It’s Saturday. We went up to our house in progress to enjoy the Spring sun, on the back porch. As I was chatting with Camilla, I hear Jackie come into the house crying. Conrad meets her at the door that stood wide open this whole time. She is shaken and it’s the first time I see her so upset coming from playing outside.
She said the boys at the cul-de-sac threaten to hit her. There were four boys, all around her age and one slightly older, a new kid. Conrad tried to brush it off telling her to stop playing with them if they don’t play nice. But I went up and out to talk to them.
As a kid, there were older boys in my neighborhood, who never threatened me, but I saw them mistreat other kids and I was so afraid of them. They were bullies.
As I walked up to them, it felt like it took forever. But I kept my steady stride. I saw the boys huddle together, trying to hide in a football net. They looked so silly and harmless. I heard them whispering nervously “her mom is coming.” The two boys about Jackie’s age were huddled closer. The youngest one was being silly, talking nonsense, and the older one I didn’t recognize. He was laying in the net only halfway tuned towards me. I asked them if they threaten to hit my daughter. One made silly noises, two said they didn’t threaten to hurt her and the older one said he didn’t hurt her.
I asked them if they think this is an ok way to play with girls. They fumbled. So I told them it’s not ok to threaten girls. Not even jokingly. I said I believe they are a bunch of young gentlemen (cavaliers) and they should act accordingly. The little one said they are not cavalier and laughed. I said I believe they are and they should never even dream of threatening to hit a girl.
I was knelling on one leg as I talked to them. I spoke kindly but firm. My voice was low and clear, and from the look on their faces, intimidating.
As I walked back, Jackie leaned into me and we walked like that, half-hugging her.
I had just finished reading Anne of Green Gable. Anne had faith in the goodness in every child, and her ability to reason, even with the worst of kids, by appealing their sense of pride and honor, so I gave it a shot too.
About these boys. One of the kids was walking about the neighborhood a few weeks ago and as he saw us he came and introduced himself politely. The little one, I’ve known him since he was born. The other two will have to learn quickly about boundaries and respect.
I believe I handled this situation well for a first (and hopefully the only) incident. But as the night draws near, I keep thinking about how things could get out of hand. And brushing it off is not a solution. At the first hint of harassment, the parents will need to be brought in. Because I taught the girls that use this magic persuasive phrase: “stop! I don’t like how you treat/speak to me!”
And if that doesn’t work, you go and talk to a trusted adult. As I say this, I realize that them, not heeding to a girl’s request to stop, is a reflag for serious harassment. If someone says STOP, even as an 8 year old boy, you need to learn the meaning of stop.
God give us wisdom to navigate this new chapter ahead. I’m so proud of Jackie for coming to us right away, especially as she tried to say STOP. And God have mercy on them as Conrad will make his strength and authority known while protecting his two daughter.