Sunday, March 20, 2011

Pushy People

Yesterday I was verbally accosted at a playground. It was my first day back out into the world after being sick for seven days! So I was thrilled to be out and it was a gorgeous, gorgeous day.

We started with our usual routine - ballet and then home. Fen took Cate to see Toy Story 3 (again) on the big screen while X napped and I took advantage of my alone time to tidy up and read a little. After lunch, we headed out to Regent's Park to a playground there.

It was a mob scene. Kids were everywhere, so were their parents. I had X and Fen took Cate. For 45 minutes I followed my little guy around, went on the swings, into the sand pit, down slides, and all over. The Fen and I switched and I took Cate. She was on the slides, where there were other kids, bigger, smaller and everything inbetween. She was getting pushed aside, bigger kids, around 8 or 9 were running up the slides and the smaller children were queuing up to slide down them. So cate and I went to another slide.

One boy in particular kept pushing Cate out of the way to make the final three steps up to the slide. I told her it was okay the first few times, then I told her to say something to him so  he knew she was there, but he kept doing it. Then I said, "Push your way on, Cate."

Okay, perhaps NOT the best parental advice but the kid was just a bully. However, his father, a short, chubby guy sporting a fanny pack (I kid you not) shouted at me, "Why don't you teach her some manners instead of to push back?"

I was absolutely stunned. His 4 or 5 year old son kept pushing my daughter, and other kids out of the way to get to the slide unapologetically and his father never said one word to him. But the minute I say something to my daughter - to defend herself, he jumps on MY case.

I replied, "Excuse me?" I was so stunned that I was being reprimanded by someone I've never seen before on a playground in front of my child. Meanwhile Cate waited her turn while his son shoved her and another child aside AGAIN.

"I said, 'why don't you teach your daughter some manners instead of telling her to push back?'"

Now, I'm no wallflower and I will fight customer service, airline ticket agents, city hall, etc with vigor. But on a playground with my daughter looking on? I'm not really going to engage someone. So I said the only thing I could think of, "If you had taught your kid manners we wouldn't even be having this conversation, dude." (don't know why I tacked on 'dude' - in the moment thing I guess).

"This is the matter with you parents today..." he started. Cate had just come off the slide. I put my hand up and said, "Whatever, guy. Get over it," and walked away. I walked over to Fen and told him about it and pointed the guy out. But I told him to let it go, which he did.

Cate and I went about our business for another half hour or so. And when it was time to leave. I gathered up X and walked over to our pram to strap him in. Lo and behold there was Fat-Fanny-Pack and his big mouth. He saw me coming and made a hot beeline to a woman standing right next to my pram.

"You won't believe it," he started. "Some woman told her child to push back on a playground. Who does such a thing?" He went on and on as I had my back to him strapping in my 15 month old child. When I stood up and looked at him (the woman was then going on about the downfall of the next generation because parents today were awful) he smirked!! He was taunting me!! So I sneered at him and marched over to Fen.

Fen is a very nice guy, very sweet, gentle, loving and all around wonderful. But he is 6'1" 190lbs solid chunk of Samoan/Kiwi rugby-playing muscle with a scowl to boot. Trust me - you do not want to be on the receiving end of his wrath. He walked across the playground calmly and had words with the guy. I don't know what he said, it was not a scene, but the guy stepped backward and then Fen came back to me. I'm not sure if anyone else even noticed but we walked out of the park. Halfway up Primrose Hill I asked what happened. Fen just said he asked if there was anything else he had to say about his wife or child. He didn't. I'll bet.
My Fen

Now, I don't know if we handled this right or not. I was content to just walk away the first time, but the whole thing upset me. I don't need strife on a playground. Was I wrong to have told Cate to push back (like I said, not my best parenting moment)? Should I have fought back? Should I have not said anything at all? All I know is the guy had NO right to talk to me, at all. Who was he to tell me what to do when his own kid was the troublemaker? I'm still upset about it. A pox on his house...I say.

19 comments:

  1. A pox indeed! I believe in good manners as much as anyone, but you can not allow yourself to be bullied . When push comes to shove, shove back. You did what is needed in today's
    world.

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  2. It's so hard isn't it? I think eventually you have to teach your kids to stand their ground.

