Bullies

The oldest grandson, RJ, who is “almost seven” in that special way six-year-olds have, has been with us since Sunday.  This is the fourth year he has come for Vacation Bible School, and the week is always one the grandpa and I eagerly anticipate.

RJ recently learned to climb up poles at the park.  Now he likes to climb everything.  Don't all little boys?

RJ recently learned to climb up poles at the park. Now he likes to climb everything. Don't all little boys?

He’s had a good week so far, I think.  Sunday, he went swimming in Aunt Jill’s pool after we celebrated Father’s Day and my father’s birthday.  Monday, he helped the grandpa finish some repairs to the house of a friend of ours. Tuesday, we went to see UP.  (Our days are a bit shortened, since VBS takes up the morning).

Yesterday, as we do each day weather permitting, we went to the local park.  The play area is big.  It’s one of those new ones that run, I don’t know, 1,000 feet from end to end.  The little kids play on the smaller end, and the other end culminates in a three-story tower and  rock-climbing wall.  The grandsons LOVE it!

There was a heat advisory in central Indiana yesterday, so the RJ and I did not hit the park until 5:30.  I don’t worry about chasing him from end to end like I used to.  He’s pretty good about staying where I can see him or answering when I call.  So, there I sat on a bench about 300 feet away from him when, to my utter amazement, I saw another little boy pull him down from the pole he was climbing and proceed to throw him to the ground and whale on him.

The adults with the other little boy yelled immediately for the boy to get up, shouting that RJ had done nothing to him, but they still had to go and drag him up.  They told him that he should apologize, but the boy just made a face and glared, and the parents didn’t force the issue.  What’s up with that?

Since it was hot, I took RJ and got him a push-up so he could cool down and calm down.  He told the girl at the concession stand about the bully, and I think he felt better after that.  Then, we went back to the playground.

I was surprised to see that the other little boy was up and playing again.  That’s not how I would have handled things had he been mine, but maybe his parents thought that was OK since I had taken RJ with me.  I stuck a little closer this time and, sure enough, when RJ was climbing the official climbing pole, the boy approached him again.  RJ looked down at the boy and told him to stay away from him and the boy, who, I observed, had been shoving boys far bigger than him in the chest, stayed put.  Then he looked at me, and I said, “You heard what he said.  Stay away from him.”  After what RJ termed a “mean smile,” the boy ran off.

In my younger days, I think I would have gone up to the boy’s parents and said something to them both when RJ first was hit and again because of the incident by the pole.  This time, though, it just seemed right to stay close, and I thought RJ handled the whole thing well.  He did not dissolve into tears, and I think he would have protected himself the first time the boy grabbed him, but he didn’t see it coming.  It’s a public playground.  Why should he have expected something like that?

The rest of this week, we have VBS and the park, of course.  We are probably going to take RJ swimming.  He and the grandpa are going to make a pirate ship at Lowe’s on Saturday.  Sunday, then, it’s back home to Ohio.  I’m sure that by then RJ will have long forgotten the boy at the park.

I know you can’t patrol a place as public as a park for bullying incidents, which is why, one would think, that the patrolling would be up to the adults accompanying the children.  I told my son recently that I had read that grandparents should keep their eyes on kids ten and under because of the way things are in our society, and he thought that was wise (although I think he thinks it’s different since I don’t have daily contact with the boys, and that’s probably true).  Still, I see the wisdom in that advice.  Any child, even an “almost-seven-year-old,” should be safe anytime, but especially in a public place.

RJ Sr. and RJ III hard at work

RJ Sr. and RJ III hard at work

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