Monday, March 3, 2008

Attack of the toddler bullies

My 4-year-old son had never been the target of bullies, that until yesterday at a bounce house. He was having a good time playing by himself in a bouncer/ball pit structure exactly as the one pictured above (found this photo via Google), trying to throw balls all the way up to the whole on the top of the mushroom. All of a sudden this group of three friends (one boy and two girls, between 3 and 4 years old) get into the bouncer and start to throw balls at my son (many times on his face) so he would leave and they'd have the toy all to themselves. My gentle, innocent boy thought it was just a friendly game and was actually laughing. I on the other hand was heartbroken and, from the opening of the pit, instructed my son to say "Stop throwing the balls at me", which he did, a little confused and still smiling. The little brats were not at all embarrassed by my indirect attempt to call attention to their horrible behavior, and kept on blasting my son with the balls. So I just told them that throwing balls at my boy "was not nice", and they just looked at me and laughed, without stopping to throw the balls. I felt like getting in there and responding by throwing balls on each of the demonic creatures' faces, but a bully I am not - plus I don't want to eventually get sued by their parents, so I just went in there and retrieved my son from the pit, fuming.

So my son started to play with a school bus such as the one pictured below:

Not surprisingly, the three bullies came right after and tried to pry my son's fingers alway from the toy. This time I just sat and watched. And my son did not let them take over. While the boy kept saying "get out of my bus", my son just kept firmly attached to the wheel and stood ground. And I'm glad he did, because I wasn't going to permit any further abuse from their part.

Minutes passed and my son ran back to the mushroom bouncer. The male bully stroke some karate pose and yelled "yaaaaa", another unnecessarily aggressive act which went unnoticed by my good-natured boy, and then the three toddlers from hell decided to take over the mushroom again. This time my boy was quicker, and pushed the older girl out. Even though I was happy inside for the vindication, I told him firmly: "No pushing other kids", picked him up and took him to the next bounce room in order to avoid any further encounters with those annoying children.

I know it might sound ridiculous to be so worked up about some toddlers who are too young to understand the impact of their behavior. However I know this may be just the first of many, many future instances where my son will be isolated, teased, and taken advantage of by mean neurotypicals. I know it will hurt me deeply every time it happens. And I know it will be very hard to control myself not to intervene and fight back.