My baby is such a little man. After yesterdays minor blip in the playground (sobbing into my neck) by the time his father got home he was stiff of upper lip once more. He recounted the tale of woe to his father while they both sat out in the garden with their usual late afternoon beverage – David with a glass of red wine and Mac with a glass of Ribena Toothkind - both sitting side by side on the bench by the lavender, right ankle propped effortlessly onto left knee. I love watching them together but at the same time feel a little bit jealous that I can’t share what they share. I know I’m mummy and yes I’m needed to wipe tears, tend to grazes and to just “be” but it’s not the same. I listened unashamedly as I prepared Lemon and Tarragon Chicken. David was coming out with some sound advice about not letting the bullies see that they’re getting to you (slightly hard when one is having face ground into tarmac?) and that all bullies are cowards and Mac just needs to find their Achilles Heel. My eyes were bubbling at this point (nothing to do with the onions I was slicing) as Mac reiterated that he’d had a “hobbible day daddy”. He sighed deeply and drained his glass. “And I’ve been trying so hard to be a big boy” he went on forlornly. I dropped my knife and headed for the wine bottle.
He went to bed at half past seven, in readiness for the morning. “I’m not going to be a silly boy tomorrow mummy” he said as I trawled through Treasure Island for the fifteen millionth time. I pointed out that getting upset and worried did not make him a silly boy and wondered what the hell his father had been telling him during the bits I couldn’t hear earlier. “No mummy but getting upset about silly bullies is silly” he responded, jutting out his little chin defiantly before snuggling under his duvet. I headed wine-wards again.
Mac and I arrived at school this morning in the rain, Mac wearing his brand new denim jacket (bought by Saskia – amazingly enough she got the right size) that made me think that we were asking for trouble. But then I realised as I watched him preen in front of the mirror that he needed the jacket for protection, to make him feel good about himself. How many times have I slapped on lippy and mascara when I need to feel better about myself? As I walked him to the classroom the Head approached us. She’s a nice enough lady but she could do with a bit less tie dye and a bit more Head and Shoulders. And you could braid the hair on her legs.
“Boys will be boys” she said as I broached the subject once Mac was safely settled on his chair. She also said “she’d monitor the situation” and that she’d keep “me abreast of developments”. Platitudes. I saw the monstrous children take up their positions in their chairs and the little girls either side of them actually winced as they did so. I can’t believe that they’re just picking on my child and told this Head this. “We have had some other comments” she admitted but refused to say whose mother had complained. I saw Nasty Nuala’s mother practically shove Nuala through the door. If Nasty Nuala – who once bit another child’s head because he wouldn’t give her the yellow crayon – is a bit dubious then something must be wrong.
It broke my heart to watch my little man wave goodbye and then actually leave him to the jackals. But I did it. Via Ayres for a large Danish and a hot chocolate. I then paced for about half an hour. The dogs picked up on my mood: Junior Dog had a Mad Moment and Middle Dog threw up in the flowerbed. Senior Dog slept through it all.
Bullying – in any form – is atrocious and I despise it and the people who do it. I was lucky enough not be bullied at school – the closest I ever got to being on the receiving end of a bully was when Louise Jacobs (the leader of our little gang in 4L) ignored me for one whole term because I’d dared to listen to the teacher during a tedious French lesson and not her. David was bullied at school – he was a Sea Cadet in Southampton – by an older, stronger boy who used to find it amusing to make all the younger children carry his bags and do all his homework. David said he did for him one night when it was his “turn” to do his English homework. By writing appallingly and spelling every other word wrong and handing the essay into the teacher before this boy could see it, he got his own back. Okay, said David, so he was beaten up and given Chinese burns, but the boy didn’t bother with him again.
Bullying can be something other physical. Some drivers bully other drivers by inching so far out at junctions until the oncoming car is forced to stop and let them go. I worked with someone who maintained their boss’s diary by using bullying. If there was a diary clash, this woman bullied and shouted her way to getting what she wanted, not caring about the trouble she caused and however many toes she trod on whilst doing it. Lydia admitted yesterday that she felt bullied into leaving The Avenue. Mike is increasing the pressure on her to see a solicitor about the house and the divorce and she feels bullied and put upon by the constant bragging about the baby.
I resisted the temptation to drive past the nursery during lunchtime playtime. If Mac was having a bad day and saw me, it might do more harm than good. But then if Mac WAS having a bad day, surely it was my right to protect him? I managed to hold on, by eating my body weight in custard creams and having ludicrous conversations with Janey about “first dance” choices. The current dilemma is between songs I’ve never heard of. Suddenly I feel old, weighed down by all my worries.
David arrived home, five minutes before I was due to leave to pick Mac up. We went together, to show a united front at the school gate. I felt ridiculously proud of David (I am proud of him obviously) that he’d cut short a meeting to pick his son up from school. He said his boss wasn’t happy and tried to bully him into staying even later than usual. The irony wasn’t lost on either of us. I was wobbly on my feet and was clinging to David’s arm. “If there was anything wrong, they’d have rung” he soothed. Hm, they didn’t yesterday, I pointed out morosely, envisaging a trip to A&E with my battered and bruised son.
The Head was in the playground as the children started leaving. We joined Tom’s mum Alison. Also at the gates was Mrs Mother of Bullies wearing skimpy vest top, leggings and trainers the size of tanks. Her gold glinted in the sun and the skimpy top revealed another three tattoos. David was shocked speechless as he looked her up and down. The baby was in the buggy playing with a gigantic set of keys. I saw Mac larking around with his friend Tom as they both left the building with Adam and Ben behind them. I pointed them out to David who set his jaw in a determined line. Mac spotted us and did what I call his little happy dance – he’s so pleased when he sees David in “unusual” situations. I can’t remember the last time David picked him up from nursery. “Daddee, daddee!” he yelled, still on school premises so having to restrain himself. “Daddeee, daddeeee” Adam and Ben chorused in high pitched voices, shoving Mac hard in the back so that he stumbled but didn’t fall.
I was rooted to the spot. Everyone was there. David and myself had witnessed it. The Head was about six foot away from them. Mrs Mother of Bullies had obviously also seen it as she had a face like thunder. It seemed like everything had frozen in time. Apart from Mac, who wheeled round to the monstrous pair and said “And so what?” in a tone of voice I’ve never heard him use before. Sarcastic, just like mine in fact. Oops. “Just because you haven’t got one!” Tom said loudly, jaw jutted a lot like Mac’s as they both stood there, hands on hips, facing their tormentors. Ben and Adam’s heads dropped and they seemed to shrink to half their size. I’d like to say that the whole playground burst into spontaneous applause at this little exchange but I wouldn’t lie to my dear friends. There was, however, a lot of smiling going on between parents and their children. The Head looked like she’d swallowed a wasp. “Oh God!” said Alison as she took in the scene before her. “I’ve told him that not everyone is lucky enough to have a mum and a dad” she said. Alison is very PC. There are times, however, when you can be too PC, OK!
Mac and Tom trotted up to us, looking both victorious and a little shamefaced at the same time. They really are sweet boys and hate unpleasantness. “We found their Akees Hill daddy!” Mac said defiantly, arms folded as he watched Ben and Adam mooch over to their mother who proceeded to castigate them loudly. Using very ripe language I might add.
We passed them, once again outside the chip shop on Nunhead Lane. Both boys had chicken and chips again, Mrs Mother of Bullies had a pie and the baby was this time gnawing on a saveloy. “Bye Mackenzie” Adam piped up as we strolled past. Mac stopped, turned to Adam and weighed up the situation. I held my breath. “Yeah, bye” he said with a little wave. Only David and I saw him punch the air in triumph.