Friday, December 23, 2011

This is where I talk about bullying.

It's December 23rd. You would think I would have some gushing post about how magical the holidays are now that my kid is (almost) old enough to embrace the full excitement, the magic, Santa, and just the whole aura. Well, not today, my friends. I want to talk about bullying and how I'll be damned if my kid isn't going to learn to stand up for herself. If you want holiday joy, please proceed to Kelle Hampton's blog.

So, here is my first mellow dramatic experience with witnessing my kid being bullied....

Lily is shy and shows a bit of anxiety in new, social situations (you think she got my genes on that one?). Now that she isn't in school (for now. financial woes.), socializing her is a bit of a challenge because we're just so busy and getting her to play groups is difficult. One on one play for her is typically fine. We have our friend's little boy, Ty, who she loves, and my parent's next door neighbor's little boy, Josiah, and Ryleigh, who she adores. She's pretty ok one on one. Group play is just different for her.

So, yesterday, Dustin and I took her up to our community's little playground. It's really tiny and made for toddlers, and since it's Christmas break there were a lot of kids there. Ok, maybe not a lot. There were like six kids there, but more than usual. All of the kids were older than her. I decided to just back up away from the immediate play area and observe so Lily could socialize.

Lily was immediately interested in two little girls that didn't look too much older than her. (I later found out that they were ages 3 and 5 from the babysitter sitting on the bench.) Lily doesn't have a direct approach when trying to interact with other kids. She talks quietly, stares a lot, and just kind of observes. When she's comfortable enough, she will say something that she identifies with. For example, after observing the girls for a few minutes, Lily noticed one of the girls was wearing a shirt with Cinderella on it, so, Lily said, "Hey! You have Cinderella on your shirt! I like Cinderella".

The girls just stared at her for a bit and then the older girl said, "WE don't talk to strangers", very rudely.

How nice. Their parents taught them how to be assholes to strange little kids. That lesson seemed to backfire, in my opinion...but, ok, I can see that a stranger is a stranger and if that's what they were taught, so be it.

But Lily still wanted their attention. So, she just kind of followed them around. I would see them having little mini conversations, which were out of my earshot, but they were not really welcoming Lily into their little world.
I noticed that the girls just seemed to be ganging up on her. Every time Lily was going down the slide, one of them would either cut in front of her or walk up the slide so Lily couldn't slide down. Or, if she was trying to walk up the stairs one of them would push past her. This didn't seem to disrupt Lily's vigilance for their attention though.

It happened.

The girls were standing on a a little landing after the first two stairs that led to the slide. Lily went to put her foot on the first stair to join them on the landing. The younger of the two, (remember, she's only 3), stepped onto the second stair and shoved Lily, hard, in the chest, basically pushing her back down to ground level.

Oh, hello, mama bear instinct.

I had already had a level of frustration with these girls because of how they were treating Lily but now?? Now, I'm pissed.

With having absolutely no earthly idea on how to handle this, and still remain rational, I stomped over to the girls, glaring over in the direction of the babysitter who was 100% preoccupied with her telephone conversation, I crouch down to this little girl's level and said, "excuse me, why did you just push her? Pushing is not a nice thing to do. Lily was trying to play with you!".

The little girl responded my just putting on her best pouty face, burying her head, and saying nothing. Her older sister just laughed and ran over by the babysitter. The remaining four kids on the playground, who were significantly older, stopped to watch the scene, proud that they weren't the ones in trouble.

It's too bad that spanking someone elses child is frowned upon. It crossed my mind, I swear it did. I think that's more acceptable than spanking your own child sometimes. 

A mom who overheard the commotion, who was laying by the pool a few feet away, popped out of her chair, just to make sure it wasn't her kid I was reprimanding. She smiled at me warmly, as if to say, "I've been there and it will only get worse".

Sadly, I know it will only get worse. Much worse. I've been there. For three years in middle school, I was there. Bullied everyday, so much so that I begged, pleaded, and cried to stay home from school

Maybe I am being overly sensitive. Maybe others wouldn't even consider this bullying. Perhaps this- shoving and ganging up- is just a part of kids being kids and learning their independence, finding out how others interact. But, I have to say, this situation crushed my heart for Lily. She just looked so sad that these girls were being so mean. Tears are stinging my eyes as I type this because this is the sort of hurt that every mother wants to shield their child from. It's unnecessary, really. Pain and hurt are a part of life, sure, but bullying at the age of 3 and 5, or any age, is completely unacceptable.

All I can hope is that she has a solid backbone from a young age, learns that it's just not ok, and even fights back if she has to. I hope she has the self esteem to rise above it. I never knew how to handle my bullies and it was such a lonely time for me.

Stand your ground, baby girl. This world can be a cruel place. I wish I could always be there to protect you.