If, like me, you’re a working mum, any time spent with my kids is more precious than ever. After I’ve done a full day’s work, I go home, get changed, and then do the school run. I’m usually tired, not always in the best of moods, but try my best to feel grateful that I’ve been allowed to finish at 2.30pm to collect my youngest from school. I didn’t have that luxury with my eldest son.
So when I take my six year old to the park after school, it’s time for him to release all that energy he weirdly still has after school (what’s up with that – aren’t they meant to be tired?!!) it’s time for me to relax, to enjoy watching him have fun with his friends and, if I have any energy left myself, I might even play ‘chase’ with him, collapsing in a sweaty mess on the nearest bench.
Today, we went to the park after school – in this sunny weather it’d be criminal not to – and, for the most part, it was great. The playground was packed with other mums enjoying a brief respite and a lot of the children knew each other from school.
My son was happily playing on a big, round swing hanging from a chain. In fact, I had just Tweeted that he looked very happy as it was him and six girls playing together! I was sat on the other side of the park but always have him in view – thankfully so today, because after five minutes of playing happily together, all the young children suddenly got off.
I had earlier noticed two boys aged around 14 turn up at the park and saw them circle the swing on their bikes. In fact, I was already on my way over to my son before the young ones had got off – the tattoo on one of the 14 year old boy’s necks was enough to set alarm bells ringing.
I swallowed the rage that was already building because, being the mum of a teenager myself, I didn’t want to judge. But … as petty as the whole situation might have seemed to some, this wasn’t fair.
Me: Did you boys just make the little ones get off the swing?
Teens: No. They wanted to get off.
Me: Oh really. Is that right kids?
Little’uns: We wanted to get off. We didn’t mind.
Hmm. I wasn’t convinced. By now, seeing it was safe to do so, one of the other mums came over to join me. She asked her daughter if the older boys had made them get off. She also said no.
You could see the younger kids were scared to say anything while the older boys were there so all I could say was this (to the older boys):
Me: I don’t want to ever see you making the younger kids get off this swing, do you understand? Nor are they to push you and if they are around, you need to be careful, understood?
I told the little ones no one can make them get off unless they wanted to, called my son over and went to leave – annoyed, but glad I’d said something.
As I walked away I began asking myself if I’d been too harsh. Had I really seen what I thought I’d seen? The teens were polite enough to me but I even so, I felt I knew what had really happened.
The other mum then approached me and told me I’d been right to interject. Apparently, these boys were notorious for causing trouble and bullying the younger children. In fact, they had told the young ones last week a horrible story (all I’ll say is it involved killing,) to get them off the swing.
I thanked her for telling me because for a split second, I had questioned my instinct. But I knew I was right.
When I got back to my bench, another two mums told me these boys had pinched a six year old girl’s face to get her off the swing last week.
We left the park soon after.
I got to thinking. I didn’t know these teenagers, nor do I know what upbringing they’ve had, but I do know that my teenage son has never, nor would he ever have, behaved like that. He just wasn’t raised that way. But I guess teenagers are like any other demographic – there will always be bad apples but that doesn’t mean they should all be tarred with the same brush.
I’m annoyed, but it gave me an opportunity to talk the situation through with six year old son and, as hard as it is sometimes, he needs to know what the real world is really like (in six year old terms of course.) He knows that nobody can make him do something he doesn’t want to do and thankfully, he does have his own mind (as annoying as that can be sometimes!)
Bullies are more prevalent than they ever were, whether in the workplace (and I know firsthand,) at ‘big’ school, ‘little’ school … or at the park – but I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit by and let someone bully my son.
And breathe …