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You Touch My Kid and I’ll Eat Your Face

April 4, 2011

When I was in grade two, I distinctly remember a girl in my class telling me that I was “dead meat” afterschool. I spent the rest of that day with my stomach in knots – I’d never been in a fight and wanted to keep that record (not to mention myself) alive.

I made it home without incident because I sprinted out the door without my jacket or backpack. Thankfully, when I returned to school the following day, my nemesis had forgotten about her pledge to kill me. She was, in addition to being a bully, quite stupid.*

Thirty(ish) years later, I’ve been around the bully block a couple of times and have no problem standing up to jack-offs who try and push me around, but that didn’t make it any easier to handle my kid being bullied.

At seven-years-old, my son weighs 85-pounds and is five-feet tall. Although he looks like Goliath on the outside, he’s all David on the inside. I liken him to Ferdinand the Bull – he’d much rather be lolling under a tree than roughhousing with the other boys.

He has no problem pummelling his dad during a wrestling match, but would never flex his fighting mojo in the playground. Last year we were offering our son anything he wanted – toys, DVDs, a pet snake – if he’d only fight back (verbally or physically).

At one point, I even contemplated going all Hand That Rocks the Cradle on one bully’s ass, a consideration that was bolstered after reading that The Bloggess had been very successful with a similar tactic.

Thankfully it didn’t come to that, because things are much better this year: we’ve done role-playing with our son; the teacher is involved; and, by focusing on his many strengths, my son’s confidence is soaring. He knows he can simply walk away most of the time and he’s even taken to sticking up for other kids targeted by a bully.

Instead of pulling a Rebecca De Mornay on the boy who was bullying my son, I’ve spoken with his mother about the situation. Her son was on the receiving end of some bullying in the past; which doesn’t justify his actions, but it does explain them a little bit.

I’m proud and happy that we’ve been able to resolve – or at least improve – this situation like mature, capable adults. But until my kid leaves for college, the snake offer still stands.

There but for the grace of God...

*p.s. Sharlynn Summers, if you’re reading this: suck it.


21 Comments leave one →
  1. April 4, 2011 9:44 am

    This really struck me – I was nearly 6 feet tall in the 5th grade. I was kicked out of class in 4th grade by a substitute teacher because she figured I was a high-schooler playing around with her.

    But, I absolutely refused to fight back, ever. Those kids who knew me picked on me & took advantage of me left & right (what’s funny is that older kids ware deathly afraid of me, and I’d actually get paid (a whole dime) by classmates to accompany them to school when they happened to do something to really piss off an older bully).

    The “picking on the big guy” stopped suddenly one day, not when I was actually asserting myself, but because of an accident. We were playing touch football & a kid with a Napoleon complex took the “touch” subjectively when I had the ball. After a few punches to the belly (the kid was quite small and I was freakishly large, he wasn’t doing any physical damage to me), he went to full-on tackle me. His head hit my hip – he managed to bite his tongue (needed six stitches if I remember correctly), broke his arm when he hit the ground, and gave himself a concussion. I remained standing. The gym teacher was looking straight on when this happened & remarked “he only touched you with one hand, keep playing” (in fairness to him, nobody quite realized the extent of Henry’s injuries at the time). I ran into the end zone while the crowd worked around the kid on the ground (the gym teacher, by this time, had rushed to him, too). Never again was I picked on because I wouldn’t fight back.

    • April 7, 2011 8:33 pm

      I wish something similar could happen to my son – I don’t think he’ll ever whack someone intentionally. He really is a gentle giant so it would need to be an accident (or, if I’m involved, look like an accident…)

  2. ryoko861 permalink
    April 4, 2011 10:17 am

    I’ve always told my kids, don’t hit first.

    I think more bullying goes on between parents. Passive aggressive shit in PTA, sporting events…things like that.

    A sad fact is that a lot of parents turn a blind eye and claim their kid didn’t instigate or isn’t a bully. “Oh, kids will be kids” attitude. That’s where the parent bullying comes in. How many times I wish I could have slugged some 6’5″ in nuts for a remark like that!

  3. April 4, 2011 10:34 am

    Ugh, I hate that bullying exists.

    The girl is in a gifted program, which was great when it was housed in a separate school – all nerds, all the time! No bullies!

    In middle school, the program is in a regular school, and the kids are integrated for a couple of classes. And man, is there a lot of snotty talk about the smart kids.

    I want, very desperately, to pull a DeMornay. But I don’t, because it’s important to go through the proper channels, right? Although I do tell the girl that I will end anyone who harms her in any way. End them and their families and their neighbors.

