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Playground Bully

A few days ago, Maddie had her first encounter with a bona fide bully and I’m still seeing the effects of it.

We were playing happily on the park equipment, getting ready to head home and call it a day, when Maddie climbed the stairs and decided to hit the slide one last time. Since I had followed her up, I wasn’t in my customary position at the bottom of the slide, waiting to catch her. She took off down the slide but got stuck at the very bottom, and in her winter coat was struggling to sit up and get all the way off. At that point, an older girl – three or four years old – ran to the top of the slide and sat down. I told her my daughter was still on the slide, but she smirked at me, rolled on to her stomach, and went quickly down, kicking Maddie in the head with both feet and shoving her off the slide.

Maddie began wailing, and by the time I got off the equipment the older girl had shoved her far enough off to climb off herself. “Why is she crying?” she asked me. “Because you kicked her in the head! Can you tell her you’re sorry?” I replied. “No.” And off she ran.

After picking Maddie up and trying to calm her down, we made to leave. The other girl’s dad – absent from the scene thus far – came ambling over and said, “Why’s your kid crying?” “Because your daughter kicked her in the head!” I told him. “Aw, kids are too little to understand that stuff,” he replied unperturbed. He refused to censure his daughter or even admit she knew what she was doing.

Ever since then, Maddie’s cowered any time that little girl comes around. Maddie’s been on the swing when the bully comes over and sits next to her, and Maddie will ask to get off (which she NEVER does otherwise!). The little girl has come over during our snack time and demanded some of Maddie’s snack, which I’ve politely but firmly refused. The whole time the girl’s standing there, Maddie stares and freezes up –she won’t eat or smile or look around.

And the worst part is that now she’s hugely nervous on the slide. She’ll stare all around before sitting down and sliding, making sure the coast is clear. And at church while playing on the baby indoor slide this week, a friend of hers walked up the stairs to wait her own turn on the slide and Maddie froze up, unable to take her eyes off the potential threat. The nursery worker even asked what was wrong with her!

This isn’t the last bully Maddie will ever encounter, of course. I do wish, though, that it hadn’t happened so soon. Maddie’s had to deal with her share of playground pain – kids running into her, toys going unshared, and so forth – but it’s been mostly unintentional, either an honest mistake or something done by someone too young to know better. This little girl, though, is clearly a product of her parents’ uncaring attitude, and she’s showing the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

So now Maddie’s learned that not everyone’s nice, and sometimes people do bad things without apparent consequences.

I’d sort of hoped that would happen a bit later – say, in twenty years or so.


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