Thursday, July 17, 2008

My Primal Scream

Earlier this week the whole family went to the botanical gardens for the farewell to the dinosaurs. This summer our BG was raided by the most wonderful dinosaur exhibit in the midst of gorgeous flower beds and sprawling green lawns. We spent a lot of time there. I knew Finn would want to go to the Extinction Party when it was finally time for the reptiles to wreak havoc elsewhere.

It was great - not too crowded as big events there tend to be, yummy burgers, huge wedges of watermelon - the works. After dinner the boys joined a group of kids on one of the lawns to play off the food. Hotwheel Hubs and I were hanging out at the picnic tables watching the kids play.

We were about 20 yards away, and happy to see the boys initiating play with other kids. Finn is such a social guy - he has picked up somewhere on the power of an introduction: "Hi, my name is Finn, and this is my little brother Eli, and this is my Mommy and this is my Daddy. Wanna play wid me?" He knows no stranger.

"The Intro" had just been given to a pair of boys that looked to be around six years old. Finn is tall - he doesn't look his age of three at all - most people assume he's five. The trio of boys played pretty good... for about two minutes. We watched as the play became rapidly aggressive, with the older two teaming up on Finn, and Finn not even noticing. He thought it was some sort of Chase game.

One of the boys grabbed Finn and pinned his arms behind his back. The other boy started poking him, jabbing at him with something in his hand. Finn tried to pull away, but Boy #2 held him fast. His face changed from blissfully happy to suddenly frightened. The Poking Boy's face turned hard and cold.

My face?

Words can't describe the rage that washed over my entire body. Caleb felt it too. Pure, unfiltered biology reared its head. I saw how the two Big Boys fed off Finn's fear, and how that made them feel powerful. Even then I hesitated for a fraction of a second - these were somebody's boys too, and they were only a few years older. They didn't deserve to die... paralysis would do, though.

In that fraction, Caleb was on his feet, violently clearing his throat to get the Poker's attention. The Captor was released, and running toward his Mommy.

"Dose guys were mad at me..." Finn is confused and not sure what he did wrong. This makes me even madder - those little shits made me see my baby vulnerable and laid bare like a victim. Now they have somehow made him think it was HIS fault.

And yet...

I know I can't swoop in every. single. time. Someday, I won't be there to see Finn's arms pinned behind his back, and in the meantime, it is up to us to teach him how to handle himself in those situations.

Not only that, it's up to us to teach him how to help the kid at recess who gets cornered and the teacher is nowhere around. The nerd. The dork. The kid in the class who is a little bit... different.
In the spaces where there's nobody looking.

Somebody tell me how to teach that.


Steve and Stepher said...

Now where in the hell were those other parents - that's what I would want to know. What did they do, just drop the two six-year-olds off and say, "See ya' later. Torment as many other children as you can?"


It's a shame that there are as many bad parents out there as good.

Sarah Lena said...

Ooh. OOOH. I got primal just reading that. Like, beat the snot outta the bullies, primal.

My stepson had this same thing happen, and he was seven at the time. He visited a neighbor who repeatedly spat on him and hit him. IN THE PRESENCE OF THE BULLY'S PARENTS. My stepson walked home in a torrential downpour just to get away.

We tried not to fume over the instance (and the bully's parents were as useless as tits on a boarhog), but there was one good thing that came out of it: my stepson is now an avid protector of the "other kid". He's been bullied, he learned how bad it feels, and now he knows the right thing to do.

Finn will get that too.

Artist Unplugged said...

oooo, urge to kill. Age and sadly experience will teach. Process of innocence robification by telling him some kids will do things just for the heck of it and be mean, that he did nothing wrong. Right about using it as a lesson to urge him to aid others when it happens to someone else. Always taught mine never to hit, don't fight but after a kid being on top of him and he not hitting back, had to teach him to that he must defend himself. Sadly, can't always live nice in our world.

Carol said...

Oh that makes me SO sad. I hate stuff like that.

My son has recently experienced the same kind of thing and it is so upsetting to see them vulnerable.

I was tempted to just sit and hug him til he was 18, just os he didn't experience the same again ever.

The dinosaurs sound cool though!

McMommy said...

la la la la!!! I have my fingers in my ears and I'm pretending I didn't hear that!!

