"Mom, I'll be nice to them and be nice to them, but if they keep being mean, I'll lose my temper and have to battle them. I'll lose 'cause there's so many of them, but they'll be bloody at the end." ---how to deal with nine bullies, by my son, Boy One.
Clearly, the bible verses that I told to the boys must have had an impact. Somewhere between love your neighbor and forgive your neighbor seventy times seven times, Boy One picked up that oft quoted phrase of Jesus's, "forgive 'um a couple times, and if that doesn't work, make 'um bleed."
We'd been dealing with the bullies across the street for almost a year so one day, I sat the boys down and said, "let's beat these fuckers in their own paradigm, and since they're Christians, let's answer that age old question that people like to flaunt on plastic armbands... WWJD?"
(This was about the time that I was rereading the gospels and had decided to save Jesus from the crap-tastic image that too many Christians give him, and I formed my club of one: "Atheists for Jesus.")
We met the neighbors shortly after moving in about a year ago. After a somewhat rocky first meeting that involved a much older kid stealing my sons' baseball, they became friends with the kids across the street. However, after a few months there was a fall-out. I can't really get into the details on the blog, but if you need to know email me and I'll extrapolate. I have this to say though: when social services came to my house, they said that my kids were mature for their age and that I was indeed a fit mother. Hell, I'll take a compliment where I can get one.
After the fall out, they started calling us "the hobos" (because the kids don't wear shoes. Personally, I perfer our old neighbors who used to call the boys Tom and Huck for that same fact). I was like, "hobo that's a fucking compliment. Come, children, let's watch a few documentaries on hobos." The children, although they do not completely share my passion for transience, were smart enough to realize that hobo is not really an insult.
The situation abated itself over the winter. Yes, there were the isolated incidents of the neighbors throwing rocks wrapped in snow or basketballs at my kids' heads as they rode past their houses. There was even the time when I walked by with the baby, and the cadre of assholes teased me. "Hobo, Hobo, Hobo," they yelled as I passed, and I didn't know what to do. I am so adorable that no one has ever teased me before. I didn't want to tell their parents because in my opinion, these kids all get punished way too often, and I couldn't think of anything mature to say. ("Jesus isn't real, losers" was the only thing that popped to mind, and even I know that isn't appropriate to say to a bunch of kids) so I continued to walk past and ignored them.
Well, spring is here, the pelicans are in the neighboring pond, the young squirrels are frolicking, the garden is planted, and the douche-bag evangelical preacher kid neighbors have emerged from their video game addicted winter lives to torment my children.
In defense of the neighbors, my kids react horribly to teasing. They swear, and they fight back which is why we turned (or tried to turn rather) to the advice of our kind friend Jesus.
A few weeks ago, the neighbors teased. My son brandished an ax. And I was forced to confront the situation. My kids sat on our stoop. I assumed the drive way throne (lawn chair), and I held council with a group of nine bullies, seven of whom are older than both of my kids. I gave this admirably powerful speech which addressed the fact that yes, my kids have been complicit in these dramatics but the neighbors have by and large been the instigators. I allowed them to speak a bit but silenced their lies with a simple "shush" which seemed to scare the crap out of them.
Then, I presented the crowd with an ultimatum, "These are your options: you can either get over it and play together." I paused hoping that they would all hug and sing a nice little campfire song, but that didn't seem to happen so I continued, "or you can go to your side of the street, we can stay on ours, and we can all ignore each other." They unanimously choose to ignore each other, and they left.
I felt so powerful in that lawn chair in the driveway that I truly thought that was it. I thought it was over, but alas, I was mistaken.
On the first day of summer vacation, I had to yell at my kids to stop spraying the hose over the fence at the neighbors who were teasing them and throwing rocks at them. Apparently disconnecting the hose and going back inside was not the best idea because my kids filled up a bucket with water, left the fenced back yard, and threw water at the neighbors. The neighbors, then, threw the rock that broke the window.
Hundreds of dollars worth of damage is pretty much my breaking point.
Unfortunately, I only recognized one kid in the group of five that was in that particular fight so I can't really do anything about it. I am, however, thinking about writing a short letter to all the parents on the street to alert them of the situation and ask for their cooperation in stopping it. (But considering it was the parents who brought on the aforementioned fallout and the tax-money-wasting witch hunt that compelled social services to visit most of the houses on the street, I doubt if it will do any good.)
As far as I have noticed, I have been the only parent to ever step outside and call for an end to this crap. It's completely beyond my comprehension skills to fathom what these other parents are doing inside that they are oblivious to this noise because if I am certain of one thing it is this: the only thing that would get me out the door faster than my kids getting teased by older kids would be if my kids were teasing younger kids. If they did that, I would lose it.
I don't think that my kids are missing out by not playing with these kids (they're dumb and fat so it's really no loss at all), but they are missing out on the chance to walk outside, talk to the neighbors, race their bikes and play cops and robbers, and that makes me infinitely sad.