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.