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.
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.
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. 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.
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?