Stay-at-Home Nerd: The Bully at the Mall
It’s been a while since I’ve seen a bully in person. I guess there were some in my grade school, middle school and maybe even high school, but I can only vaguely remember getting bullied once. It was my first or second day at a new school and some kid (he’s a facebook friend of mine) supposedly pushed me into the dirt. I say supposedly because I don’t remember it ever happening. Maybe I was traumatized or maybe it was a good story by him that got etched in my brain. I wouldn’t say that kid was a bully, though. We actually played on soccer teams together, and by high school we’d occasionally see each other at parties. I have no idea what that kid is up to now, and I can’t say that the supposed event had any long lasting effects.
My son, who is a little over a year now, got bullied for the first time this past week. We were at the play area in the mall. You might have seen this place before. It’s jam packed full of sugar-fueled kids and stressed-out moms with the occasional dad lording over his kid to ensure his fun and safety. Personally, I’d never noticed the play area before I had a kid, but since Los Angeles has turned into the frozen tundra it is an awesome place to burn some time and energy.
Since my kid can’t walk yet, he usually crawls from climbing apparatus to climbing apparatus and stares at the older kids in awe. For the most part they ignore him, although a few will try and talk to him. A couple of kids have tried successfully and unsuccessfully to give him a hug. And he even got a kiss on the head from a four year old. If he could talk, I’m certain he would tell his friends.
Along the walls are tic-tac-toe boards that spin. Non-walking babies seem to find these especially amazing and this is where my boy was when the bullying happened. It is not unusual for one, two or many kids to horde together when one of them has discovered something, so I wasn’t surprised when the suspect in question, a hefty three-year-old with dark hair, a block head and an inability to smile hogged up two thirds of the board. It wasn’t alarming and my son and he seemed to be fine. Then the block head put his meaty paws on the boards my son was spinning. The spinning stopped. My boy let out a little whimper and looked over at me.
At this point there’s really only a few options. I could remove my son from the situation. That felt like giving the bully the yard which didn’t feel right. I could say something to the other kid, but I don’t feel that’s my job. The third option and the one I chose was to let it play out. Much to my surprise my boy, who was a good six inches and ten pounds lighter than the kid in questions, turned back to the boy and tried to spin his boards anyway. That’s when the real bullying started.
Realizing his attempt to overthrow the tic tac toe board was in jeopardy the older kid pushed my son over to the side and turned his back to him thus preventing my son an opportunity to play with what was his board. Not wanting to see my son pushed I stood up and walked over. Again I was both surprised and amazed by my son’s reaction. Instead of crying, he shoved the older, bigger, heavier kid and played with his boards again. I wish it had ended there.
The big kid was unfazed by my small child pushing him and he grabbed him. That’s when I stepped. “Don’t touch my kid,” I said. And the other boy looked up defiantly. It occurred to me that although I had never been in this situation before this kid sure had. He didn’t leave, he didn’t smile, he didn’t look deterred, but he did let go. Was I now being bullied, I thought? What do I do if he doesn’t stop? What if he tries to punch my kid? What if he kicks me, which is what he looked like wanted to do? Thankfully his mother came rushing over and yelled at him. She took him away.
It wasn’t long before my boy moved from the boards to the plastic turtle statue in the middle. As he tried to climb the mean kid returned and tried to block his way. It was over before it really began. His mom grabbed him this time and took him from the play area. I’d like to say that kid learned his lesson, but I’m afraid he didn’t. Maybe he never will. I don’t know if my son learned anything that day, either. But, I am sure he won’t suffer any long lasting effects. And that’s a good thing.
featured image credit: Lynda Giddens