January 23, 2008

Bullies in the Hood

Recently, we had an interesting situation with one of our neighbor's and I and wanted to pick your ear about it. See what you think.
When we first moved to our neighborhood Neighbor, myself, and another mom, "Lisa," used to hang out, as families or for mom's night out. Hubby just didn't like Neighbor's Hubby so we stopped hanging out at Neighbor's house. We still saw them at Lisa's but that was it for the most part. It kind of created for awkwardness in group settings but no biggie. Time passes and a new mom moves into the neighborhood, "Erin." Erin has two boys close in age to Neighbor's oldest boy so they get together all the time, even carpool to school. Erin's hubby, BTW, plays professional football and her boys are the toughest and most athletic boys I've ever meet.
The Problem:
Three weeks ago Oldest was playing outside when Neighbor's kids invited him to join them in their yard. Oldest is thrilled, he doesn't play much with kids in our 'hood since they are not really his age, the boys at least. Neighbor calls me a few minutes after Oldest arrives and invites me to a "last minute" BBQ they were having. I was home alone with the kids so I agree to join them after Youngest's was nap. Less than an hour later I'm at Neighbor's house and it's a full blown party. Erin and her family is there, Lisa's kids were there with parents on the way, and one of Neighbor's kids was having a playdate. Playdate's dad was even there. On the grill was enough chicken, hot dogs, and hamburgers to feed an army. I guessed that when Oldest went over there Neighbor felt obligated to invite me for the BBQ. No biggie, it was polite I suppose and she probably assumed I wouldn't come since I typically decline her invites for reasons stated above.

While there things seem to be going smooth except for one incident with Playdate. One of the boys called her fat and she was very upset about it, like any 8 year old girl should be. I find Oldest playing with the girls, and make sure he had no part in permanently damaging this poor girls self-esteem and causing her to have life long eating disorders. Neighbor or Erin didn't seem at all concerned. Their boys denied any name calling. Playdate's dad was too busy with Neighbor's hubby at the grill and didn't even realize what was going on. Playdate locked herself in her dad's car. It was all strange. Other than that, the kids appeared to be having a good time.

Hours later in our car, I asked Oldest if he had a good time and he tells me yes, even though Erin's boys began picking on him. ?? According to Oldest, one of Erin's boys said something pretty nasty in front of the other children. When Erin's boys arrived they said to the other children, "We hate that boy," and stared right at Oldest. After that comment, Neighbor's son refused to let Oldest play with his scooter or basketball. And, they put all the toys in the garage and closed it so Oldest couldn't play with anything else. And, they kept waiting for him to cry but Oldest "just ignored them" and went to play with the girls. As Oldest is telling me the story, my head starts spinning. Hubby asks for clarification and looks over at me with fire in his eyes, adding fuel to why Hubby doesn't like Neighbor's hubby. Oldest tells the story again. We remain calm and tell Oldest that we are proud of him for the way he acted. He didn't respond in a hurtful way or let it bother him.

So I call Neighbor, calmly explain what was just told to me, and she says she'll investigate and call me back. She would also tell Erin, who was still at her house (probably eating some of the Red Velvet cake I saw sitting on the counter). Neighbor calls back the next night and left me a quick voicemail message saying she asked her son what happened, he denied it all, and that her son always plays well with younger children. That was it. Erin never called. I left Neighbor a message thanking her for getting back to me and that was it.
I'm not disappointed with Erin because I really don't know her enough to have higher expectations. As for Neighbor, I'm disappointed.
The solution seemed pretty simple, Neighbor is officially no longer my friend. Which solves the problem of my kids ever being around hers or Erin's. But then there's Lisa. Lisa called us last week to invite everyone, plus some other families, to their home on Saturday to watch the playoff game. She left three messages about it. Everyone was invited for food and fun, including kids, who would be watching movies and eating pizza upstairs. I called Lisa and told her we couldn't go. I was bumbed because I like Lisa and I especially like the way Lisa's husband cooks. :)
But, this weekend, Lisa, Erin, Neighbor, myself and two other women are scheduled to go to dinner and a show. The tickets were purchased a month ago. I'm not the type of person that can pretend nothing is wrong so I feel like I should say something to bring closure to the situation, or something.
The Question:
Am I overreacting, being too sensitive or what? I realize my kids will face Bullies at some point of their lives but I'm not ready for it, nor do I really know how to handle it. How would you have handled it? Should I say anything or just pretend nothing happened?
Any advice much appreciated.


