Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Raising bullies

     Having grown up on the other side of the world, I don't really know much about bullying except for those snippets that I saw on television or read in books.  I'm sure bullying existed in 3rd world countries as well, but for whatever reason - whether the country I grew up in was overly religious, too hungry, comprised of equally poor individuals, or something else - it just didn't seem to be as blatant as here in the US.  I guess because of that, I've always seen this as a problem associated with privilege. 

     I was in San Diego just last week for a business trip, and brought my daughter along for some family bonding time.  One day at the playground, my 2-yr old was happily digging at the sandbox by herself when she got a bit too close in vicinity to 3 older kids in their 3's and 4's. They were annoyed by this, and started shooing her away, saying "Go away!" "We don't want you here!" "You're a baby; We're 4!" Now the kids parents were only 2 feet away, so I at first watched with interest if anyone of them would say anything.  I, on the other hand, was a few yards away, so nobody noticed that I was this toddler's mom. The parents looked over, and continued yakking, and the kids continued with their taunting.  My daughter looked up, smiled, then looked down and started digging again.  Thankfully, she took this digging business quite seriously.  The taunting continued, and then the girls surrounded her.  That's when my mommy antenna went up! Then they started kicking sand at her - all 3 of them. I was horrified with what I saw! And the adults just stood there watching, not caring at all. My daughter looked up wondering what is happening. I ran as fast as I could, and started yelling "YOU! YOU! YOU! Stop that!!" at the girls, pointing individually at them. I was so infuriated, and I asked them why did they kick sand at my daughter?? One of them had the guts to answer me back and said that this was their lot and they didn't want to play with her. I responded with "Well, she doesn't want to play with YOU either! So, what do you say??" The youngest one muttered "Sorry" and all 3 ran off. 

     After that, I waited for the parents to approach me. They knew that I knew that they saw everything and they didn't stop it.  Still, they chose to keep talking to themselves about the weather, and other trivial things.  I could have left after that, but I wanted to give them the opportunity to talk to me.  They could have apologized, they could have tried to explain, or they could have asked me for explanation for raising my voice at their kids. But no. The air was filled with apathy. I waited some more.  Nothing. My husband said that I could have simply taken my daughter out of the situation as soon as I saw the sand kicking. In hindsight, I'm glad that I didn't, and that my fight-or-flee meter ticked the other way.  Someone had to say something to these kids, and I had to hear the "Sorry" even from a 3 yr old. We only got out of the sandbox when the train nearby honked its horn and caught my daughter's fancy. 

     Now I can say that I've learned first hand about bullying, and how ugly it is, and how bullies can be raised by apathy. I'll try my best to make sure that my daughter doesn't turn into one. And if someone tries to bully her again, they can count on Mama bear here to come out growling.

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