Have we adequately voiced how much our boys love superheroes? So much. In fact, most of the day they are dressed as them, and for moments when they’re soaring from couch cushion to couch cushion, casting webs and you catch that look of joy and determination in their eyes, it’s plain to see: they believe they ARE Spider-man. They have amassed quite the collection from our favorite (and theirs!) stop, Target. Earning a new toy, and a trip to Target is such a happy time for each of them, and an easy way to enlist help around the house and added responsibilities. Each time they all pull out their gear to play, it reminds me of a bittersweet memory a couple of years ago.

Spiderman | Anti Bullying

Spiderman Full Costume // Dash’s Shirt // Spiderman Figurine

We were all spending the afternoon at the park as we often do. Stretched out on blankets, snacking on fruit and enjoying the sunshine. The playground was more crowded than usual and we lost sight of the boys more than a time or two, before they’d run back around to say hi.

I hadn’t seen Hayes in awhile so I walked around the slides and monkey bars to find him, when I spotted him through slats in a fenced walkway, surrounded by bigger boys. These boys pretended they couldn’t see or hear him, but would not move. He tried to wiggle under their legs, but they put their knees on his back to trap him. He whimpered and they laughed. At this point I was running to Hayes, my heart pounding, when Quinn and Dash and a couple of the other park buddies swooped in. They bulldozed through the boys, yelling “We’ll save you, Hayes!” Honestly, I’m thinking it was all part of an elaborate heroes and bad guys role-play activity, that was taken too far.

Spiderman at Target

Spiderman in Black // Spiderman Muscle Suit // Spiderman Figurine

After what felt like hours, I finally got to him. The big boys had heard me calling after Hayes (and them!) and had disbanded out of sight. Really, I didn’t even care, I just wanted to hold Hayes. I tried not to make it a big deal, to make him feel even more scared, but I couldn’t help it. My eyes welled with stinging tears and every muscle in my body was shaking.

It took me much longer than it did Hayes to quiet my heightened emotions, but I still get a lump in my throat when I think of Hayes’ brave friends who whisked in and saved him, even though they too were much smaller than the obstacle at hand. We all praised them each for being so brave, just like Spiderman, for standing up for those who couldn’t do so for themselves.Spiderman | Anti Bullying Of course, all three of them have been bullied, all three of them have had moments where no one was around to help them, but all three of them chose not to pass that hurt onto the next. Everytime they choose kindness and peace, I’d like to think that it was the superhero in them! All those Target trips paid off. 😉

Spiderman at Target

Dash’s Shirt // Spiderman Figurine

We have talked nearly since the beginning of Small Fry about addressing bullying, it’s a sadness we all deal with as parents on one side or another. We’ve discussed the many angles we could take, how we can really help. One thing we’re certain of, it starts with us. Me and you. I know I could stand to talk and think more kindly, to stand up for the little guy, and befriend the lonely. They always say children learn by watching, more than listening. As we navigate how to take on such a sensitive subject we’d love to hear your thoughts! What has worked for you in teaching this topic to your kids? How have you handled situations where your little one has been bullied, or been the bully?

This post is sponsored by Target. More Spider-Man, More Amazing: Blur the lines of fantasy and reality with your favorite superheroes at Target.

27 thoughts on “spider-man!”

  1. I love this. I was totally unprepared for bullying as a parent, and with my oldest it was so HARD. My boys know it’s not okay to bully, but it sneaks around in so many different forms. I think school makes it that much harder, but it is nice to know that I’m not the only mom that just wants to hold her boys after they have been hurt.

  2. Oh, I know the day will come when my Izzy will be faced with this situation. It’s so sad but probably inevitable. Though I’ve always thought, if my kid has to experience bullying, I’d rather he be bullied and not the bully. My heart breaks for kids who feel they need to use domination to feel empowered, because like you said, it starts with us…The parents. I’ll be looking back to this post and everyone’s comments for tips for the future. Thanks for addressing such a sensitive topic!

    1. I feel the same, although being bullied is so heartbreaking, making others cry and be sad is so much worse!

  3. You handled this very well! As a schoolteacher of young children I see/hear about bullying all too often. Teaching children to stand up for themselves, to be brave, to have confidence and a good sense of self worth are the seeds to being “bully proof.” — Sadly, it is often siblings and peers who seem to be the worst culprits. It speaks well of all the boys involved in your story that they were all brave and confident. It also tells a good story about Hayes’ ability to cope in that he recovered so quickly. —

  4. I’m so inspired by this story & love how our little boys really can be one another’s super heroes! Here is to teaching our boys right!!

  5. Aw! Sweetest boys!! Karson is obsessed with Spider-man I’m going to target right now and buying that shirt! He’s going to be pumped. Hashtag target does it again!

  6. I love this so much. In trying to raise two small kids in this crazy world; I want them to know that it’s the little things that matter and make the difference. I want them to grasp that it’s more important to be kind, than be cool, more important to stand up for yourself or for others, even if it means you stand alone, and it’s most important to be a friend to those who have no friends. I see bullying in so many forms all around us, and it terrifies me to death to think I could potentially have a child involved on either side. I hope I can be an example in teaching and more importantly showing them that it’s never okay!

