Monday, August 07, 2006

Childish Behavior

Saturday I took Owen and Tess to Beeman Park in Studio City. I thought I had it all figured out, and we would have this grand day at the park. Owen was so excited that we were going. He kept saying “ark” to emphasize that he knew where we were going. Then he kept saying “daddy,” since his dad always takes him to the park. We packed up and got ready to go. When we got there, I was relieved to see there weren’t very many cars there, since that meant it wasn’t that crowded. I hate when it’s crowded, because inevitably some of the kids gang up on the slides and the younger ones can’t use them. I know it’s just kids being kids, but I still hate it. So we got there and walked to the big slide, since Erik told me that Owen had been going down the big slide by himself. I put Tess in the stroller and watched as Owen walked over to the slide. There were two boys at the top of the slide, about 5 or 6 years old, and they both looked at Owen, who was at the bottom of the slide trying to climb up it and one of them said, “You’re a freak. You’re freaky looking.” Then he looked at the other kid and said, “doesn’t he look funny? Doesn’t he look like a freak?” I felt like someone punched me in the gut. Owen just looked at them, not understanding what they were saying (thank God!), and I just looked at both of them in fear: fear because I know that this is just the first instance of someone calling my son names, the first in a long life of him looking ‘different,’ of kids pointing that out. I picked Owen up from the bottom of the slide, looked at both of them and said, “did anyone tell you that you are ugly?” A little less sure of themselves now, the one boy said, “but he looks different.” I said, “oh yea, and you don’t think you look different? Maybe I should call you a freak.” I know I was being childish, because I knew better, but I couldn't help myself. I really wish I had a better comeback, to be honest, but I guess "ugly" is just as good.

I was pissed, and I was so hoping that their parents were nearby so I could walk up to them and say, “how old are your boys? Five? So it starts that young? So they are already bullies this young?” but I couldn’t find their parents. My stomach was in knots at this point, and all I wanted to do was kick the kids, and tell them that they would amount to nothing, because who gives them the right to tell my child that he looks like a freak? But I took a deep breath, and brought Owen up to the slide, and slid down with him. Then, he seemed to get a little more confidence, because next thing I know, he was climbing the slide by himself! By this time, the two boys had run off somewhere else, and all I could do was forge ahead. I wiped aside any emotional thoughts about the whole thing, and just concentrated on making sure Owen could play. At different times, older kids would come by and just want to use the slide, and I was just so taken aback at how rude they were, saying “can you move that little kid, he doesn’t belong on the big slide,” and then barreling on through as I was still trying to get him out of the way.

When Tess started crying, I was relieved. At least I had an excuse to leave the park. I had given Owen an hour of playing and even though he didn’t know anything was wrong, I was heartbroken. But I didn’t cry. Not until I was miles away from the park did my eyes water with tears and my throat hurt from trying to hold them back. I called Erik as I was leaving the park and told him what happened. I told him how I feel as if that park is full of rich kids who don’t know anything better, or how to behave. They are given everything, and they think they have every right to do anything they want without concern for anyone else. I know they are just kids, but I can see it already. Nobody said “excuse me,” nobody was polite, it was as if everything was there for their use only and if you were in the way, well, get out of the way. I told Erik that maybe it’s better that we don’t move to Studio City, maybe we are better off being in Hollywood, integrated with a different kind of society, maybe one that has been raised on manners. Is it my imagination, or am I finding that kids with too much money have no manners, and the Latino kids that go to school with Owen, who probably don’t have much, at least have respect and decency and manners? Do I really want to move to that neighborhood? It makes me wonder if Owen will be shunned by people because he is different. Will people treat him badly and call him a ‘freak’ the rest of his life? I told Erik that I want to have more kids just so they can protect him, and beat the shit out of kids like these when they treat Owen badly. And right now, I know I sound like a bitch, but I really do mean it. These kids may be 5 years old, but they are learning this from somewhere, and they are making it part of their personality. They probably could use a good spanking, at the very least.

And for all of you who read my blog, and have typical kids, please, do your child a favor and teach them to respect other people no matter what they look like. I know what a wonderful child Owen is, but when typical kids are mean, they learn it from somewhere, meaning their parents. If you are going to respond to my post and say that they are just being kids, then I hope I never meet your 'typical' kids, because they will grow up to be people that nobody will like.

I’m tired. I just want to forget what happened today, and I don’t really want to call anyone and talk about it, because I just can’t quite get my head around it all yet.


Blogger shellsbells said...