Dee said...

I probably wouldn't say anything. It sounds like Oldest handled it just fine. Just be polite but curt to Neighbor, and like you said, you don't hang out with her anyway, so something with the kids probably won't come up again. We recently dealt with bullying and while I was furious (ZB cried over it), since it happened in school, I mostly let ZB's teacher work it out since it was on her "territory" so to speak. I told the mom of the boy involved b/c we are friends and I thought she would be surprised by his behavior (I certainly was). I am a fan of letting the kids work it out for themselves (with exceptions). Not everyone is going to be kind all the time and so, sooner or later, kids are going to have to deal with that. All we can do is give them the tools to cope. In my case, teaching the kids to say "your mama" is my tool of choice. Kidding. ;-)

Justice Jones said...

Thanks Dee, great thoughts! You are right, Oldest handled it fine. He was more prepared for the behavior than me because I was almost in tears. :(

Anonymous said...

I am quite impressed with Oldest. Bullying is one of those things that is a constant fear of mine as a mom. My son tends to be the smallest and his interests are "different," maybe even "nerdy". And since he wants to be everyone's friend, he can be a bit of a shrinking violet with his peers instead of the enormous personality he is with adults.
I, like you, would have a hard time leaving it alone, but I probably wouldn't even bother saying anything to Neighbor because she obviously doesn't get it or want to get it. After all, her kid wasn't the one that was picked on. I wouldn't be cozy with her and believe me, she might pepetrate to everyone else that she doesn't knwo why, but she knows . . .

Liz G. said...

Don't punish Lisa because she's also friends with someone you aren't fond of. If she called you three times to see if you'd come, she genuinely wanted you to come.

Be proud of the way you have raised your son - he handled that much better than most would.

As far as the thing this weekend - go and enjoy yourself. If you need to bring closure to the Neighbor situation, do it - just in a different setting than the dinner and a show. Just know you probably won't change her opinion - but getting it off your chest will probably help you.

tam said...

Okay, I have mixed emotions having some serious scars from a bully when I was younger. First, you are raising our son right. He did not cry (which is usually what a bully wants). So pat your self on the back. Next please keep your son AWAY from that kid. NEVER to be alone even outside again. He doesn't need that situation. Also, I have recently realized that my friends are my friends and my kids have theirs. BUT really this Neighbor sounds a bit aggressive herself and is better in a crowd at a third parties house anyway. Say nothing because it will fall on deaf ears. RAMBLE RAMBLE RAMBLE

One thing I wish my parents would have told me was that it's okay to punch a bully in the nose if you feel threatend and we won't be upset. Instead I was told to ingnore her. So I was the one with a bloody nose frequently. Had I know I could defend myself I would have felt impowered and probalbly never of had to hit the bully.

pSerendipity said...

I think that your son handled the situation with grace and think it speaks volumes that he trusted to enough to tell you about it. I probably would let it go. It was Erin's kids that said they hated him, right? Neighbor's kid probably just didn't know how to handle it and went along with what the other kids said -- or told him to do. You know how kids are. Now, Erins kids....every time I saw them I'd give em the side eye -- and their mama, too. You have nothin to lose. :-) In any case, don't let her stand in your way of the buffet line at Lisa's house, baby. Never that!

BTW -- Just came across you guy's blog via JDen's spot. LOVE IT! I am happy to have found other mama lawyers out there!

Mrs. Schmitty said...

I know how easy it is to be pissed off and want to defend and protect. I think Oldest handled it amazingly. I think this time you should just leave it at that. You called and let the other moms know the scoop and they did nothing. That is why their kids behave the way they do. I think if Oldest can let it go, maybe you should. You have a very mature kid! Be Proud!

Justice Jones said...

Wow, what great advice from everyone!! It has made me feel so much better about the situation. Group hug everyone :)
I didn't want to spoil dinner or the show so I just kind of avoided Neighbor and Erin. We were in a group of six so it wasn't that hard. I think Neighbor got the drift, or at least a sniff that something was up so if she wants to inquire about it, I'll be happy to chat.

Like Jden723, Oldest is usually very sensitive and has different interests than most boys, for the most part. He's not into playing or watching football, or basketball, or any sport that makes him run hard or sweat :) He'll ride his bike, but if it's too hot, he'll stay inside and read science books. That's him and I think he's a great kid just like he is.

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