  4. The Perfectly Imperfect One permalink
    April 4, 2011 11:15 am

    I am ashamed to say it but I was a verbal bully in elementary school, which turned into me being cold in junior high, and a mega bitch in high school, although I was one of the popular kids because I wouldn’t take shit from people. I guess that is why I was a bitch because when someone tried to start shit with me, I wouldn’t back down. Glad your son is getting better at standing up for himself, it’s a nice thing to see happen.

  5. April 4, 2011 11:25 am

    Yeah. I can’t be rational when it comes to my kids. And I do think there should be some kind of parental plea in the legal world –

    “The De Mornay Defense” perhaps?

    Still. I’ve felt murderous rage toward children who sought to hurt my children. So if I knew I had an excuse in court, that might not be a good thing.

    How about we, as parents, teach our kids to NOT be assholes. That would be a start…

    (On a lighter note, hope your vacation’s gorgeous and that the guacamole has been all you’d hoped for and more!)

  6. Leslie permalink
    April 4, 2011 12:07 pm

    My parents always told my brother and I, “I better never find out you started the fight. But if they start one, you mop the floor with them!” LOL Gotta love it.

  7. April 4, 2011 2:00 pm

    I often worry about this with my son. He’s 2 yet he towers over some 3 and 4 year olds. When we’re at the playground, I will hear other kids saying things like “That kid is stupid. He’s still wearing diapers and can’t talk”….it fires me up. I find myself running in after him and telling them that he’s only 2.
    My nephew just turned 13 and he’s 6’8….yea, runs in the genes.

    • April 7, 2011 8:35 pm

      This is the worst – since he was a baby (and was late doing most things) I received a lot of pity looks from people wondering why the 4 year old (who was actually 20 months) wasn’t talking. Apparently my mom went through the same thing with me – genes indeed.

  8. April 4, 2011 7:40 pm

    My older daughter is the sweetest kid. When she got bullied I taught her how to plant her feet firm and fight back. It’s tough because it’s not in her nature. I also told her she didn’t have to do it but trying something different from your nature isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just gives you options. Her first bully? Her younger sister! She thanks her sister now for all the practice- yikes!

    • April 7, 2011 8:36 pm

      I totally get that – my 3-year-old is tougher than all of us put together. He gets tips from her!

  9. April 4, 2011 8:05 pm

    Enroll your son in karate. I promise the confidence level you see now will seem like nothing compared to how he will feel after several months of karate. And I’m talking going to class 2-3x a week.

    Trust me.

    And Gracie Hernandez and her 7 siblings…yeah, they can suck it too…

    • April 7, 2011 8:37 pm

      He did karate but not for long because the place closed down and only once a week – I will definitely look into a new place – thanks for this advice!!!

  10. April 5, 2011 1:50 am

    School bullies are the. worst. I got a Facebook friend request from a guy that used to torment me when I was in school. It was a strangely powerful moment for me. Sadly, I was more or less bullied into accepting the request. Because I didn’t want to seem mean or be tormented for not accepting the request. Jerk.

  11. April 5, 2011 11:39 am

    Okay, I’m kind of ashamed (not really) to admit this, but I once had my kid fight a life-size Barbie so she could learn to throw a punch.

  12. April 5, 2011 12:48 pm

    This is such a difficult situation! I don’t look forward to the day my son has a bully, especially given my penchant for rage and overreaction. I too had a bully; it was in 4th grade and she beat me up a lot. It sucked. My parents were of the school where you had to learn to stick up for yourself. While I agree that kids need to learn to stick up for themselves, I’m not sure sending them into a war zone is the best way to go about that. I really applaud your handling of the situation!!! No wonder your son is so confident!!! You are an awesome mom!!!!
    Oh, and one day, after getting the crap beaten out of me, I snapped and as I walked past her house and she and her little sister taunted me, I grabbed a large branch and pretended they were baseballs. It wasn’t pretty. She invited me to her birthday party after that. I did not go.

    • April 7, 2011 8:40 pm

      So many parents were like yours, and now we all freak at the slightest provocation. I’m trying to be somewhere in between but it’s so difficult! Thanks for the kind words because obviously I feel like I’m doing it all wrong most days. Also, I love that you didn’t go to the parties.

  13. April 7, 2011 11:31 am

    This is one of a multitude of reasons why I’m afraid to have children – because my first and strongest instinct is to punch. I don’t even have to know the kid in question – if I see someone being picked on, my eyes start glowing and my skin turns green and my clothes tear off. You should see my clothing budget, it’s ridiculous.

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