Thank you, Little Bully for hurting my daughter. I mean it, Little Bully. I appreciate you teaching me how much I need to teach my little girl. Thanks, Little Bully, for waking me up to how violent, mean and intimidating we are all capable of being at such young ages.
Even though you are not even five, Little Bully, thank you for teaching me that your adorable face is not to be immediately trusted. When we first met, you seemed ‘normal’, adjusted and well raised, and your mom was so chatty and friendly, that I felt safe enough to take my eyes off my kid for perhaps 45 seconds.
I saw you the first time you hit her in the chest. And I gave you the benefit of the doubt, Little Bully. I thought, maybe you were just sticking your arm out as you walked past my kid, and hit her by accident. But no, you were targeting her to see if she would fight back. Since she was so baffled by your hit that she didn’t react, when you tackled her, she went down without any resistance.
Little Bully, thank you for letting me know that something powerful is troubling you enough to treat smaller children with such casual unkindness. Little Bully, you need more help than you need punishment. Of course, my first instinct was not so generous. When I saw you lying on my daughter’s body, her face pushed into the dirt, and your hands viciously prying her fingers apart, my first instinct was to toss you off her with extreme prejudice. But I tend to freeze in the face of confrontation, so all I could do was pull my daughter away from you while my blood pounded in my ears. Then, I realized my little girl needs the lesson here. She let you hit her, push her down and lie on top of her. And she never made a sound. So, thanks Little Bully, for the teachable moment.
Between you and me, what actually upset me even more, LB (my nickname for you), was your mother’s reaction. She seemed so kind, smart and watchful. We were chatting about our adopted children. Your mom was giving me the Reader’s Digest version of how you came into her life when she noticed you on top of my little girl behind her. She quietly uttered, “What’s going on here?” as the full weight of your body pressed my kid face down in the dirt. It was fairly clear what was going on.
When you shouted, without shame or empathy, that you wanted what my girl had, this stupid little green seed that she had found and was treasuring, your mother mumbled something about how you were doing my kid a favor by not letting her put the seed in her mouth. Bully, your mother’s passive reaction to your knocking down and forcibly prying something from a three-year-old child’s hands is doing no one any favors, especially you.
Since I was stunned and flaming mad, all I could say was, “No, actually, my daughter wasn’t about to put that in her mouth, so I’d like her to have it.” Then your mother just guided you meekly to the soccer field. LB, maybe someone bullies you. Maybe someone doesn’t pay the right kind of attention to you. Perhaps hearing about your adoption story frustrates you and makes you feel powerless or vulnerable. Maybe no one is picking up on your signals for help.
LB, thanks for awakening my sleeping, fierce tiger mother. As I stormed back to my car, holding my stunned, quiet child, dusting off her dirty face, hands and legs, I shook with helpless fury. Thanks to you, LB, this middle aged, Prius driving, yoga practicing, meditating momma is now teaching my daughter what other people can and cannot do to her. I’m teaching her to yell ‘No!’ if someone touches her inappropriately. Failing that, I tell her to call for help, not just lie there and take abuse. I’m teaching her to push back, to fight back. I cannot believe I’m encouraging a three-year old girl to bite and kick if the situation warrants it, which is counter to everything I believe about conflict, but I’m not raising a victim here. I’m raising a compassionate survivor. I’m teaching my daughter to respect her own sovereignty. LB, I really should give you an Amazon Gift Card for waking me up to how much I need to prepare my little girl for random, surprise acts of violence. It was earlier than I’d hoped, but that seems to be how fast we are living life these days.
Thanks, LB. Even though you wrestled her to the ground inches away from a cement curb that could have really hurt the both of you- no one was hurt, no tears were shed and no one save for your mom and me even noticed. Although I seethed the rest of the day, most likely zero impact was felt in your household. Not yet anyway. But for me, I am redoubling my watchfulness of my kid. You will NEVER touch another child like that again, not when I’m around. And I’m profoundly grateful to you because if I ever, EVER see my child behaving meanly or violently to another person (or animal) I will correct that behavior strongly and immediately. Thank you, LB, for showing me how deceptively easy it is to become a bully and how easy it is for parents to look the other way.
In closing, LB, I won’t forget you. I know you will take many shapes and forms throughout my little girl’s life. Sometimes you will appear to be a friend, sometimes you will be a classmate, a teacher, a stranger or a neighbor or god forbid, a relative or a boyfriend or a spouse. My life has been littered with bullies, so I know the different costumes they wear. But you won’t win, Bully. Because when I asked my daughter what she would say to anyone who ever treated her that way again, she said, “I’ll say, how would you feel if someone did that to you?” And then I said, “What else will you do?” And she said, “I fight back!” So, Bully… thank you for teaching me how to empower my daughter so that some day, bullies will go blessedly extinct.