We talk all the time to children about bullies – what to look out for, how to stand up for yourself, how to exit the situation.  We discuss how to help take care of people who have been the targeting of bullying and, importantly, how to be a good friend to all and, thus, not a bully.

On tv shows and educational videos, bullying usually is presented as one person getting in the face of another person and saying very unkind things.  And, I’ll admit, I’d never experienced that kind of bullying in my life.  I mean, don’t get me wrong – I’ve experienced plenty of passive aggressive bullying, and even aggressive, but wordless, bullying.  But I’d never been yelled at in my face by someone who was exercising some sort of perverse bullying power over me.

Until I was 37 years old.  At a park.  With my two children.

I guess it’s never too late for key life experiences… or something like that.

“LET’S TRY A NEW PARK!”

My girls and I had a free summer day, and we decided to make the most of it.  After a beautiful, calm morning of playing in the backyard in their jammies, I finally coaxed them into getting dressed in the late morning, with the promise that we were headed to the library.  They LOVE the library!  And I mentioned, “Maybe we’ll try a new park!”. Well, that really got them excited!  They rushed upstairs to get dressed in what they thought was most appropriate for the day’s activities:  my five-year-old in a “sports shirt,” “sporty shorts,” tennis shoes, and a baseball cap; my seven-year-old in a sundress, flipflops, and a floppy sunhat.  They gathered their library books, donned their new “grown-up looking” sunglasses, and they were set!

We spent a good hour at the library, picking out books (I LOVE that my oldest is into reading the “Little House” book – some of my favs!!), drawing pictures for the library mailbox, and me watching a puppet show of their own design (the plot was the thing of a disorganized mind’s dreams).

Then, after a surprise special lunch at our local hotdog restaurant, where my youngest was excited to see her “friend” (a 60-some year old lady who works the cash register and lights up when Vanessa lets people skip us in line just so she can go into her line), we were off to our new-to-us park experience!

A CASTLE PARK

One of the amazing things about where we live is the seemingly never-ending supply of parks around here!  (But we sure pay enough taxes for these parks to be paved in gold).  I’d heard from friends about this “castle park” in the neighboring town, and I couldn’t wait for my kids to explore it.

We parked in the parking lot and could see the park in the distance – the girls were already squealing!  There was a path to walk along to get there, and the girls marveled at everything along the way:  “Look!  A pond!”  “Look!  A butterfly!” “Look!  A trashcan!”

And then we arrived.  The playset did, indeed, look like a castle.  It did NOT disappoint.  I snapped a picture of the girls in front of it, and then they were off!

They were still in their initial exploration of the playset when we encountered:  Bully No. 1.

CHILD BULLY

Bully No. 1 was, in fact, a boy of about 11 or 12 years old.  I was supervising my 5-year-old’s climb up a small rock wall when I heard him tell my 7-year-old as she came near him, “You can’t go here.  You’re not allowed over here.”  I saw her stunned face, so I walked over to help.  Because, I mean, come on.

So as I walked over, he was continuing, “Only WE are allowed here.  We don’t want you here.  Go away.  Now!!”

Well, now my daughter was trapped, because he was blocking one way out, this other boy was blocking another way, and the final way was a tube slide (which my child, for some reason or another, is terrified of – all lengths, shapes, and sizes of tube slides are a flat “no” for her).

I piped up with a little laugh like, “Well, come on” and said in a light, diffusing-the-situation manner, “She can go that way.  Anyone can go anywhere they want to go on this park.”

And this boy’s response?

Rude!  R-U-D-E (in ALL caps) rude.  He put on a mocking voice, stared into my eyes, and said, “We’re playing a game.  We’re just playing a game.  And she can’t go here.  We don’t want her here.”

Now, to really grasp the voice he’d taken on for this, imagine the most sarcastic whiny voice you can, and there you have it.  And, mind you, this was NOT the voice he’d previously been talking in.

Now, I get “kids being kids” and all that jazz.  But seriously, he’s going to talk to an adult that way?  So that’s what I said:  “Is that how you talk to adults?”

In that same mocking voice, he repeated what I said.

I said, “And where is your adult?” (meaning, his mom, dad, grandparent, babysitter… whoever was watching him).

