No, I'm right on the front lines. Dodging screaming sweaty kids, while watching out for The Boy. And occasionally, pushing another kid on the swing or helping them navigate the playground equipment and sometimes even cheering them on because they look so proud when they do something cool and look so bummed that their parents aren't paying attention.
Sometimes, I watch other kids staring at The Boy. The older he is getting, the more frequent it's become. I am working up the courage to address the starers.
But today was a playground first. Two little girls (sisters) laughed at The Boy.
They were between seven and nine years old. The first time it happened, I approached one of the girls who I overheard talking about The Boy. She said something about not wanting to play near him because he was making funny noises. I tried to explain that Norrin has trouble talking and makes noises when he gets excited. But since had no interest in playing with the girls, I did not bother to make introductions.
Moments later, the sisters were playing on the merry-go-round when The Boy ran and joined them. The girls were having trouble making it go around and I was willing to help since The Boy was there. (The girls parents were sitting on a nearby bench.) As I walked over, I heard the girls giggling and the girl I had spoken to was repeating what I was saying and laughing. When she saw me, she covered her mouth but she was still laughing at The Boy. So was her sister.
I gave the merry-go-round a push. But the girls kept laughing, staring at The Boy. Not really caring that I was there or that The Boy could see them.
And The Boy?
Blissfully unaware and unbothered that these girls were blatantly laughing at him.
But I was aware. And I was bothered.
Because The Boy is barely seven. These girls slightly older than him. And they are laughing. What will happen when The Boy is twelve, fifteen, nineteen? Will he be pushed around, cursed out or beat up? Will it bother him then?
I was bothered because The Boy had not bothered them in any possible way. He did not taunt them or push them out of the way. He did not deserve to be laughed at.
I stopped the ride, grabbed The Boy by the hand and told him we were going to another playground.
I wanted to scream at those girls for laughing. I wanted to ask them how they would feel if I started laughing at them because of something they did. I wanted to yell at their parents, who had not bothered to look up a single time.
I've been angry ever since.
It is not okay to laugh at The Boy.
It is not okay to laugh at anyone for being different. That's how bullying begins.
I should have never left the playground. I should have stayed and stood up for The Boy. I should have reminded the girls that it's never nice to laugh at someone who is different. I should have gone up to the parents and explained the situation.
Why should I have to accept except it as kids just being kids?
Why is bullying, the kind of "typical" behavior that's acceptable and The Boy's "atypical" behaviors not?