Last month while our friends from the Island were visiting, we took them to a couple of our favourite local parks. At the second park on the waterfront, we stopped for a few minutes to play in the playground after walking along the river for a bit. While the younger three children requested rides on the swings, the older four children went to dig in the sand with a couple other girls.
I pushed Jade on the swing while repeatedly counting kids (two, four, six, seven), as I’d been doing all day, and trying to figure out the quickest way to make supper when we headed home shortly. Then, at a shriek from Sunshine, I glanced her way again. One of the other girls in the park was standing on a stump above Sunshine, kicking sand down into her face, despite Sunshine’s shouts at her to stop.
I dashed over and told Sunshine to play in another area if the other girl was acting like that. The girl seemed to be Sunshine’s age, and seemed to have a dad or uncle or babysitter watching her, but he did nothing about the incident. Glancing at my watch, I decided it was time we headed home anyway. We gathered the other kids and then Sunshine’s friend realized she couldn’t find her shoes.
We scoured the playground and dug through the sand, because one of the other girls said that the shoes had been buried. Sunshine’s friend bawled over losing her favourite shoes. We asked the other girls if they’d seen the shoes and asked their guardian if he’d seen anything, but they all said no. Finally, we gave up on the shoes and hauled the kids back to the minivans to leave.
Then my husband decided to walk back to the park once more. He returned with the missing shoes. Apparently, the other two girls had “found” them after we left and, when he returned, gave them back to him. Sunshine told us that these girls had also been pushing her friend while they were playing. We spent the drive home discussing the girls’ behaviour and how they had treated Sunshine, Lily and their out-of-town friends.
Towards the end of the last school year, as I saw many of my friends posting about their children encountering bullies at school, I was glad that we have chosen to homeschool our daughters. This incident showed me that bullying can happen anywhere kids gather, even in a ten-minute visit to a playground. My girls might not have to deal with bullies at school, but it’s still a topic that I need to discuss with them.
I’m not saying kids will always play perfectly with other kids. While my daughters usually play very well with the four friends who visited that weekend, we did have a few moments of disagreements. There were times when two kids would play together and exclude another child. So we talked about how to play nicely together and how to treat our friends. That is part of learning social skills and growing up together, though, and different than a child who consistently treats another child badly.
This incident gave us a lot to think about and discuss. I hope it doesn’t happen again, but it probably will; next time, hopefully I’ll be a bit more prepared to help the girls deal with it in a better way.
What do you think? Would you call the girls in the park bullies or just say they were playing a prank? Would you have spoken to the other girls or their guardian about their behaviour or just removed your kids from the situation?