  7. Two of my great fears as a parent: that my child will be bullied or that they will be the bully. Currently, at 3.5 my little boy thinks it’s the coolest thing ever to say “hi” to everyone he sees-and each time he does it I try to praise the action so that he knows it’s such a good thing to do. But then I think about how often I do that… And it is not nearly often enough. I need to take a cue from my superhero loving boys more often!

    1. Its so true! 3.5 is the best age and he sounds like he doesn’t have a cruel bone in his body! xo

  8. Superman was my boyhood hero. I only had a white towel for a costume but the attitude was the same. I could do anything as Superman. Now every time I see or hold Hayes, my little grandson, wearing his Spider-Man costume from Target I’ll be grateful for his brave little friends risking injury to free their underdog buddy from the hands of bullies who no doubt were prepared to hurt Hayes had he attempted escape. Bullying will never go away but sticking together is the best way eliminate it because bullies are just scared of their own world so they pick on younger kids but will run in fear when friends gather in support. I salute Hayes’ friends! And Target for selling such authentic costumes. A towel just would never do it these days!

  9. I have a friend whose son is a bully. He plays hard and cannot /won’t stop himself when things go to far. She sees him as a leader and a free spirit. So, you can see how his strong personality felt like a positive thing to her and how she didn’t necessarily see that it wasn’t for the other kids. After talking to her about it I learned a few things that might help if you are going through a similar situation.
    What I learned was:
    #1. Both sides the bully and those being bullied love and feel defensive about their children so if you want to talk about it approach it with a CALM head.
    #2. When I approached my friend I didn’t feel like asking for limits wasn’t asking for much. What she heard was “You need to reign in your BAD child.” So remember to try to be clear but you may still be misinterpreted. Although it was a difficult conversation to have I do believe that it was an important one. If the tables were turned I would want her to tell me.
    #3. The only thing we truly had control of was how we chose to deal with it. So we chose to prepare our kids so they would have the tools to deal with situations when they occurred. We had a lot of conversations with them asking about their feelings and what they would do in certain situations. We even role played bullying scenarios.
    Teaching our kids how to speak up and take care of themselves has been empowering for them and made sending them out into the world easier for us. 😉 Hopefully this will be worth reading to anyone who may be going through a similar situation.

    1. This is such great advice Sarah! We all need to know how to wage these types of conversations and also readjust our expectations when things might not change. Thank you!!

  10. Sweetest Hayes! This broke my heart. I’m convinced your boys and Steele (my almost 4 yr old) would be best buddies. He’s obsessed with Spider-Man! ❤️

  11. I love the advice from Sarah above about role playing bullying scenarios with your kids to help teach them what to do in those situations. I’m excited to teach my kids in that way; although I’m not excited for the day when I see or hear about one of my children being bullied.

  12. It’s so tough to accept that our little ones will have to deal with bullying at some point or another.
    What I’ve tried really hard to teach my kids is how to empathize and show compassion to others. We struggle, but I feel like they are slowly starting to get it. My hope is that they’ll never be afraid to stick up for someone or to be a friend to the lonely. Something we ALL can work on though… and I agree, kids learn best by what they see. This is a good reminder for me to be a little kinder to my kids

  13. Aww Hayes, what brave little friends of his! I’m not a mom yet, but I do think about my kids being bullied, and it terrifies the living s out of me! It’s probably one of the main reasons I haven’t had children yet. Ugh. You offer great advice that I will take to heart, because I know when the moment comes, the last thing I would want to do is to be kind!


  14. I hate to think about the times when someone may be teasing, bullying or just making Jane feel bad about herself, and I’m not there to stand up for her and/or comfort her. It’s good to know that she has some real life superheroes in her life that will swoop in and save the day.

  15. What a fun and original solution for bullying, and helping young ones feel empowered! Bullying can continue on into middle school and high school, and parents can use all the ideas they can get to help their children deal with it! I loved this story. Reading it made me wish my son were four again and I could whisk him off to Target to get him a Spiderman outfit! Do they sell them in college kid sizes? He still loves Spiderman.

  16. The hard part of bullying for me is that I was once the bully. And only know that I’m a mom do I fully understand how terrible it is and was. I am filled with regret, deep regret, for the mean things I said and did. I wonder if there’s a positive and constructive way to teach this to children? To help them understand that no one feels good after a bullying incident, not even the bully. We often focus on the child being bullied, and we should, but how can we prevent our own kids from heading down a harmful path of becoming the bully? I do like the idea of using super heros as a spring board since, as Emily said, they always stick up for the little guy. Oh and target is my happy place. If only there were a store on Kauai. I could stroll through the isles placing and removing items into and from my cart with my trusty bag of popcorn and not a care in the world. You hear that target?! Kauai needs you! Desperately!

  17. I love how you handled the situation and how the boys were there for thier friend. If we teach our children to stand up for each other I think bullying would definitely dimish.

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