When you let your kids go outside to play on a pleasant spring afternoon, you never imagine that you’ll be wrapping up the day’s events with a phone call to the local police department. Unfortunately for us though, that’s how yesterday unfolded.
It was the perfect kind of day for outdoor fun. The big kids came home from school, they finished their homework, they did a couple chores, and they went outside to play in the neighbor’s field. See, there are hay bales in the field, and for some odd reason, all the kids like to jump on the hay bales and roll around in the grass. I don’t get it, but so long as nobody’s getting into trouble, I don’t mind, and the owner of the field doesn’t mind either.
The kids had been out playing for a while by the time Fred came home from work. Fred and I talked about our day, I got him some supper, and we spent a little time talking about future plans for projects at the homestead. It was pretty mundane stuff, actually, right up to the point where are kids came running in shouting that they (and our chickens and cat) were being shot at with Airsoft guns!
Fred jumped up to catch the culprits while I tried to get a little more of the story, but of course the little darlings had gone running when my kids said they were getting us. Our kids knew one of the boys who was involved, but there was at least one teenager who also had a pellet gun, and my kids had no idea who he was.
If I’d known the parents, or if the kids hadn’t run off, Fred and I may have done something different. In the end though, we just called the local police department. That’s not my first choice when it comes to handling something like that, but I think it was the right choice last night.
Apparently, things went something like this. My boys (7 and 5) wanted to play in the field with the other kids. The other kids didn’t want my boys to play with them though, so they started picking on Freddie. (Freddie just wants to be everybody’s friend, and his autism makes it harder for him to pick up on cues from the other kids. Also, the other kids pick up on the fact that he’s a little “different”, so of course that leaves him wide open for teasing.)
Apparently, Freddie’s classmate was making up stories, saying that he wasn’t the little boy Freddie thought he was. He went on to say that he was actually “Max” from Africa, and “Africa” was on the other side of our creek. At some point after this teasing, my dear friend left my house to go home, and she stopped to talk to the kids in the field. Freddie told her how he just wanted to play but the other kids were being mean to him, and my friend did just what I would have done. She talked with Freddie and explained that people won’t always want to play with him and that’s OK. Then she headed home.
That wasn’t the end of it for the kids though. I don’t know when the Airsoft guns came onto the scene, but apparently the kids threatened my boys saying, “If you come onto this field, we’ll shoot you.” Now, the property owner doesn’t mind if kids play in his field, so my kids felt they had just as much of a right to be in the field as the other boys. They wanted to play separate from the “bullies”, so when they headed onto the neighbor’s property, the bullies started shooting at my kids! They shot Freddie in the leg, they shot Kevin in the leg and the head, they shot at my chickens, and they shot at my cat threatening, “We’re gonna shoot him in the eye!”
Now, I totally get that kids will be kids. I grew up “different” too (being blind), so I can identify with Freddie. I know what it feels like to want to fit in. Never in a million years though would I have expected THAT kind of bullying. That second-grader and teenager were terrorizing my children!
If it were just words, I would have told them, “Stick and stones…”, but the threats and the shooting at my kid’s HEAD?
After the police officer left to talk with the other kids who were involved, I couldn’t help but wonder to myself, “Am I over-reacting? I’m I being over-protective? Should I have handled this differently?” See, I’m not trying to raise tea cups that should be placed on a shelf and protect from all harm. But by the same token, shooting at my kids and my animals, terrifying my kids (who were trying to protect the animals from the pellets) goes WAY over the line. I NEVER experienced bullying like that when I was a kid.
My kids were so scared. Our cat and our chickens are well loved, and my kids were doing their best to protect them. I can’t help but judge the way those boys are being parented because NEVER should it cross a kid’s mind to shoot at other kids or animals that weren’t doing anything other than existing (on MY property, I might add.)
My kids were also shocked by the language that the boys were using. My daughter told me, “Mom, they were cussing like sailors! A second grader that was using the s-word, the d-word, and even the F-WORD!” And unfortunately that’s a trend that I’ve noticed that I just don’t get. We NEVER talked like that in grade school or even junior high. I learned to curse from an expert, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t even know about the f-word until I was maybe in the 4th grade. Even then, I wouldn’t have dreamed of saying it, nor did ANYONE in my age group.
I was prepared to deal with bullying, but I never would have guessed that it’d take that kind of turn in my own front yard. Last night’s experience was definitely an eye-opener for us, and it has me rethinking some of my parenting strategies for sure.