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  3. Wow, I think you and Fen are perfect examples of how to react in that sort of situation! Well done! I tend to get very upset and cross at this sort of thing, which makes me inarticulate! I remember once going to Bewilderwood when Toby was about five. He has special needs and he was being pushed along by some older, tubbier kid. I snapped at him not to do it as Toby is disabled, then felt so disappointed in myself to feel I needed to justify standing up for my kid by mentioning his disability.

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  4. I think you did absolutely fine and I would have done the same. It was the other man who was weak why do they need to pick on a woman likewise his son picking on a young girl ..... if he had been so sure of himself why didnt he say anything of consequence to Fen .... methinks he was just a bully and has obviously taught his son not to respect anyone either. Shame tho that the world has come to this. I got told off my a man on a train recently for speaking inthe quiet carriage .... would he have done that to a 6'man ... I think not xx

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  5. Good for your hubby! And as far as your daughter, you weren't teaching her to be a bully, you were teaching her to be assertive. Learning how to not be pushed around (especially by boys/men) is important at a young age.

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  6. What a bully! And thick too - he didn't even get the irony of demanding manners when his son was being such a well, bully. (Gee I wonder where he gets that from.) I'm glad Fen did whatever he did. Yay!

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  7. He sounds a most obnoxious man who has bred a most obnoxious child. If that had been my child pushing past I would have made him apologise and wait his turn (as any good parent would!).

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  8. Way to go Fen!

    What a nasty, rude little man... I have a picture of him in my mind - George Costanza from Seinfeld!

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  9. I think the proper action is really hard to do today. I would have told the bully kid off myself, politely to be sure, but firmly. Then if he still pushed and shoved, I'd talk to the parent--admittedly easier when it is the mom. If that doesn't work, then I'd leave or tell my kid to push back, depending on the circumstances.
    This is one of the difficulties of parenting today. When I was a kid I was just as likely to get told off by my neighbors dad, or the lady walking the dog as my mom. If a mom saw another kid riding their bike in the street or being mean to another kid, that mom would tell them to stop and report that kid to his own mom. Everyone won. Mom had extra eyes on the street. Junior might actually be mortified enough by being told off by not-his-parent that he might actually take heed. And the other parent had some means of policing the playground. These days the bully will likely sneer at you while the mom tells you off for daring to suggest that her angel was anything but. I know a few such moms. Their kids are usually the ones who are decently behaved for mommy, but nightmares at school or playdates.

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  10. That's shocking! Glad you told Cate to stand up for herself, and that you did as well. I usually slink away and then think of what I should have said. And a "well done" to Fen.

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  11. Thanks for the support folks. I hope we never run into him again - or anyone like him. Just don't need the hassle, frankly!

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  12. @MikeH, sounds like you did well the other day with the teen litterbugs. Those teens were probably given as much instruction as the budding bully in this story. I've often seen my porter having to tell off young boys, 10ish, for all sorts of bad behavior. The other day a group of 4 or so was trying to uproot a bus stop sign, and Danny had to give them a talking to. They don't usually have parents around, and much of what they do isn't police calling caliber. If somebody doesn't say something to them, then what's to stop them?

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  13. What an awful man! Good for you for standing up to him. I hate it when I have confrontations like that - shakes me up for the rest of the day.

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  14. Go Fen! Somehow I don't think H would have the same reaction...

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  15. I think you did the right thing; parents should not be telling their children to shove and push.

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  16. Good on you Fen, what a great hubby to have around! Have been in many playground situations like this myself in London and sometimes it's impossible to know how to react to people like this. They are the sort of people itching for a fight - which is why his child is a bully. Still its unpleasant and upsetting, I know just how you feel. You acted just right - good on you for standing up to him!

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  17. i think you handled it perfectly. i have not handled this type of thing well many times and one thing i've learning is sometime you just have to walk away from the person while they are yelling and mad. and i'm glad your husband stepped in too. solidarity.

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  18. Well Done to you! Our daughter had a similar problem with a friend's little son being 'a bit rough' with our granddaughter - who is pretty gentle. My daughter was completely up-front with her friend and the situation did get better. It's difficult teaching children to be polite, then being confronted by a bully - you did the right thing.

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  19. Thanks for writing this. I really feel as though I know so much more about this than I did before. Your blog really brought some things to light that I never would have thought about before reading it. You should continue this, I’m sure most people would agree you’ve got a gift.

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Go ahead, make my day!