I suppose I consider myself pretty lucky never having to deal with a school bully. Sure, there were the macho jocks, greasy punks, and wannabe gangstas that took runs at me over the years. Those were mostly isolated incidences(kid screams in my face in the hallway in middle school and laughs it up with his slime ball friends; another kid, stoned, thinks he may want to fight me at the arcade one night after we got out of the movies…turns out I wasn’t who he thought I was; another kid whacks me in the head with a kickball from 50 feet away, yucking it up.) There was one kid in the 2nd or 3rd grade that kept pushing me on the playground and I’d just had enough and I went at him. We rolled on the ground in the most underwhelming display of brute force ever. We both got in trouble even though he started it. Joe Grapf was his name. There were troubles with the law later in life. Rumors of him torturing kittens flew around the playground after he left the school for good one day. Supposedly he ran away from home, lived in the woods, and was raised by raccoons.

Well, maybe not raccoons.

Point is, in my 43 years years I’ve been pretty lucky when it came to bullies. Maybe it was my ability to blend into the scenery. I don’t come off so much a vulnerable human as I do an inanimate object. I was like a lamp that seems to have faint facial features; a boy in Husky jeans that seems to have no personality or spirit to crush. Maybe it was because I could get along with mostly anyone. I wasn’t one to start up conversations, but I could give the impression that I belonged even though I didn’t.

I was the child equivalent of a Replicant.

It seemed as if I was supposed to be there, which threw attention onto the smaller classmates(poor, poor, Charles Gigous. I’m sorry, guy.) I was also what they called “big-boned”. I think only your mom calls you big-boned, while the rest of the world just says you’re fat. I wasn’t a fat kid, otherwise I’m sure I’d a fallen prey to the bullies. I was just big enough to keep the predators away. My quiet disposition, along with being “big-boned” made me seem like more of a threat than I really was. My Husky jeans, tousled hair, and soulless blank stare kept the cretins away from me(still do, except there’s not much hair left to tousle.)

When you grow up and have children of your own there’s a Pandora’s Box of fears you develop. You worry about one thing then a million more things pop up. Are they eating right? Are they developing at the right pace? Am I ruining them on some existential level? Are they reading enough? Are they reading too much? Should I let them read that? At what age should I expose them to Star Wars? What if they prefer Star Trek? What if I find they’re reading Nicholas Sparks novels? What happens if they prefer the Dave Clark Five to the Beatles? So many things to consider when you become a parent.

For me, one of those fears is that my kids will become victim to a bully. I know how sweet, kind, polite, and loving they all are and the thought of someone physically and mentally terrorizing my children just kills me. Right before Christmas break my wife was tipped off by someone at my son’s school that he had been picked on by a couple of kids in his math class. There were no details other than who the two were that did it and that the teacher was taking care of it. Our son hadn’t said anything to us, nor was he acting differently either. I still felt like I needed to at least bring it up to him. I’ve always told the kids that they can come to us for anything, about anything. Especially if someone’s giving them trouble at school; be it bullies, teachers, friends, Jehova’s Witnesses, or whoever.

So I brought it up to my son about him being picked on at school and he just gave me a puzzled look. I’ve got that parenting sixth sense that I know when there’s a problem. Not every parent has this ability, but I do(thanks, mom.) I could tell he honestly didn’t know what I was talking about. Maybe the school informant misunderstood, or maybe they were saying something behind my son’s back and he didn’t know. Either way, I wasn’t going to push it. I just told him that if there were ever any problems at school with anyone to please just let me know. I’d handle it…I’d handle it. Yeah, what does that mean? In my head I’m already going through the revenge fantasies. Me walking into the classroom dressed as T-800 from T2:Judgement Day. “Hasta la vista, baby”, I would say as I douse the punk in Silly Spray. In another I show up at the kid’s house to talk it out with his dad, only to have the dad get lippy and I go Steven Seagal on him. As I snap his arm, I shout “You should’ve tried those Baby Einstein videos with that son of yours!!!”

I mean, who really deserves the punishment in that case? Sure, the kid did the deed. He picked on someone he felt was weaker than him. Felt he wasn’t a threat. But you learn that behavior at home. Unless the bully is a straight up sociopath, mom and dad ruined their child and turned them into the monster. That’s how I see it, anyways. More than likely the parents of a bully are a bully themselves. Or are just too flippant to teach their kids right from wrong. They don’t have time to discipline the little people they brought into the world. Here’s an electronic device, son. I don’t know how to tell you “no”, so just play this video game for hours while I slip into an alcohol-fueled daze.

Either way, I think that dad deserves some Steven Seagal justice.

I guess for the time being I won’t worry about bullies. My son’s got some good pals at school, and I know he’ll tell me if he’s having problems. He knows I’ve got his back. He also knows we come from a long line of hot heads that will keep their cool until they can’t. Then look out. My paternal instinct is to work it out rationally. Think things through and find a reasonable solution. Then, if that doesn’t work I break out the spiked ball bat and I hash out it in Thunderdome.

I think that’s reasonable.

9 thoughts on “Bullies, Bruises, and Other Things That Keep Me Up At Night

  1. Great post. Unfortunately I dealt with a few bullies when I was at school. Kinda shaped how I was for a year or two in high school before I thought “screw this”. Naturally I’ll do all I can to ensure the kiddo doesn’t ever experience that.

    Obviously you’re image choice is well suited to this post. Obviously.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Very much enjoyed this authentic, thoughtful piece, John. Many of those thoughts could have been my own (except the Steven Seagal ones. I prefer Mad Max 1). There’s a constant tension, isn’t there between supporting our kids to grow at their own pace into their own individual people, and that powerful, heart-tightening gut push to protect, nourish, watch out for. Our boy enters the final year of Primary school in a couple of weeks, then it’s off to High School… Oooft.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I wish your boy the very best. I’m sure he’ll do just fine. And yes, it is a hard thing to balance. Knowing when to step back and when to step in. You don’t want to fix everything but you also don’t want them to feel alone. I suppose we figure it out in the end, though.

      And Mad Max is a proper choice. Proper choice, indeed.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Excellent post. Parenting really does bring out those fears, because you care so damn much.

    I faced bullies (we all do, at some point, surely). I generally walk away – they’re not worth it. Also, I am a Canadian and I think there’s something ingrained, there. Default setting: nice.

    Anyway, my kids? Of course I don’t want them bullied. Will some jerk-off bother them some day? Guaranteed. Do I worry about it? Sure. My son has a loooooong fuse but he’s built like a brick sh*t-house (he can knock me over, at a run, and he’s 7). He has oomph, so in the unlikely event that fuse ever runs out, woe-betide the kid who tried. And my girl, she’s an angel. But she’s taking kung fu. It won’t make her invincible, but she ought to be able to extract herself from most things.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. The nice default setting isn’t pervasive here – we have our share of asshats. But most folks with whom I associate are solid, decent folk.

        Our kids? Well, of course I want to protect them, but I know I can’t (not completely), so it’s a wee bit of letting go that’s very difficult. But I think they both have the good sense to get away from bad situations before it escalated into anything else. They’re both sweethearts, really.

        Liked by 1 person

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