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 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, 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 sarcastic southern charm, “You have a nice day now, ya’hear?” 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.
When it comes to my boy, she would be right.