After repeating my question in a mocking voice, he said, in his normal voice, “For your information, I rode my bike here.  So my adult is at home and not here.” And broke into some mocking laugh.  And then said, “And I might as well be an adult.”

As I walked away, I said, “Oh, you have a lot of growing up to do before you’re an adult.  And I wish your adult were here to speak with.”  Now, yes, you’re right – I didn’t need to say that and could have just let it be.  But if YOU had him talking to you in the manner in which he was talking to me, you would understand the restraint it took to keep what I said to this and only this.

And what did this boy say then??  “I’m going to call the police on you.”

I halted my walk away on that one, because no child should get to just walk around this great Earth speaking like that to people.  Or at least, not to an adult who was just trying to keep the playground peace.  Not to me anyway.  Not today.  And not in front of my children.

I responded with, “I hope you do.  Because I happen to have been a lawyer, so I like to think I’m pretty schooled in the ways of the law.  So that’d be great if you did.”. And then I continued my walk away, because I was determined to enjoy my day with my girls.

Now, again, you’re right if you’re thinking, “Okay, Blogger Lady, you did NOT need to say that.”  It’s true, of course.  I didn’t.  But in the moment, I was literally (it felt literal, anyway) pushing other words down my throat, reminding myself, “He’s just a kid.”  And, in this context, he was coming across as such a punk that I don’t regret saying it to him.  No, I was not threatening legal action.  But, yes, I was trying to remind him of his place – a kid, talking to an adult in a very bratty manner.

THE TAUNTING BEGAN

I go join my girls over at this cool little sit-on “zip line” sort of thing, and I start hearing the yelling from across the playground.  Aimed at me. “Lawyer!!  Lawyer!!  I’m spying on you, Lawyer!!”  And “Lawyer!!  Lawyer!!  You better not come back over here, Lawyer!!”  Also the fun variety of “Lawyer!!  Lawyer!!  I’m calling the police on you, Lawyer!!”  And whatever other annoying taunt you can imagine.  They weren’t that great – no points for imagination were earned.

I just kept smiling toward my girls’ total shocked faces and whispered, “Just ignore him.  He’s being a brat and a bully.  And, trust me, I don’t like calling anyone a brat.  But that’s what he’s being.  He wants attention, so ignoring him is the best way.  Let’s just have fun.”

I would like to take this moment to point out that I was considerate enough to *whisper* these truths to my girls, because no one else needed to be involved in what was going on.  I had no interest in other adults or kids overhearing what I said.

And we continued to focus on our own fun, despite the endless taunts being screamed and yelled across the playground toward me.

And THEN!!  And THEN, folks, a mom no more than five large skips away from me announces to her crew that it’s time to go.  And guess who is in that crew.  And GUESS which mother has been there THE ENTIRE TIME.  In plain view of everything.  In hearing of everything.  Very much there.

Here’s a picture to prove it (I was taking action shots of my daughter).  She’s in the black:

Adult park bully

The boy runs over to her, but not without taunting as he went by, “Haha!  Haha!  My adult was heeere!  My adult was heere!”

And I continued ignoring.

Until her shadow fell on me… this is when we encountered Bully No. 2

ADULT BULLY

As you’ve guessed, this ADULT, who had at least ten years of adulthood on me, plays the role of Bully No. 2 in this harrowing tale.

“You wanted to talk to me?”

This is the question that jolted me out of laughing as I pushed my five year old on the zip line thingy, with my seven year old waiting her turn on the platform.

“My SON said you wanted to TALK TO ME.”

Now, let me tell you one thing I knew – she was NOT adopting the friendly body language of, say, a Walmart greeter.  She was poised for battle.  Because, clearly, that’s why we all come to the park – to fight.

So I smiled (weird, I know – I don’t know why I did) and said, “Yes, actually, I did.  Because your son was speaking very disrespectfully to me, and I am NOT happy with how rude he was being to me and my daughter.”

And this lady literally roared all her remaining words.  And never have I had a finger wagged in my face, as I thought that was the thing of cartoon characters but, apparently, people in the real world actually do that.  I know!  I didn’t realize this, either!

