On Tuesday as I was waiting for the girls to get home, I glanced out the dining room window and saw a large group of boys throwing snowballs. Due to some hedges, I couldn’t see who they were throwing them at, but they were volleying so many so quickly that I figured there was another large group of boys on the other side of the street involved in the snowball fight.
Spring is in the air in these parts, and people are slowing making their way out of hibernation. Though several feet of snow still stands, there are more people out and about- even bike riding!- and many more children walking home from school.
Then my daughters came into view, and I could see they were worried (Kate) and crying/limping (Joan).
And then it dawned on me.
Those boys were not having a friendly snowball fight with an equally large group of boys. They were pummeling my (much, much smaller and younger) daughters with those snowballs.
One hit Joan so hard that the snowball KNOCKED her flat over, face-first, into a large puddle. As she struggled to get up (dressed in snow pants, bulky coat, clumsy boots, and a heavy backpack) they continued to throw snowballs at her.
There were around 5-7 boys involved, all of them older. My daughters do not recognize any of them, and since their school is so community orientated this leaves me to believe that they go to the upper-elementary school, which houses grades 4th through 6th. Which means that those boys were MUCH older than my 1st graders.
I immediately stepped outside when I saw my girls, and as I ushered them up our walk and inside I yelled to the boys “Please do not throw snowballs at my daughters.”
They mimicked me in a snotty, fake-girly voice “Please do not throw snowballs…” and laughed at me.
Then someone yelled something to me. I didn’t hear what he said, but due to the outburst of laughter I can assume it was rude.
In the moment, I was more concerned about checking Joan over to see if she was injured or just shook up. (She was not hurt, minus a little skinned palms). By the time I had my wits about me, the boys were long gone.
I asked the girls a few questions, cleaned Joan up, and we forgot about it and continued our day.
The next morning, I awoke early, stewing about it. Sure, the whole thing is unsettling, but the things that upset me the most were: the age difference between the boys and my kids, the number of boys versus my girls (there was one other girl with my girls, a 3rd grader, but still they were very outnumbered), the fact that the boys were so extremely disrespectful when I appeared, and the fact that they did not seem intimidated by an adult presence (me) AT ALL. I also didn’t like how hard and fast they were throwing the snowballs, the distance and speed of the snowballs, nor the fact that due to the melting-all-day and refreezing-at-night that we’ve had, many of those “snow”balls were probably more like “ice”balls.
I decided to call my girls’ principal. Actually, the principal at the other school (where those older boys go) is a personal friend of ours, but I didn’t want to blur those lines. I figured there wasn’t much she (my girls’ principal) could do, seeing as how it didn’t happen on school grounds and also seeing as how the boys are not even students in her school. But there was probably nothing the other principal could do either, so.
However, I just wanted to have some kind of documentation, if only verbal. This way, if we continue to have problems, I have some sort of dialogue started.
She was very nice and very concerned. All of our schools have a strong “anti-bullying” policy, so they take these things seriously. She said that I should go out there give them the business, find out their names, ask their phone number and address, etc. I actually *would* have done more initially, had I not been distracted by Joan possibly being hurt.
In any case, the girls will continue to walk home from school. Partially because I’m lazy and don’t want to go and get them, yes. And partially because they come home so much happier after walking (versus when I go to pick them up and they start battling before the van door is shut). The walk is obviously good for them- they clear their minds, burn off a little energy, breathe some fresh air, have some quiet thoughts, and come home renewed and calm.
But it’s more than that. I want them to know that we *do* live in a safe place, and that what happened wasn’t OK, but that many people in our community are looking out for them and will help them. I want them to know that we don’t hide, we don’t quit, we don’t let bullies get the best of us. We stand up to them, and for each other. And we get adults’ help when needed.
(I realize we are very lucky to live in a place where this is possible.)
(I should also mention that the girls didn’t even ASK if they were going to walk. The whole thing shook them up for about 5 minutes, and then they promptly forgot about it. And when I asked if they knew any of the boys’ names, Joan brightly and heartbreakingly offered to ask them for me.) (Can you picture that? My sweet, tiny girl trying to cheerfully ask these big, older boys their names?)
HOOO boy, am I all jazzed up now while I wait for them to get home.
Yesterday there was no sign of the boys, but I’m on the look out. And they should be scared. They not only have awakened a hibernating Mama Bear, but they poked her precious cubs with sharp sticks.