Joy Boy and the kid who knows no stranger. Everywhere he goes he brings joy, laughter and love to others of all ages. In this moment, he had his first encounter with cruel people. We told him that hurt people, hurt people because they don’t like themselves.
Does it get any better? I am not excited about kindergarten, people. Not at all.