I cannot process the thought that I won't always be there to protect my kids.

Germs, bullies, just simply being "afraid" of something.

I hate it!! I want to bubble wrap my boys and tell them "Mommy will take care of everything!!"

But I know I can't. And it sucks.


On a brighter note, I LOVED that primal photo...

Darleen said...

just reading that pisses me off. what is wrong with kids and where are the parents?? The scary thing is, chances are if the kids are acting that way with your kid right in front of you, the parents couldn't care less.... I am sorry that your little guy had to go thru that, i wish that I had words of wisdom on how to teach your little one on how to handle situations like that, but i don't know the answers either....

Chelle said...

Just reading this makes me so angry. Angry that the other boys parents were nowhere in sight. Angry that these boys thought it was okay to treat another boy so horribly. I would have been enraged. I'm sorry Finn had to go through that. It breaks my heart.

Amanda @ notsoextraordinary said...

i'm totally lost in those situations too! I have only seen it happen one time to the little guy i take care of, and while I actually did get up and chase the kid away from him, i felt REALLY bad doing it! you're right, it's someone else's kid too! Anyways, i think that you're correct in trying to make sure that he learns what to do in those situations, kids do need that

BookMomma said...

I have to say thanks for all your comments on this one... for all of you who got pissed for my boy, and all of you who offered advice on how you've handled these things.

This is an issue that scares me. Bullies are everywhere - physical, emotional, mental. And they don't go away as we grow from child to adult; they are at work in the forms of sexual harassment, or sexism, or racism. Bullies weren't always bullies... I think something had to happen to make them that way.

Kids as young as these guys were, especially boys (I say this with SUCH great thoughtfulness & deliberation) are usually just acting like... boys. Pushing the envelope, testing their boundaries. It's human. We are imperfect animals.

But their parents should use their tests as a teaching opportunity. Unchecked, the "bully power trip" becomes addictive, and before you know it time passes and - BAM! - you got a Columbine situation. Not so much from the bullies, but from their victims year after year after year.

I can't say Finn or Eli will never test their boundaries. But when they do, and I see it happening... I'll be in their faces.

And all you guys? You officially have permission to be in their faces if i'm NOT around to see it.

Beth said...

That was a wonderful story, spoken to my heart in ways you probably can't imagine. Henry is my genuine, sweet child that doesn't 'get it' when people are picking on them.

You bet I 'save' him and you bet I say 'something to the mothers' (if only under my breath in the general area of those said mothers).

GREAT post!

Susan said...

I was getting agitated just reading that. I agree with everyone else...where were the parents? I taught elementary school for nine years and it is sad to say, but by the time I got them in fourth grade if the parents hadn't taught them to be respectable "citizens" then it was a nearly impossible job for me. Just keep doing what you are doing and your son will naturally "know no stranger" and be the kid who will be a friend to kids of all types. Most bullies don't pick on the kids with a lot of just doesn't pay off too well.

The White House said...

Oh, I was fuming when I read that! I just finished reading 19 minutes by Jodi Piccoult (fictional, about the issue of bullying). I am not recommending it, but it gives you something to think about. I would however recommend "Conscious Discipline," by Becky Bailey. I used to teach HeadStart, and my class was a diverse class with many timid kids and some very mean spirited kids. The practices in this book transformed my classroom and made it a safe place (in the classroom and on the playground) for each year that I implemented it. It taught kids how to deal with bullying (not just tattling), and taught bullies how to effectively communicate and feel empowered in a positive way. Really awesome. Some of it is a little cheesy, but there are some gems in there!

pb&j in a bowl said...

I got mad at those boys, just imagining the situation. Where the parents anywhere around? Did they see their kids being bullies, or did they even care? I think I would have jerked 'em up by their ears and held them by my side until said parents decided to show up.

BookMomma said...

White House -
I totally read that book. A few chapters in I had to put it down for a while because of its intensity. I was tempted to just leave it, but thought it was important to finish it - some books shouldn't be easy to read, I think.

I'll check out Conscious Discipline - thanks for the recommendation!

Simply Shannon said...

I hate situations like that! Why does it have to be a part of human nature to find someone smaller or weaker to pick on?
Keep doing what you're doing- sounds like you're headed on the right track!

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