I told a roomful of mandated reporters at my kids’ school that I was going to punch the mother of a bully in the face. Assuming I was joking, they laughed nervously and didn’t call the police. I wasn’t kidding. Bullying is a problem, even in lovely and quaint towns like mine.
My daughter, Ainsley, is extremely naïve and overly trusting. For her, it’s a blurry line between fitting in and being led astray. Fortunately, her big brother, Cooper, represents all that is good and decent in the world. He loves his little sister and looks out for her.
Last winter, an older girl took Ainsley’s brand new hat and wore it off the bus. Ainsley, who cannot fathom that another person could have cruel intentions, didn’t say anything to the girl (we’ll call her Madison). However, Cooper witnessed the incident and told me as soon as they got home. Furious, I drove to the girl’s house while I called her mom.
Madison’s mother told me there was no way her daughter would do that and that Ainsley must have forgotten the hat at school. I informed her that I was sitting outside her house looking at said hat on her lawn. (I left it there to prove my case. I was ready to call CSI and dust it for prints.)
While she was still making excuses for her kid, I spied her peeking out the kitchen window. The hat was in plain sight, and suddenly she changed her tune. She went from raising her voice and blaming Ainsley to finding some humility. Hmm, let’s see if I have this straight. The kid lied about taking the hat and her mother was beyond indignant right up until she got busted. By then, I could hear the little brat crying, not because she was sorry. But because she was sorry she got caught. Can you say Tiger Woods?
Months later, a different girl told Ainsley to pull another child’s hair. While Ainsley should have known better than to do that, the older girl eventually admitted she chose Ainsley because she thought she could manipulate her into doing something wrong. In some ways, Ainsley isn’t like her classmates. It doesn’t occur to her that certain kids are mean.
Now, this case is a little different because I have a history (and not a happy one) with this kid’s mother. So, I didn’t think twice about calling her and reporting what her kid had done. She was less defensive than the first mother, which at first surprised me, but then I realized that she knows her daughter is a mean girl.
My best friend’s daughter is as much a part of my family as my own kids. So, when she got bullied right out of the public school system into a private school, I took it personally. My BFF is much nicer than me and never confronted the mother of her daughter’s bully. Bella used to tell my friend’s daughter that she couldn’t sit with her and her friends at lunch, she’d push her gym mat away from hers and point out that her winter boots weren’t Uggs.
Where, I ask you, do children learn this kind of behavior? I’m a Marriage and Family Therapist (or I was in my last life before I started writing about people’s oddities instead of trying to treat them) and I learned long ago that normal isn’t normal. Normal is what we know. It’s what our families teach us. I guess it’s possible that these girls could have been nice if only they’d had better role models.
I tell my kids all the time that I’d lie down in front of a fast moving train for them. I don’t think they’ll truly understand the enormity or the sincerity of that statement until they have kids of their own. They take it to mean that I’m a fierce mama bear who will do anything for her cubs. Included is keeping them company when they can’t sleep, getting in cold tubs with them when they have high fevers, holding their heads while they barf, pretending I know how to do their homework, and a million other things that I wouldn’t trade for the world. Also on that list- I will forever confront their bullies and their bullies’ parents.
It’s becoming increasingly and horrifyingly clear to me that kids learn how to be bullies at home- if not by mirroring unacceptable behavior, then by the inaction of their parents. So, as I already warned the principal of my kids’ school, I will punch the parents of bullies in their faces and feel good about it. Then I’ll go home, ice my hand, wait for the swelling to go down, and write about them.