I didn't sleep a wink last night, and it had nothing to do with back to school. Jonas had another run-in with the neighbourhood bully yesterday. He came home in tears because the bully had thrown a rock at him and then took his bike, hid it and wouldn't give it back. I don't know what precipitated it, but I asked him to go back and tell the bully that the game is over now and he needs his bike back. The bully's response was "Too bad Jonas. Everyone hates you and you're never going to get your bike back."
I usually let them work things out on their own as long as nobody is getting hurt but this was over the line so I intervened. The bully was swimming in the pool with his big brother and his older friend so I got no end of attitude when I asked him if he took Jonas's bike. "I don't have it!" the bully yelled at me, as his older brother yelled "Don't tell her anything! You don't have to do what she says!"
As the mother of the older brother's friends looked on in stunned silence, I said "I know you don't have it now but you took it and that's stealing. I'd like you to get out of the pool and go and get it now." As the bully climbed out the pool and got his shirt and shoes on, I was serenaded with a chorus of "Don't do it!" and "Don't worry, Dad will take care of her!", while the other kids' mom hushed them and told them to stay out of it.
As Jonas, the bully and I walked to where the bike was hidden, I was stunned. He smugly told me that it wasn't stealing because he didn't have the bike, and there was nothing I could do about it anyway, blah, blah, blah.
Enough is enough. It's time for another level of intervention. When the bully pulled the bike out of some bushes, I asked Jonas to take it home and asked the bully to introduce me to his parents. He refused and ran off, so Jonas showed me which house was his. I rang the doorbell, reminding myself not to put the parents on the defensive. The bully's mother didn't come to the door, but rather spoke to me through one of the house windows. I told her what had happened and that I just thought she should know. She barely acknowledged what I had said and then closed the curtain. I thought maybe she was coming to the door to talk to me but she didn't. In fact, she didn't seem to do anything. Her sons were left to play in the pool, and we heard them playing in the park later.
I'm at my wit's end about what to do about this situation. Steve and I talked and agreed that we're not going to let Jonas play with the bully anymore. We've asked him to stay clear of him and not try to be friends with him anymore. Yes, they do have some good moments together but it ends in tears and violence every time, and now we're clearly skirting theft. We don't want our son bullied, and likewise don't want him to be blamed getting in trouble because he's hanging around kids who are clearly asking for trouble.
The challenge now is, how do we keep them apart without punishing Jonas. The neighbourhood is common ground for each of them, and asking Jonas so sacrifice his play areas feels kind of like giving into the bullying. Likewise, I don't want to have to chaperon him every time he's out. Kids need their freedom and latitude to make their own decisions, etc.
I sure do wish that parenting guide book was available sometimes!