“My son is NEVER rude!  He’s NEVER been disrespectful a DAY in his LIFE!  MAYBE your little daughters aren’t so PERFECT and THEY said something rude to HIM!  But I’m sure you NEVER thought THEY would do anything.”

I said, “My daughter actually didn’t say a word to him.”

“AND you should talk to ME, not HIM!  That’s why I’m here!”

So I continued my plastered on smile (don’t ask me why I kept smiling – I have no idea – I’m blaming shock and nerves), and said, “Actually, I did ask if his adult was here and he told me, no, that he rode his bike here and his adult was at h—”

“My son does NOT lie!  He NEVER lies!!”

At this point, I could tell that trying to talk to her was going to be preeetty fruitless.

It was also clear that I needed to deal with her as I did my spirited younger daughter – just let her have it out, because she’s delusional and there’s no trying to have a sensible conversation at this moment.  So I zipped it and let her have the stage.

She went on and on.  Oh, and I was called “B*TCH” multiple times.  Yes indeedy.  She pulled out the big ole B-Word on me.

Um, did I mention that my daughters were RIGHT there?  Yes.  Yes, they were.  Watching as this lady towered over me, poking her finger in my face, yelling, contorting her face into all sorts of angry positions, and calling me “b*tch.”. But she didn’t stop at insulting me.  She decided she needed to continually insult my daughters, too.  “You think they’re SO perfect. [um, when have I EVER said that in my life??  The same girls who drive me bonkers multiple times a day?? Nope.  But, whatever].  You think they’re just ANGELS. [LOL].  Well, they are NOT!”

And, remember, at this point, I’m quiet.  She’s just flying WAY off the handle now – so high that she’s about to hit some turbulence.

THINGS TAKE A QUESTIONABLE TURN

Keep in mind, I am NOT saying that she was lying about what she said next.  I just think it was an overly manipulative argument.

“I’ll have you know, my SON has THREE brain tumors!  Is THAT how you’re going to treat someone with THREE brain tumors?”

Now, I didn’t tell her what I was thinking, but I’ll tell you.  Because I just don’t think that this revelation excused anything that was happening to me at that moment.

  • First of all, surely you can see why I have a veracity concern here. The whole “He never lies” and “He’s never disrespectful thing?”  Even I wouldn’t say that about MY children (even though she thought that I’m under the impression that my children are perfect).
  • If he does, indeed, have tumors that make him act in such a way at a park then, were I his mother, I would keep an eye on him and guide him and others through any potentially hurtful situations. If I knew that his brain condition tended him toward the bullying mindset and resulted in him spewing disrespect at adults, then I would BE there to watch, to guide, to educate.  Now, I know that in NO way can I judge a parent until I’ve been in her shoes, but this is what I think I’d do.  I’m pretty sure, if it were predictable that my child would act in a way hurtful to others, I wouldn’t just sideline myself and make it everyone else’s problem.
  • Why am I being persecuted for my lack of knowledge of her son’s claimed situation? It’s not like I said anything that I wouldn’t say to any other child.  In no way did I treat him differently.  And, were I the parent of a child with a disease or illness, I think that’s what I would want – for my child to be treated just like all other children.  Also, I could not possibly be the first person she’s encountered who doesn’t know her child’s health condition.  So how can I be at fault for this?  If this is his situation and you believe it has a direct bearing on what’s happening, then educate me kindly, inform me in a way that’s beneficial to all.
  • She had heard him yelling at me across the playground. She HAD to have heard him.  Everyone else did.  And she was a stone’s throw away from me.  So is his claimed diagnosis an excuse for her not intervening when he’s taunting an adult?
  • Is his health history a carte blanche for you to say whatever you want to me? And to call me a b*tch for correcting an apparently unsupervised kid who was acting in a way that any other person also would interpret as “bullying,” directed toward my child AND me, on a public playground?

AND IT GETS WORSE

“I HOPE your girls get brain tumors!  I HOPE you have to go through what I have, you b*tch.  You need to THINK before you say things to people.”

Uhhhh.  Wait.  *record scratch*  Is SHE the one giving me that advice?  That’s amazing!

Now, my next moved shocked me.  It was way too cool, in my humble opinion.  And I’m not normally cool.

