Monday, September 24, 2012

Hello Bully-- I'm the mom of a little boy some people consider to be a "retard"

Playgrounds and schools don't have an exclusive contract with bullies.  There is also no age limit on bullies. I've been to high school.  I've been to college.  I've witnessed and met many a bully in my time.

The question is always, "How do you respond to a bully?" 

Our family has a copy of "Chester Raccoon and the Big Bad Bully" and we read it before bed time.  In the book, Chester and his friends are terrorized by a badger at school who steals their balls and picks on them throughout the school day.

When they kids finally confront the bully, he suddenly backs down. He has nothing else to say.

That's the thing with bullies.  They aren't used to being confronted.

Last week I met a bully of my own.  I had heard this bully before.  He is one of those folks who needs a lot of attention.  The minute he walks into the gym you know he has arrived.  He is loud.  He is crass.  His conversations are ones that I would never want to be a part of, but because of his habit of talking loudly they are conversations that are heard throughout the gym.

Two weeks ago I heard him say to his workout partner, "You guys played that retard school." 

I paused.  I was pissed. Getting up to do a boot camp at 6am is no walk in the park and having to listen to this ya-hoo was more than I needed that early in the morning. Unfortunately, I didn't have the wherewithal that particular morning to say anything.

Then it happened again.  This time it might have been the 6am workout, it might have been PMS, whatever it was, I was fired up.

This guys makes his grand appearance into the gym and my little group is quietly grunting through our workout when I hear him clear as day say to his workout partner, "You're retarded". 

First time, shame on you.  Second time, shame on me if I don't say anything.  It was a very quiet morning.  Only about 8 of us total, but the second we got a break I toweled off my face and walked up to him with as much confidence as I could muster when confronting a bully.

I said, "Hi.  Excuse me.  I don't mean to bother you, but I just heard you call him a retard and I've heard you say that before.  My son is 2 and he has Down syndrome.  He has been through a lot in his short life including heart surgery and eye surgery and I absolutely cannot stand to hear people call someone else retarded.  It really drives me crazy.  I'm extremely sensitive to it and I don't want to hear it while I am trying to work out."

I don't know where this came from.  My heart was racing.  This guy is about 6'5'' and all I could think was that with his goatee and his large white teeth how much he resembled the Big Bad Wolf and how I felt like Little Red Riding Hood.  But it didn't stop me.  I said my piece and I moved on.  I tried to do as nicely as possible and I went home with a clear conscience. 

He just stared at me and said one word.  "Ok."

Do I want to be the word police?  Never.  I just want to work out at 6am in peace and not have to hear someone calling another person one of the most disgusting disability slurs around.

I decided that if I was trying to teach my children to stand up for themselves and what is right, then it is something I must also put into practice.

What would you have done?  What do you tell your children to say when they are confronted with a bully?  Is your answer different if it is physical versus verbal bullying?


  1. Way to go Jen! Sounds like you said exactly the right thing. And it sounds like you made him think, which is what he obviously needs to do more of. I like that you got a second chance to say something. I always get frozen in the headlights and then my moment is gone. Good for you!

    1. I was shocked that I got a second chance! I hope I handled it with grace. Don't you hate it when the moment is gone? It drives me crazy!

  2. Rock on, mama! You handled it nicely.

    1. Thank you, Anna! I try so hard to come from a place of love and understanding.... so hard sometimes!

  3. You did great. I want to hear the rest of the story when you work out again- to see if he stops and listened.

    1. We will see how tomorrow at 6am goes!!! I am hoping he also stops his disgusting running commentary on women who work out at the gym. Ugh!

  4. Way to go!!!!!! I am so proud of you for handling it so gracefully. I would have had more than a few 4 letter words thrown in there, which would have been less affective. Thank you for inspiring me to have more self control in situations like this. I can't stand bullies. Probably the thing I hate most in life. Unfortunately, we've had our share of experiences with them with our kids. I just always remind them that the bully is a sad person who thinks he has to make other people feel bad in order to feel good and that it has nothing to do with what is actually true about the person being bullied. Such a hard topic. Good work.


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