Mean Kids Suck; Part II
I had my moments. All kids do. But more often than not, after I had time to reflect upon what I had done, I was consumed with guilt, and eaten up by remorse.
So I wasn't the kind of kid that made sport of being mean. And neither are my boys.
Pubescent One, at 14, has figured out that sometimes you have to kick some ass to make it clear you're not an easy target. He has also learned to let certain things roll off his back and he doesn't allow other people to push his buttons (except his little brother who is ridiculously adept at doing so).
He doesn't take any shit, but neither does he dole it out. Unless he is provoked, he is remarkably even tempered. The few times he has had to kick some ass, he suffered grievous pangs of guilt over it. He doesn't like it, but he will do if it if push comes to shove.
But he's big for his age, socially adroit and generally well liked, so for the most part, he is left alone. I have never had to address any bully issues on his behalf.
Dimiuntive One...sigh. This is an ongoing issue for us.
He doesn't get mean kids, so he doesn't get how to handle them. He doesn't get how not to be a target. And sometimes, he doesn't even get when he's being made a target.
That's what hurts me most of all; when he's duped into thinking someone is being nice to him, only to be humiliated later.
For example, recently Diminutive One received a phone call, which the caller ID showed to be from his 4th grade nemisis; a big, stupid, knuckle dragging little fucker who taunted Diminutive One relentlessly, and made it his own personal mission to get him into as much trouble as he possibly could. (Remember the "Suck My Balls", incident?)
Fortuitously, we hadn't seen the kid for almost a year, and I heard through the grapevine that he was being homeschooled this year. I'm sure this was an enormous relief to the collective staff at Suburban Elementary School.
Since they hated each other's ever lovin' guts, there was no reason for this child to be calling my son. I was suspicious immediately, but against my better judgement, gave the phone to Diminutive One.
Now, that kid is stupid, but he's wily. He never said anything to Dimunitive One that could incriminate him if his motives were called into question. They (his trusty sidekick was involved as well...a child who's father runs a Christian Ministry...go figure) asked him if he had a girlfriend. If there was anybody he liked. They said they were going to McDonald's and asked him if they wanted him to bring them something. It went on and on.
We, as adults, know where all this was leading, but Diminutive One had no clue. He listened and answered accordingly. Finally, I made him hang up.
"Honey...." I faltered.
Goddamn those little pricks for making me explain this to him.
"You understand those boys weren't being nice, don't you?"
"Well, I did kinda wonder why he would want to bring me french fries when he hates me so much."
"He doesn't, honey. He was being mean...making you think he was being nice. He wasn't going to actually bring you any french fries. Only make you think that he was."
"Why would he do that??"
"To hurt your feelings and make you feel stupid."
He shrugged. I suppose it's lucky that he didn't understand, because he didn't even know to be hurt or humiliated by such treatment. Though he is an exceptionally bright child, that sort of thing is simply beyond him. He just. doesn't. get it.
But I do. And it hurts me.
So there's that kind of mean.
But there's also the brash, blatant, swearing, swaggering, bullying kind of mean.
It's hard to mininterpret a thwap on the forehead. Or an outstretched foot. Or a killer wedgie.
Dimiuntive One gets that loud and clear. But it still takes him by surprise, because he doesn't understand that kind of unexpurgated and unsolicited meanness. He just does not get being mean for the sake of being mean.
The other night at the ballpark, Diminutive One found a group of kids to play wallball with. We're at a new park this year, due to Pubescent One's age. It's been hard for Diminutive One, because he's not the best at making friends.
Taking those kinds of risks terrify him. He knows he's socially inept, so he hesitates to put himself out there. It's agonizing for him to even venture to ask someone's name, not mention navigate the perilous waters of conversation.
But finally he seemed to have made some friends.
Key word: "seemed".
They got in trouble, all of them, for throwing the ball at the roundhouse windows in stead of at the concrete block wall. The man who stormed up to me red faced and huffing mightily, was well and truly pissed.
"I asked them boys SIX times not to throw the ball at the hodang windas! They're gonna break somethin' AYAND, we're tryinna do a draft up'air!"
I took the ball he held in his weathered hand.
"Well, it's mine now, boys." I said firmly.
The other boys objected.
"That's not his ball! That's our ball!"
"Well it's MINE now!" snapped the man. He took it from me and stalked off.
I told Diminutive One to go get his ball and bring it to me. Then I made him sit for 30 mins. For Diminutive One, 30 mins is like three lifetimes. I told him he would not be allowed to play wallball for the duration of the game. But after his 30 minutes had elapsed, I let him bounce the ball near the bleachers where I was sitting.
The group of boys with whom he had been playing, slunk over like a pack of wolves.
You know how you just know when kids are up to no good? Those kids were up to no good.
I was puzzled because they had all been playing happily earlier. I went back to watching the game, but kept an ear out. It didn't take me long to figure out that they were after Diminutive One's ball.
"You got our ball taken away, now you have to give us yours."
"No I didn't. You guys were hitting the window too."
"But you did it the last time."
"So? You can't have my ball."
At that point, one of them tried to take it from him by force. He made a grab for it, but Dimiunitve One was too fast. He evaded the grab and then came back to sit by me. The boys stood at the permimeter of the fan seating section, glowering at him.
"What's going on?" I asked, oh so casually.
"Nothing" he replied, with equal nonchalance.
When the boys retreated, he got up and resumed bouncing. They slunk back. This cycle repeated itself numerous times. Diminutive One wasn't backing down. But neither were those boys. They decided to up the ante by enlisting the help of an older, more intimidating sibling. As soon as Diminutive One ventured beyond the safety of the Mom zone, they moved in.
"Hey kid. Give my brother back his ball." His voice was an impressively deep snarl, dripping with testosterone and bravado.
Diminutive One very calmly told him to fuck off.
You're gasping right? Oh no he di-int.
Oh yes he di-id.
Now, I don't condone telling people to fuck off.
Unless they really deserve it.
Generally, saying "Fuck Off" is socially unacceptable.
But the thing is....he reacted the way any other 11 year old boy in that situation would.
And that is a HUGE thing for him.
(I know. Many of you with 11 year old boys are thinking that your 11 year old boy would NEVER say fuck off. I'm sorry to say that you are completely deluded.)
They backed off, seeing that intimidation would not work.
And THAT is another HUGE thing for him.
He has never before trusted himself enough to not be intimidated. But he knew he wasn't wrong, he knew they were being assholes and he took care of bidness.
BOO YA, Baby.
That wasn't the end of the situation, and I did eventually have to intervene when one of them caught Diminutive One unawares and gave him a mighty shove while his back was turned and a baseball was plummeting towards his face.
But the point is....
We made progress.
Mean kids suck. And unfortunately, there will always be mean kids. Even when we're adults, there are mean kids. The internet has caused an explosion of mean kid behavior by otherwise reasonable, rational adults.
But maybe, just maybe, my quirky, rigid, socially awkward, bright, sunny and funny kid is learning how to hold his own against them.