Your post today just made me cry because I know how you feel. To me, there's is NO EXCUSE for that type of behavior! Like I said, we are advocates for our children and if anyone is going to speak for them, it's us. Even if we are speaking to other children. Nobody has the right to make fun of anyone, especially someone who is pure and sweet. Something like this happened to us and it hurt. It hurt because we know how sweet and wonderful life with Owen is. We know all the cute and funny stuff he does and says. His struggles become our struggles and it's not easy, but at the end of the day when you feel those arms wrap around your neck in a hug, you know what's important in your life. It's certainly not the narrow minded little shits who feel superior by saying cruel things. It's the look on your child's face when he looks at you. I'm not sure what to say to make you feel better, just know that I understand.

4:21 PM  
Blogger Naomi said...

I'm so thankful that I haven't had that experience yet and so sad that you and Owen had to deal with those bratty kids.

So many kids seem to have absolutley no manners. At day care I quite often hear kids demanding juice or crackers from parents and the parents just meekly comply. I just want to take the kid and teach them how to say Please.

I saw a reply on another blog for when someone points out a difference in a child. It was to acknowledge the difference and then say ", and you can be friends". Maybe a little tame in this circumstance, it would depend on the kids tone of voice.

9:30 AM  
Blogger shellsbells said...

Thanks Naomi! I'm going to use that strategy!

11:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, we had a similar incident at nephew's birthday party. My SIL had family in town from another state, she has a large family and wow was I shocked.

I don't like big crowds in small confined spaces as it often adds up to trouble, and sure enough it did.

There was a boy there that was about nine, maybe. I don't know the relationship to my SIL, but I was just shocked at his conversation. I didn't blog about it because it was just too difficult for me---all of it.

So initially I try to sit my 5 year old and Miss E at their cousin's party table and the young boy says "hey that's not your spots, can't you read the cards".

I graciously say nothing and just comply moving them to other seating where he then says "hey, are you going to sit HER at this table?"

I ignore him at this point and go about my business. Soon I hear a conversation between my youngest boy and this other child that goes like this B(boy) C (my son):

B: "Does she have an infection?"

C: "No, she's my sister, what's an infection? Is that like when your toe fall off"

B: "No stupid, like something contagious, like something I could get sitting by her"

C: "She has a toe nail that is going to fall off because she dropped a pan on it, but she doesn't have an inflection"

B: "Well she looks like something is wrong with her"

C: "Nope, she's my sister, there is nothing wrong with her"

I bit my tongue, I knew that if I said the things I felt that my brother would not be happy, and I was in a room full of people who had things--they existed in a world that wasn't poor.

I would just be the poor single mom with a car load of kids, toting a child with a disability, that the talked about for hours after my departure....that is what I thought.

Later that evening I mentioned the concern to my step-mother. She responds as if she doesn't believe me at all. She begins justifying the boys actions... is there truly any justification in finding someone different as something wrong?

I didn't think so.

Well my commment has just turned into a post of its own, sorry about that. I just wanted to let you know that I too have had the displeasure of dealing with children that should have known better.

Many hugs

3:46 PM  
Blogger The Imperfect Christian said...

Oh, hon! I'm so sorry you went through this. People can be so mean (kids and adults.) That's ridiculous! We haven't experienced any of this yet, either, but I hope I have the strength to deal with it when we do!

12:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel for you.. As your sister with bright red hair...growing up I had other children who refused to play with me because I had this bright curly hair that looked different. Yes, I was hurt, but it also made me a stronger person and more compassionate to others who have different looks.
Luv Ya

10:55 AM  
Blogger zannetastic said...

Thank you all for your comments...I have really tried to move past this, and realize that life will happen and that all our kids, even our typical kids, will experience the pain of being called names. I just hope somehow we can teach other people to accept our children as they are. And maybe that's too much to ask in a society where people are killing other people...

5:16 PM  
Blogger vixanne wigg said...

Oh your post made me cry! I felt so bad for you and for Owen. That is not about money. I don't even think it's about manners. It's about empathy and teaching your child to treat others as you would want to be treated yourself. I know that "kids will be kids" but that was cruelty.

You know lots of people get picked on for looking and acting differently. I was literally tormented by a classmate as a child because I was chubby. That made me very sensitive later to picking on people because they were different. Kids need to be taught that words hurt, but if parents are doing that then I don't know how they will ever know that.

I'm sorry. :(

9:54 AM  
Blogger Shelley said...

Bravo - you were so corageous in dealing with it and not leaving the park - that was a great thing to do for Owen. As a teacher I don't think there is anything wrong in speaking to kids in a language they understand so long as we don't go overboard and always remember that we are the adults. I dread this happening to my daughter - sometimes I just wish we could fast forward past most of her childhood (especailly her teenage years) as surely adults won't be so cruel?? But then - watching her grow and learn is such an amazing thing - I don't really wish it away at all - in fact I often wish I could bottle ehr as she is now at 22 months. Peace

4:24 PM  

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