A not-so-funny thing happened on the way to see Santa

Dec. 07, 2013 @ 10:26 AM

On Black Friday, I went with my daughter to take the children to see Santa, who was appearing at a shopping “village” near her home in Huntersville, with a central courtyard, a giant tree, some singing bears, and a warm little hut where Santa sits on his throne.

Everyone who was anyone was there! The moment we entered the courtyard fence, though, Georgie (7), whose hand I was holding, stopped cold, turned to me and looked up, seeming frightened to death. His face had gone pale; I bent down to him, and his lips barely moved as he whispered, “Can we leave?”
“What is it, honey?” I asked, thinking he was feeling sick.
He leaned toward me, again barely mouthing, “There’s a bully from my class here. I need to go, can we just go?” He truly seemed terrified.
I looked around, asking, “Where? Which one is he?”
“I’m not telling you, Gaga,” he said firmly, pulling my hand. “Can we go?”
Instead, I guided him to a bench and made him sit beside me, waving Louise and the other two kids on to the Santa line. 
“Can you at least tell me his name?” I asked calmly.
“It’s Jared, OK?” he said impatiently, “can we just leave?”
“No, George, we can’t,” I answered firmly. 
I asked him what kind of bullying was going on, and fortunately it hadn’t turned physical yet, although the kid was bigger (a third-grader) and got a thrill out of yelling “bad words” at George on the playground.  What bad words?  “Idiot ... loser ... coward ... stupid.” To Georgie, those are awful words, words that hurt, words that damage, day after day.
(Naturally, his grandmother was dying to slaughter every third-grade-looking boy there, but I held myself admirably still.)
“What do you do when he does that?” I asked.
He shrugged.  “Just ignore it,” his eyes slid sideways. “He’s going now.”
I looked over and saw three children and a mother going out the gate, picking out the probable offender, once again restraining myself ... ADMIRABLY!
I turned back to Georgie. “George, you’ve been taking Tae Kwon Do for nine months now. Still like it?”
“I LOVE it!” his eyes shone.
“Has your teacher told you anything about handling bullies?” I asked.
“Yes,” he replied solemnly, “Master Hardle says that you never use your skills until someone gets physical with you first, then you can use Tae Kwon Do.”
“That’s right, George,” I matched his solemnity. “So, if that boy ever gets physical, you know how to defend yourself, right?” He nodded. “And, do you know that if you ever do have to defend yourself, you will not get in trouble? From Mom and Dad, or from school, either. Otherwise, Mom and Dad -- and GAGA -- will be in the principal’s office pronto!”
I can’t explain the realization that slowly grew on that little angel’s face as my words sank in. A smile began deep down inside and spread upward as his head slowly rose, as if a light began shining in there, starting from his toes.
“Let me ask you a question, Georgie,” I went on. “Would you like Jared to be king of the world? In charge of everything you do or say? Everywhere you go?”
The smile disappeared, replaced with horror. “No way!” he said.
“Well, when we got here, you made him king of the world,” I said. He looked at me as if I had two heads. “You were allowing him to decide that he should be here and you should not. Letting him make you leave a place you want to be. He got to be king of your world, didn’t he?”
Mercifully, I had the sense to shut up and watch as my words worked their way inside. I only said one more sentence.
“No one should be king of your world but you! And Mom and Dad,” I added prudently.
Then, I read the newspaper crime log yesterday. “Man charged with assault on a female,” “Husband charged with attacking wife with switchblade,” “Man arrested for repeated child abuse,” “Adult male accused of attacking elderly father and aunt,” “Man jailed for assault on young mother.” 
Bullies. All of them. Everywhere. Oh, they may have had a bad home life. Maybe their parents were bullies, maybe they have psychological problems, and you know what? I don’t give a rat’s rear end! 
There are way too many more people who’ve grown up poor and/or abused or bullied who have stopped that train in its tracks, and have become outstanding, productive, kind people. If one can do it, so can another.  There is NO EXCUSE FOR IT ... EVER!  From first grade to old age, there is no excuse. 
So, Jared's mother: Pay attention. Listen. To yourself, to your husband, to your child.  And when you see or hear it, crack down. Hard. Teach him how to be a good man, not a man who thinks he’s king of the world.

Vicki Wentz is a local writer, teacher and speaker. Readers may contact her at chh@heraldsun.com, or visit her website, www.vickiwentz.com.