There’s a park near in my neighborhood where Jake likes to play whenever I give him the OK. Now that it’s nice and cool outside, I make it a point to take little Jakey to the park a few times a week. I usually pick him up after daycare in the early afternoon and drive to the quaint little community park only a few blocks from our house for a good hour of outdoor air. Jake and I always have a good time at the park (or “the houses” as he calls them, because the park’s structures look like miniatures of the neighborhood houses) because some of the parents from daycare in the neighborhood bring their kids to the park around the same time so he has friends to play with.
The park is a splendid modern and child safe design, with cushy mulch on the ground replacing the rough rocks that were in the parks of my childhood, and all the poles that structure the mini buildings are nice and padded. Plastic fixtures have replaced the old rusty metal ones I remember on parks when I was a kid. Jake couldn’t hurt himself in that park if he tried. In some ways I feel like it’s safer for him to play here than on our hardwood floors at home.
A few weeks ago I was at the park with Jake, watching him play with friends from daycare as I chatted with a fellow mom. I noticed a young boy, probably a few years older than Jake (Jake will be 5 in March), walking to the outer rim of the park near the swing set. He was a little heavyset thing with freckles and a buzz cut, sporting (I later noticed) some heavy boots. In retrospect he had the look about him of a stereotypical bully from a kid’s show. Initially I ignored him; after wall, kids from the neighborhood come to the park all the time.
After a few minutes, one of the girls who had been playing at the swings ran to her mom who was standing near me, and I overheard her talking about this mystery boy. The girl claimed that the mystery boy wanted to use her swing, threatening to push her off the seat if she didn’t move. The mom simply consoled her daughter and told her not to go near the swings today.
Who bullies a girl over a swing? I thought with detached amusement.
A few more minutes of idle chatter continued before my son came up to me in a frenzy, on the verge of tears. After his swing-related exchange, the mystery boy, who I’ll now call “Bully Billy,” sauntered over to Jake where he was playing at a large tic-tac-toe puzzle installed inside one of “the houses.” Bully Billy ruined Jake’s game, asking him to get lost or else and apparently gave him a shove. Jake revealed the telling scrap on his arm from the altercation.
Oh, it’s on now, I thought.
I moved to the tic-tac-toe puzzle in a mother hen-like rage just in time to catch Bully Billy push over another boy, one of Jake’s friends. The look on my face must have scared both boys away, but I pointed at Bully Billy and told him to stay right where he was. I’d seen enough bullying first hand to let it go unnoticed. This little brat had to be put in his place before he ruled the park.
I opted for the humiliation approach.
I looked Bully Billy dead in the eyes. “You know, I know your mother personally,” I lied. “I just got off the phone with her. I told her about your behavior at the park and she wants to speak to you. Right. Now. Unless you want me to call her again?”
The boy’s eyes got wider and wider during my brief harangue. Poor kid, he couldn’t have been more than eight years old, but he had to know that some parents wouldn’t stand for boorish behavior.
“She’s waiting” I said impatiently. I didn’t break my stare from him for one second. My hand was on my hip and everything. I was a picture perfect image of a schoolteacher punishing a pushy student caught red-handed. Bully Billy sulked away from the park without a squeak.
In the few weeks since the encounter, neither Jake nor I have seen Bully Billy. Good riddance.
That’s my small story. Have your kids every experienced bullying?
Jemima Lopez is a freelance blogger and writer who writes for Zen College Life, the directory of higher education, distance learning, and best online colleges. She welcomes your comments at her email: lopezjemima 562@ gmail.com.
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