"Mom, that Matt is a total ass-hole!"
"Huh?!" I was a bit confused. I don't know this kid. What happened? Just about 30 minutes earlier, Jake had come to me and asked if he could go to the candy store and get a root beer. I had said yes, produced some cash and told him that he could also pick me up a loot bag of candy.
That place makes some mean grab bags of gummies, you see.
So off Jake went. He got his root beer, a bag of candy for himself and one for me, and sat outside to enjoy his treat. Until a group of kids walked up to him, that is.
One of the kids first tried to take his wallet, which Jake thwarted. So the kid instead went after one of the bags of candy; the bag that Jake had bought for me.
"Hey, that's for my Mom!" Jake tried to grab at it.
"Why don't you tell your Mom, 'Get off your fat ass and get down here and buy it yourself, bitch!'? " He ran off with the candy, eating it as he went. None of the other kids were very impressed. One even asked the kid why he was being such a jerk, but nobody actually stopped him. Not even the woman who was inside the store, nor the clerk, who both saw what happened.
"I went inside and told the clerk what happened, but she just charged me for another bag of candy."
It was at this point in the story that I stopped Jake. Apparently this wasn't new; in fact, this same kid had done this before, but now instead of just swiping a few from the bag he's gotten bolder and is stealing the entire thing.
"Get in the car. We're going to the store."
I'm not sure what I was expecting to happen. We've been here before, you know. Things happen, other adults witness it, and nobody does anything. When I explained that Jake's candy had been stolen, the women sympathized but then said,
"Oh, I thought it was just kid stuff. We really can't do anything, you know. Why not call the parents?"
Right, let's call up the Mom, who I've never met and who could be a potential psycho. In another community we called a Mom, and then the woman harassed Jake daily until I finally threatened her with a restraining order. Jake isn't stupid or naive, either. He's been the target of the best of bullies, right down to the death threats in his desk, a rope wrapped around his neck and yanked until it left angry red welts, and a kid that punched him daily.
Jake also knows that when a kid is bullying you, even though the school rhetoric is to tell an adult, adults always say "We can't do anything." So according to him, what's the point? Over the years our talk has gone from "ignore the bully" to "if the kid takes your wallet and you have to punch him to get it back, make it a good one."
It's not just a bag of candy; it's a reflection of a community, of a society that talks the talk and says all the right things. Oh sure, we have anti-bullying programs and we teach the kids to talk about their feelings, but when it comes to crunch time-when it really counts, the adults cop out. The bullies, of course, know this. So they run wild until they hit 12, and then they learn to dance on the edges of the law so they don't get charged.
Everyone then says, "Oh what a rotten kid. But you know, we can't do anything." Naw, we can't ban him from a business, or at the very least tell him to get lost because then we'd actually have to get involved, and nobody really likes to do that now, do they? It's too messy and uncomfortable...but you know, if an adult was harassing customers, there wouldn't be even a second thought to booting the jerk off the premises.
As Jake and I rode home, I told him to just let it go.
"Bullies always get their karma. He'll get to high school and some bigger, meaner kid will shove him into a locker and knock him off that pedestal. Just wait, you'll see."
"It might not even take that long, Mom."
"What do you mean?"
"Well...you know a lot of the high school kids, and they like you. I'm sure most of them wouldn't like it that he called you a fat bitch, would they?"
"Hmmm. I guess not...."