Of Polar Bears and Bullies

I came across a news story recently about a woman who attacked a polar bear that was threatening her child. A couple of years ago, this would have seemed completely insane. Now, attacking a polar bear to save my child seems completely reasonable. In fact, going after a pint-sized obnoxious bully at McDonalds seems reasonable.

After two solid days of rain last week, I decided that Sean and I needed to get out of the house for a few hours to improve my attitude. In an act of desperation and in violation of my own principles, we ended up at McDonalds. I wasn’t the only mother in the metroplex with this great idea. The place was aswarm with screaming kids and pods of 20-something moms wearing tattoos and Juicy Couture sweats.

Sean and I found an empty table over in the corner where I cleared away the remains of someone’s lunch they had so graciously left behind. Sean sat across from me swinging his dangling feet and dipping the same French fry in ketchup and licking it off over and over. I watched him watching the kids play. Like his father, he is by nature, an observer. In a new situation, he will hang back quietly and size things up before venturing forth.

It quickly became apparent to me which inmate was running the asylum. A bigger red-headed boy had set himself up as Ronald McDespot. He body-blocked the entrance to the tubes and determined who would pass and who wouldn’t. At one point I saw him at the higher end of the slide eye a smaller child below who was trying to get off. Wearing a wicked grin, McThug launched himself downward like a rocket hitting the smaller kid squarely in the back, knocking him face down to the ground. As we ate lunch, I watched this scene play out again and again. It was confounding — it was as though no one else but me saw any of this. McThug received not one word of correction from anyone.

After Sean was through eating, I said a prayer and held my breath as he ventured into Playland where McThug was holding court. As Sean tried to gain entrance to the slide, McThug put his hand on Sean’s chest and pushed him. Sean reeled backwards a few steps and looked at me with a hurt expression, as though he couldn’t understand why anyone would do such a thing. And I wouldn’t have had an answer for him, except to say that some people are just like that and that there will always be people like that everywhere you go.

Like a jack-in-the-box, I reflexively kept standing up to go to his rescue, but then thinking better of it and sitting down again. Deep down, I knew that now was as good time a time as any for Sean to learn how to deal with a bully. I was congratulating myself for managing to to restrain myself from swooping down into Playland and kicking some McThug bootie like an insane polar-bear-attacking mom when I saw McThug put his foot out and trip my little boy. Sean fell spread eagle to the ground and started crying, not because he was hurt, but because he was frustrated. That was enough. I silently came up behind McThug and bent over him with my hands on my knees. I lowered my voice and whispered into his ear in my best Clint Eastwood, “You touch my boy again and I’m going to make your day. Do you hear me?” I could see the back of his red head nodding in assent before he scrambled off to sit next to his mom.

I picked Sean up and we headed out, but not before stopping by McThug’s table where I leaned in with a Jack Nicholson grin. Looking the boy right in the eye, I said dripping with syrupy southern charm, “Y’all have a nice day.” And then I lingered one uncomfortable second too long just to watch him squirm. Then I shifted my gaze to McThug’s mom who looked at me like I was insane.

And when it comes to my boy, she would be right.

*February 2006 Antique Mommy Archives.

39 thoughts on “Of Polar Bears and Bullies

  1. Oh this is a big issue of mine! I have very low tolerance for violence of any sort and was always quick with a directive even before I had children. I don’t know where that old lie that being bullied was just something our kids had to handle on their own came from, but good for you for not falling for it! If someone walked up to me and hit me or kicked me down at the playground (which just happened to my daughter despite my best efforts), I would immediately call the police and file charges. Why on earth would I think a little child should just take something like that with no real recourse or authority to turn to? Needless to say, when a little bully kicked Maryn at the playground recently “ABSOLUTELY NOT, YOUNG LADY” was out of my mouth before I even had a chance to think about it and so firm and loud that her father took her home immediately, apologizing profusely all the way to their car. It was impossible to explain to my daughter. And I can’t tell you how much it hurt to hear her ask why the girl did that to her and to see the shock and confusion on her face when it happened.


  2. Yay! Go mommy! Glad you put him in his place, and hopefully his mom learned something too. It’s amazing how when we have kids we do all kinds of things we thought we’d never do.


