I’m not sure if I did the right thing or not. Maybe I should have done more. Sooner, for sure. Maybe I should have even called the police. But I knew that I couldn’t stand by and do nothing.
Sophie and I took the dog to the park yesterday after dinner. We each made up an obstacle course on the playground and timed each other. There was another set of parents with a toddler; then a Grandma came with her daughter and toddler grandson. The whole time Sophie was doing her obstacle course, I was distracted. Because I saw these three girls who looked to be about 12 picking on and verbally humiliating a group of younger boys – maybe 8-10 years old? There were maybe five boys? One was wearing a pink shirt and the girls were having none of that. Which is stupid. Oh, pink is a “girl color” so boys aren’t allowed to wear it? And what, blue is a “boy color” so girls aren’t allowed to wear it? But I get it – that’s how mean kids are.
Anyway, I heard the girls taunting the boys. I couldn’t really hear what they were saying the entire time because they were down a ways from the playground equipment, but I heard bits and pieces. Either way, it was VERY clear what was going on. The girls were taunting the boys, the boys would respond, the girls would laugh evily (new word I just made up meaning “with evil intent”) and say something else. Then the boys got fed up (rightfully so) and walked away, down toward the park fountain (further away from the playground where I was). And guess what? The Mean Girls followed them. They followed them so they could keep taunting. And that is why most parents’ good-intentioned advice of “Walk away, just walk away” NEVER EVER WORKS.
You know, some of you may be thinking, “Well how do you know the boys weren’t taunting the girls first? And you just came in the middle of it when the girls started saying stuff back?” Maybe. But that’s not what my gut told me was happening. Besides, the girls were like 12 and the boys were like 8. Most 8 year old boys don’t even want to TALK to girls…I just…I just felt the meanness coming from the girls’ side, I don’t know how else to explain it.
The other adults at the playground either didn’t notice or didn’t care or didn’t want to get involved. But like I mentioned, the other adults had toddlers with them and the first family left shortly after we arrived so may have not even noticed due to “must-have-eyes-on-toddler-entire-time.”
Sophie and I decided to play some tennis. I told her then that I did NOT like how those girls were behaving and that if she was ever with friends who were taunting other people, she should tell them to STOP and walk away from that group. Stand up for people who can’t or aren’t willing or are too scared or shocked to stand up for themselves. I STILL remember, back in 7th grade, who stood up for me and who did not when I was being taunted (on a daily basis) by my best-friend-no-more. (Not that I’m holding a grudge or anything…ahem). I also remember who joined my former BFF in the taunting.
Anyway, Sophie got wide-eyed and serious like “Oh shit my mom means business!” and nodded. And I told her “I’m serious!” which is one of my favorite phrases to say (esp. when drunk – don’t ask – though no obviously on this occasion I was certainly NOT drunk) and she was like “OK!” which really meant “OK stop talking about it because its’ making me uncomfortable.”
Well at this point the daughter, Grandma and toddler were sitting by the fountain and the group of kids had passed the fountain and either they didn’t hear anything or weren’t paying attention or didn’t want to get involved…I watched as the group of girls followed the boys, who were clearly trying to get away (not RUNNING but just going to a different area of the outside, away from the taunting), all the way to this old mill place that sits behind the park.
Then the tennis ball hit Sophie’s loose tooth and it bled a bit but the tooth stayed in so then she wanted to go home. So we got in the car and I said, “I have to say something to these girls; I probably should have done it earlier.” And I had to go around the block to get to the old mill and I pulled in on the gravel and there were two boys on their bikes. And I rolled down my window:
Me: What’s going on here?
Me: Are those girls harassing you guys?
Boys: Well, yeah. And our friends. That’s why we’re leaving.
Me: Smart idea.
So I pulled around and I saw some boys on the far rock and one boy on the closer rock and as I had pulled in, I saw the girls throwing rocks at the boys and I pulled up and said, “Girls. I have watched you taunt these boys now ever since I arrived at the park. I have watched you follow them when they tried to walk away. YOU ARE MEAN GIRLS. Do you understand that PEOPLE KILL THEMSELVES OVER SHIT LIKE THIS?? I want you to Go. [Flinging my arm in a “go away” motion]. Go. Walk away, go home, LEAVE THEM ALONE.”
I did not recognize any of them though to be fair, I don’t know a whole lot of 12-year old girls.
The girls looked shocked like “Oh shit. Someone noticed what we were doing.” They didn’t look SCARED though because well, I am not a cop or one of their mothers or teachers, probably. I’m just a crazy ‘old’ lady at the park with my kid who is putting her nose into other people’s business. They did blush though; get red in the face. The girls started to walk away. I spoke with the boy on the close rock – the boy wearing the pink shirt was on the further rock. The boy close to me lifted up his shirt to show a red welt. He was young.
Me: They were throwing ROCKS at you?
Boy [nodding]. Yeah…we were actually trying to get away from them.
Me: I know. I saw you. I saw them follow you.
Boy: Thank you.
Me: I’m sorry this happened. Are you okay? Are you really okay to go home?
Boy: Yes, yes, we’re fine, thank you again.
The rock throwing and the red welt is when I wondered if I should call the police but at this point Sophie was hysterical in the back because of her loose tooth and I think she was just scared of the whole situation. She told me she was scared of those girls and “what if they come find us”? And I said, “Oh please Sophie. I am a 36-year old mother. I am NOT scared of some 12-year old girls.”
I saw the girls stop and have a heated discussion among themselves. I saw them turn and see my car. I watched them for a couple of seconds. Watched until they headed away from the boys. But I didn’t stay because I had a shaken-up child to get home. So I don’t know what happened afterward.
What would you have done?