I remember the first time I laid eyes on him...reddish blonde hair, blue eyes, freckle faced.
Not yet two, hoisted on his momma's hip and slapping her in the face as she tried to introduce herself to me-the new neighbor a few doors down. I felt sorry for her but I figured he had missed a nap, was teething, getting sick/just getting over something... or one of the myriad of excuses we give when our kids go ballistic.
We spent a lot of time together over the years both by choice and necessity.
His speech was delayed and he bit CONSTANTLY...as in several time a day. Obviously he was frustrated and had difficulty communicating. We tried to be patient and supportive thinking that he would grow out of it, offering strategies to try. He got new tubes, attended speech therapy and we kept hoping.
And yet he was still biting at 3 and at 4 and at 5 years old. Biting the other kids through their clothes and leaving teeth marks. Attacking them and drawing blood. Biting his parents. Giving kids bloody noses, tackling them on the trampoline. Kicking, hitting, screaming, grabbing toys, destroying things. Completely unprovoked.
We learned early on there was no point in discussing it with his parents. It was NEVER his fault. Someone else had done or said something to him. He was "just standing up for himself". They made some brief attempts at discipline but there was no follow thru. He would literally laugh in their faces, take a swing at them and run off to play.
Here it is six years later.
Einstein (my 10 yr old son) and his friend standing in our driveway- two eager fifth grade band students so thrilled they can play an actual song. They are giving a concert in OUR driveway- you know the one in front of OUR garage, the garage that is attached to OUR house, the house I pay OUR mortgage on every month. Is that the one you are picturing? Good, just making sure you are still with me.
I am inside scrambling to corral supplies for our Brownie meeting in 15 minutes. The windows are open and I hear yelling which is commonplace in our neighborhood chock full of kids. I think nothing of it and continue exhibiting my mad planning skills aka grabbing random items to be used for our Dancersize Try-it.
It is not until that night at bedtime that Einstein shares the deets with me.
"Mom I think you need to stop taking Evan (so not his real name!) to school."
"Why do you say that?" I ask as I try to rush the kids through the good night routine at warp speed.
"Because he is rude and I'm tired of him getting away with everything. His parents don't care what he does."
Clearly it isn't going to be a short and sweet goodnight. I ask Einstein to tell me more.
"He was yelling at us to shut up and calling us stupid."
Using my investigative journalism skills (of which I have none) I get the inside scoop.
Fast forward to Tuesday afternoon:
I couldn't have set the scene better if I was a movie producer. After school Tormenter runs over to me, chasing my 4 yr old and laughing with the other kids. I continue my conversation with another parent and then say "let's go." He starts to follow and I bend down to his level and say "I am not giving you a ride home today and you know why."
He stops in his tracks and looks shocked.
I kindly say "Remember what you said to Einstein yesterday?"
He stares at me, his face scrunching up.
He won't meet my eyes and stutters quietly, "I just asked him to be quiet."
LIES LIES LIES LIES LIES LIES LIES
I smile sweetly because I ALWAYS smile sweetly. I do too!
"No, tell me what you really said."
He was immediately defensive, glared at me and shouted "Well,Trent did it too!"
He still won't take responsibility for his behavior.
"Well if he did that was rude. But I don't give him a ride home. So, what did you really say?"
"I told him to shut-up," he says looking down at his feet.
"Did you tell him or yell at him?"
"Hmm, so you yelled at him. Where was Einstein when you yelled at him?"
Still not looking up he responds, "In your driveway but I didn't like it."
"He was standing in my driveway on my property NOWHERE near you and you thought it was okay to scream at him to shut up?"
There's no stopping Momma23monkeys now!
"So I guess that means I can come down to your house and yell at you to stop playing basketball, " I say in my sweet voice.
Tormentor responds, "No."
I have been circling around long enough. Time to go in for the kill.
"What you did was mean and rude. I won't let you treat people like that. I do not give mean, rude people rides home from school."
Tormentor was in shock that he was going to suffer a consequence for his behavior.
I apologized to his sister, "I am sorry I can't give you a ride home since you did nothing wrong. But I know you have to go where he goes and he is not getting a ride from me."
As far as I can tell they got a ride home from another neighbor, which sucked for me. But as they walked past our lawn Stinkbug shouted, "You can't play at our house!"
I quickly burst through the front door fist pumping and smiling sweetly...yes I was!
It doesn't really matter he was saying that because Peanut had art class and we wouldn't be home.
Tormentor didn't know that.
That was Tuesday. It is now Friday and he has steered clear of us since.
His mom pretends like it didn't happen. I know for a fact his Big Sis told her I haven't been offering them a ride home.
How do you respond to neighborhood tormentors?