  3. I’m with you completely. I usually talk to the mom also, something short like “Your kid shoved 4 kids, hit 3, is blocking children from using the tubes. etc. etc.” It’s hard to argue with facts without name calling. What do I care what juicy tatoo thinks of me, and just maybe she’ll actually watch her own kid to see if I’m wrong.


  4. When my son was quarterback in high school I dealt with some similiar issues from the bleachers! Except it was grown people yelling at the players. I had to be physically restrained ! Honestly, this bully issue is just beginning for you. I hate the world is allowed to have bullies. Or maybe that we allow bullies in our world. Thanks for doing your part in elminating them. I bet he thinks twice and looks over his shoulder next time he is at Micky D’s!


  5. A job well done, MamaBear! I’m sure I would’ve done the same. I’ve been known to put a bully or two in their place when it comes to my kids! Thanks for re-sharing this story!


  6. Ooooooh! Where is that boy? I wanna go flick his ear! You were amazingly gracious, that is so much more effective. Good job….I still wanna flick him.


  7. Love it!

    I was 29 when I had my first child, and I bought into all of that “let her handle it herself, she has to learn” b.s.

    I was 46 when I had my third child, now 7 years old. I’ve gone from being PC MarshmallowMama to being MeanMama! You tangle with my kids these days, you get ME right behind them as the Clean Up Crew.

    Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I taught 8th grade and have the stern voice-and-look act down pat! (A little of the “maniacal Jack Nicholson look” doesn’t hurt, either.)

    PS: “Help her anxiety,” Milehimama? Oh, mercy. Nothing like teaching the child to eat for comfort….maybe that woman owns stock in WeightWatchers? Loved the line about “parenting by popular vote at McDonald’s,” though. Heh heh heh.


  8. I found you through the PP and I will be back. Your post today was equally fantastic, I think. I really enjoyed reading about your experience with the bully. I’m a teacher and I definitely would have jumped on the “teachable moment” and would probably have found myself in an altercation with his Mom. Oops. Anyhow, well done you!


  9. I have fond Burger King to be kinder! 🙂 The teacher in me usually comes out when there is a bully or a shrill screecher. I’ll cal the kid down without hesitation. Or if a seemingly deaf and blind Mommy is present I will go into my intense southern accentted concerned mommy act. It goes ike this… “Oh my goodness while you were knee deep in that conversation and yummy fruit and yogert parfait, your little darling just knocked the crap out of that sweet little girl. I knew you would want to know so you could handle it.” I ususally get a shocked and akwardly grateful grimmace/smile and the tyrant child is quickly dethroned and in panicky hushed tones told to stay away from that weird lady and her kid!


  10. Good for you! I wouldn’t have had as much restraint as you, though. I posted about a book I should write called ‘Control Your Child, PLEASE!’ Thankfully I’m not the only one who thinks people are WAAAYY too passive.


  11. Parenting at McD’s is something else, isn’t it? If you ever have a doubt you are a good mom, go hang there for a while.
    Once I went there with my SIL and my 2 yo decided to throw a fit. She wanted my drink and not her own. Kicking, screaming, rolling on the floor – the works. I looked at her, then went back to talking to my SIL (you know, the whole ignore a tantrum thing)…
    A mom actually came up to me to lecture me for letting her cry. Apparently Supermom thought she felt abandoned when I went for more ice in my Coke (3 feet away from the table, in the same room) and also, was having difficulty “sharing her mommy with adults”. The cure, apparently, was to get her an ice cream cone or other treat to “help her anxiety”.
    I let her know that when I started parenting by popular vote at McDonalds, she’d be the first to know and turned my back on her.
    I did notice when she left that her kid (age 5 or so) was overweight and had an earring and mohawk.
    On the other hand, most of the other moms were talking on their cell phones NOT EVEN IN THE PLAYPLACE, so maybe she wasn’t so bad after all.


  12. Um, well, I’m not really a shining example of motherhood either EXCEPT for that I wouldn’t let Sean disrespect others and get away with it. AND I wouldn’t sit in a pair of Juicy Couture sweats showing my butt crack tattoo and ignore my child while I yacked it up with my friends. But that could be because I don’t own Juicy Couture sweats, I don’t have a tattoo, no one wants to see this ole crack of mine (other than AD) and I don’t have any friends willing to go to McDonalds with me. I’m just saying y’all. Not that there is anything wrong with it…. oh whatever.


