Today my sister-in-law, "Sarah," joined us at the park. We weren't there long before I noticed that some new kid in a red hat punched my 8 year old nephew in the arm. Then I watched as "Red Hat", his friend "Blondie," and his sister chased him around the playground.
With my four, Sarah's four, four of our friends, plus extra kids we didn't know, there was a lot of children of all ages running around the playground today. My nephew, "Andrew," his brother, and Tertius always play really rough together. From where we were sitting, I couldn't tell if that was what was going on or if these new kids were being mean. Therefore I turned to Sarah and told her what I saw so we could keep an eye on the situation.
After seeing them chase him some more and whack him with toy handcuffs, it became clear that Andrew was not playing with these mean kids.
At one point, Andrew had moved to a different area and was minding his own business, playing with my kids. Red Hat strolled over, took off his hat, and whacked Andrew with it! I could feel the Mama Bear inside me start to rise. I wanted to run over there and pounce on that kid!
Andrew, though, is no sissy, so he quickly yanked the hat away and whacked the kid back. At the same time Sarah jumped up and separated the boys. Andrew's older brother and sister were instructed to shield and defend their brother and tell the bullies to leave him alone.
After that, we hovered a little and continued to keep a close eye on the situation. As I was standing right there, just a couple feet away, Red Hat and Blondie walked past Andrew to stick their tongues out at him and tease him by saying, "Greenie Grinch," or something equally stupid and nonsensical. Each time, Andrew's older brother and sister stepped up.
A little later Red Hat was sitting with his posse, which had grown to include a few much younger girls who didn't really know what was going on, and Red Hat's sister noticed Andrew climbing up a slide nearby. She declared, "Look, he's going up the ramp! Let's get him!" I was standing very close to them and just said, "Ya know, there's lots of adults around here watching." I think my niece said something to him, too, that was more direct.
So the group ran off into the trees next to the playground to plot how to lure Andrew away so they can "get him" or something like that (my niece listened in a little.)
Thankfully, nothing more happened. A little later, Blondie started playing with our group of kids and had a really fun time. Apparently Red Hat took issue with that and claimed our kids were "stealing his friend." The group told him that "well, if you act like a jerk, you won't have many friends."
The whole thing was so crazy! Even a couple hours later, as I thought about the situation, my blood pressure would rise. I was never bullied as a child but Hubby was, mercilessly, all through elementary and middle school. It's something I don't think I had ever truly witnessed before, outside of movies.
Perhaps we should have told the kids' mothers what their little darlings were doing. But I'm a fan of letting kids figure out things on their own, as long as nothing physical is going on (one more punch and this Mama Bear would have dragged the brat so quick to his mother!)
It wasn't my child directly involved so I definitely let my sister-in-law take the lead. I think it was a good learning experience for all the kids involved (well, I don't know if Red Hat and his sister learned anything...)
Andrew hopefully learned how to stand up for himself and not put up with crap. His brother and sister learned to stick by their brother and defend their family. My kids got to see what bullying looks like first-hand and learn what to do in that kind of situation.