As she stormed away, I said, “I’ll pray for you.” Because, I mean, if her kid is going through these huge health issues and she’s apparently struggling through it in such a way that her anger is coming out at strangers at the playground, goodness knows they need some prayers.  And I’m not even being sarcastic here (really, truly).  She must be coping with quite a bit to have totally lost her shizzle on a stranger at a playground.  I think prayers are most definitely in order.

(Before anyone raises their eyebrows at this statement:  no, I was not forcing my religion upon her by saying this.  I figure, she got to say everything that was on her mind, so I should at least get to slip out one thing that’s on my mind.  I mean, she’s really the one who invited this whole stream-of-consciousness way of spewing things out in the first place).

As my words floated across the soft summer air to her, she WHIRLED around.  It’s like I shone my iPhone’s flashlight on a vampire.  Her hair’s flying in her face, her lips are screwed up in some crazy angry manner that I can’t name because there’s not even an emoji for it, and she yells…  “I don’t NEED your PRAYERS, you B*TCH.”

Hmmm.  Actually, I think you just proved otherwise by that statement, but whatever.

And she spewed quite a few other things out at me as she finally gathered her crew to go.

I COULDN’T HAVE ASKED FOR A BETTER EXIT

As she walked away, her son starts taunting me, “Heh heh, she told you!  Heh heh!” and she’s whisper-yelling at him, “STOP it.  Shut up!”

I have no doubt she must have been FLOORED by this disrespect, since he’s NEVER been disrespectful before.

PROUD OF MYSELF, THANK YOU VERY MUCH

Now, we were NOT the only people at the park.  There were plenty of other people, and they were ALL watching.  No one missed a single word or finger-jab-in-my-face.  There was a gaggle of boys about Bully no. 1’s age, and he kept running up to those boys all pumped up and smiling, explaining what was going on, and the boys were all laughing and having a heyday with it.  There were friendly looking moms (guess my shot at making friends with them flew out the window that day).  There were other innocent kids who had no business hearing this sort of thing go down.

But despite the laughing boys.  Despite Bully No. 1 still stirring up trouble.  Despite my girls watching their Momma being verbally harassed, and in a very rough way.  And despite the hate being spewed by this woman… I stayed calm.  I guess the training that “Lawyer!!  Lawyer!!” got does pay off sometimes.

My heart was beating fast during it all.  And there’s SO much that I wanted to, say back to this delusional woman, but I held my tongue.  And, guess what?  The calmest one always wins.  Always.

(I saved my tears for when I retold the story to my husband at home).

MAKING WINE FROM GRAPES

Or lemonade.  Whatever.  All I knew is, I really needed a drink after that experience.  But, instead, I turned my attention to my clearly-not-perfect but precious-in-heart girls, and we talked about the situation.  They had SO many questions and had a great need to talk about it.  I would have preferred to not relive every detail, but they needed to talk, so we talked.  The rest of the time at the park, the drive home, and once at home.  Even at bedtime, my oldest was crying and said, “I’m still upset about that lady at the park.”

I told them that I was SO sorry they had to see me in that situation BUT, in a way, I’m glad they did.  Because they got to see how to deal with a bully.  They saw with their own eyes a real-life situation and how to stay calm while standing your ground.  I mean, the videos they see at school are powerful and all, but nothing really beats real life.  I’m grateful, too, that the real life example they experienced wasn’t directed at them or their friends.  I’d much rather be the victim than them or their sweet friends.

So I hope they learned from this situation.  It’s unfortunate that they have times when they have to discover that not everyone in the world is kind, but this is the truth of the world, and they need to know this so as to be prepared to navigate our tricky society.  I hope they learned that you can stand up to a bully without using disrespectful words or strong body language and without backtracking on what you’ve said or on what’s right.

AND PRAY WE WILL!

And we will, indeed, pray for this woman and her son.

At the thought of this, my youngest laughed and said, “It’s gonna be so awesome, because she didn’t WANT us to pray for her, but we will.  We’ll pray she becomes nicer and then, one day, she’s going to suddenly be nice and she’s gonna know that we DID pray for her, and then she’ll kinda be mad at us.”

I can only hope she changes, Baby Girl.  I can only hope.