Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Will and the Bullies

There comes a time in every child's life when the "real world" starts creeping in and encroaching on the carefree days of childhood. Figuring out how to protect your child from those not-so-nice realities and, at the same time, teach him to navigate this new world is the struggle of every parent. Will is 3 1/2 now and fairly obsessed with "mean guys" or "bad guys". He's recently become very interested in Spiderman the superhero who protects people from the mean guys. When he's not wearing his costume (which is often), he's "Peter Parker" (Spiderman's alter ego). He has taken to locking his bedroom door to keep the mean guys out and he asks us all the time about where the mean guys are. He was very relieved to learn about jail and learn that mean guys are locked up there so that they cannot get him.

Will also loves school so it was suprising to me that he came home from school on Monday saying that he didn't want to go back to school anymore. When I asked him why he told me that on the playground that day there were some mean kids from Red Gamal and they would not let him on the slide. Red Gamal is one of the other classes of three year olds but they are the oldest class so most of the Red Gamal kids are four now and, from what I've read, four is the age when bullying starts to rear its ugly head in schools.

I asked Will how he had handled the "mean guys" and he told me that he had "used his words" to tell them to stop being mean and to please let him on the slide but that didn't work (which made him feel sad he said) so then he went over to his teacher, Dana, and told her and that Dana had then gone and talked to the boys and that they had gotten off the slide. This all seemed good to me but it weighed on Will (as things tend to do with him) and he couldn't let it go. He brought it up again and again. We talked about what words he could use and what he could DO (walk away and go play with his friends Zach and Mason). We even role played that a bit when he brought it up again last night. I mentioned it to Kevin that this was really weighing on our little boy and he said it was sad that he had to deal with bullies so young.

This morning before school Will was adamant that he didn't want to go to school and mentioned the mean guys again while getting into the car. He told me that if I was going to make him go to school then he was not going to go outside and play on the playground so the mean guys couldn't be mean to him. Sigh, I thought. Our sweet little boy meets the big bad world.

I decided that I would at least mention it to his teachers when I dropped him off - if four is the age of bullies, three is the age of fantasy and since Will has been so obsessed with "mean guys" I wondered if the story was even true. I also wondered if I had inadvertently blown up the issue by talking with Will about it and humoring his worrying.

So when I went into Will's classroom I mentioned the incident and Will's obsessive concern to Dana and asked her if she even remembered something like that happening. She looked puzzled for a moment and then her eyes opened wide. "It wasn't kids from Red Gamal," she told me. Their class had had a field trip on Monday so their schedule was a bit off and they had been on the playground at the same time as the Pink Tzipor class (two year olds). It turns out that it was a couple of two year olds who had been on the slide (normally Will's class is out on the playground at the same time as the Red Gamal kids) and not let Will pass. She said that the two year olds were not being mean, they were actually pretty afraid of Will (hands down the biggest kid in his class) and were just frozen there when Will was trying to "use his words" to have them move. They didn't know what to do!

She reassured Will that she and the other teachers would always help him and that he didn't need to worry, they were there to protect him. Then she just kind of laughed and said, "Well, that's Will. He's twice their size but he'd never think of just climbing over them or pushing them out of the way and he is just so puzzled when he tries to use his words to get something and it doesn't work!"

I can just picture these little Pink Tzipor two year olds frozen in their tracks and Will gesturing and talking to them (loudly and close!) trying to convince them to let him have a turn :-)

So the "big bad world" is kept at bay another day.

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