The little girl looked to be about four years old. Her long blond hair was held back in pigtails with purple ribbons. She had big brown eyes and batted her long eye lashes as she asked her mother if she could please go play now that she had finished her chicken. Her mother and another woman were sitting behind us feeding a younger child. She smiled sweetly and said, “Sure Brindley*! Don’t forget to take off your shoes.”
Carson had also finished his Chick-Fil-A lunch and wanted to go and play also. He was practically pulsating he was so excited to play with the other children in the play area. I opened the door for him, returned to my seat at our booth and watched him begin his assent up the stairs toward the slide.
I noticed that Carson was talking to another child and seemed irritated . Brindley was on a step above Carson and looked to be telling him that he couldn’t come up. At this point I didn’t mind since kids argue and it’s important for them to work things out on their own. Carson was doing his best and holding his own against Brindley until she started pushing him and obviously yelling at him. (For those of you unfamiliar with Chick Fil-A, their play area is behind glass so you can’t hear the kids, but you can see them.)
My eyes caught Brindley’s and I furrowed my brow and shook my head ”no.” She returned a glare that shocked me and promptly pushed him again. I looked beside me to see if her mother was paying attention and if she was going to intervene. Her mother and her friend were deep in conversation (about being middle school teachers, but who’s eavesdropping? Not me!). Since I was afraid that Carson would fall, I went into the play area and told Brindley to stop pushing and to let him climb up.
Miss Sassy Britches told me that she didn’t have to and that he was too little to be playing there anyway.
Normally in a situation like this, I’d get Carson and we’d go play somewhere else. I typically ignore obnoxious children, unless they are acting dangerously. Unfortunately the Chick-Fil-A play area IS the slide. That’s it. There isn’t another place to go play.
As a former Speech-Language Pathologist who worked in the schools, I never hesitated to correct a child, but since her mother was just on the other side of the window, I hesitated. I didn’t want to seem like that bitchy mom that bosses everyone else’s kids around. Disciplining someone else’s child in front of their parent(s) is awkward. Since Brindley’s mom was still not paying attention, I told her again that she needed to stop pushing and to let Carson by.
I thought laser beams would shoot out of her vicious glare. And at this point I had HAD it with this little girl (I’m merely saying “girl” because calling her what I’m thinking is MEAN, but know that if you read the word “girl” in reference to her after this point, I really mean a not-so-nice word.)
I told her that if she didn’t stop, I’d go get her mother. “Do you want me to go get her RIGHT NOW, because I SO will.” As much as I really didn’t want to go get her mother, this wasn’t an idle threat. Lucky for me, she apparently didn’t want her mother to know of her evil ways, so she moved aside and let Carson continue to climb. I returned to my seat outside the play area and continued to watch.
Brindley left Carson alone for the rest of the time we were there. Every few minutes she’d look out of the window and sneer her little sneer at me, keeping one eye on her mother to make sure she didn’t get caught. I watched as this “girl” bullied and harassed just about every other child who was in there playing. She even pushed her friend down, another little girl, who promptly ran to tell her mother…the other woman sitting behind me. The women shooed her away, dismissed her wailing, and continuing their chat.
On one hand I wanted to say, “WAIT! This little “girl” Brindley pushed her! In fact she’s bullying every kid in there. Your child is a BULLY. And shut up long enough to pay attention!”
On the other hand, though, I don’t really think it’s my business. I’d taken care to see that Carson, MY CHILD, was safe. No other parents were correcting Brindley, why should I care?
“…where do we draw the line? What is our responsibility to our children? What’s our responsibility to the children of others? Most of us have a hands-off philosophy when it comes to other kids, right? Walk a mile in their parents’ shoes first, we say with a deeply tolerant air. But we also like to say that it takes a village to raise a child. So shouldn’t we be stepping in more?”
I don’t believe for one second that Brindley’s mother isn’t already aware of her daughter being a bully. This little girl was a master bully so I’m pretty confident that this wasn’t the first time for this kind of behavior. Really, I don’t think that had I said something to the mother, anything would have changed. Brindley will be a bully whether I made myself look like an ass or not. While I was really irritated that the mom was so engrossed in conversation that she didn’t see how her daughter was behaving (and I don’t even know if I really believe that), I don’t blame her either. If I’d have had someone to talk to at Chick-Fil-A, I might not have noticed that I needed to come to Carson’s rescue.
What do you think? Where DO we draw the line? What is our responsibility, especially to the children of others? And is it worth the potential embarrassment on our part to bother saying something?
(*Not the child’s real name, but something equally ridiculous. My apologies if your child is named Brindley. I’m sure it suits her well. Or him.)