  13. Oh, that is just too great! Your son is lucky to have a mom to stick up for him. And Ronald McDespot is lucky to have someone finally put him in his place. It is a sad thing when parents just don’t give a darn what their kids do. Sometimes the best love you can give is not letting the kids do whatever the heck they get into their heads to do.


  14. Good for you. I don’t know what it is about the McDonald’s playland but it seems to bring out the bullies for sure. All that power combined with the Little Tykes towers and tubes must be a heady combination. Glad you put him in his place.


  15. I don’t call that being insane. I call it having courage to do what the unparenting mom failed to do – tugging the knot in his tail. SOMEONE had to be the mom; I’m glad it was you.

    As I was reading this post I kept thinking, “I can’t believe this happened to AM again because I read her post about a thug just like this one before.” At the end, I say that it is from your archives.

    It’s just as good the 2nd time around.


  16. Good for you!

    My best friend, Amy-Renee, says I had the “mommy-voice” down years before I had Harry. And I am not afraid to use it.

    As a woman who fights large men in armor for a hobby, most McDespots find me JUST unpredictable enough and think it JUST likely enough that I would kick their little tushes to keep them in line. Occasionally, a healthy dose of fear is a good thing.


  17. Great job!

    One of the nicer things about raising a multitude has been that my children stick together. If one of them is threatened (even my REALLY big guy) the rest of them are right there (glaring intimidatingly) ready to support their sibling while visibly praying they won’t HAVE to! 😉


  18. The teacher in me usually losses it and says something to the kid. They will usually clean up their act when they know someone is watching them.

    I’ve never had the nerve to say something to the mom, though.

    MoneyDummy – that’s just normal behavior in a small child (That’s for me and I want it now!) Dealing with this at a young age is the way to go. So, way to go!


  19. I feel like I am in a locker room and just heard the half-time speech. I am PUMPED up! Thank you and may I please have another!!! LOVED IT!


  20. I’ve had the Clint Eastwood voice come out of me before too!!! Interesting that it has more often been in that stinking play place at Mcdonalds than anywhere else!

    He will learn how to deal with people and situations like that but right now what he knows is that he can count on his mom!!


  21. Encore! Encore! Way to go! It sucks that our kids should have to learn to deal with bullies at such a young age, so I don’t think we should feel the least bit ashamed if we come to their defense sometimes. Yes, they will have to learn about it eventually, but while they’re young, I not only think it’s our right to defend them, I think it’s our DUTY. WAY TO GO! I’m so proud of you!!


  22. I’m so glad you stood up for your kid. That’s awesome!

    Why didn’t anyone talk to the kid’s MOM, though? That’s weird.

    One of my biggest fears is that my kid will grow up to BE a bully. Once at nursery school, I saw him shove a little girl out of his way. It’s the only time he’s ever done that, and I know he’s only 17 months old, but boy did I time him out fast.

    Any mothers have advice on how to deal with THOSE situations if they come up?


  23. Bullies still surprise me and I’m 39. Always wondered how I’ll handle it when it happens to my boy – and girl, I like your style (and Clint’s).


  24. Bravo!!! BTDT. I became a mama bear at McDs when my firstborn was little too. Dh tried to tell me that I was gonna get myself beat up by the mother of the kid I collared (yeah, literally) and had a little, um CHAT with, about his manners in the playplace and his behavior toward MY son … but I reminded dh that before his mother could beat me up, she had to get OFF her behind and actually come IN to the playplace and so far, I didn’t see that happenin’ … You go girl.


  25. Ha! You and me, girl!

    The other night at a party one of my 8 year old sons accidentally dropped a piece of cake. A bully-type kid (a girl) deliberately stepped in it, ground it into the carpet, and sauntered off, leaving my kiddo crying and looking at twice as much mess as it would have been if she’d kept her big fat foot out of it.

    I went and got two washrags. I handed one to my son, because of course, he HAD dropped the cake. The other rag I handed off to that surprised little honey-chile and told he she could help him clean up since she’d helped mess up.

    She tried to tell me it had been an accident, but I fixed that evil momma-eye on her and said, “That’s okay, you can help him anyway.”

    Tough mommas unite!


    Mary, mom to many


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