The Author

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I am a high school English teacher, and mother of two charming little ones of my own. I teach in a high poverty urban charter school, while I live in a typical American suburb that has frequently been rated one of the safest cities in the country. It is a paradox I struggle with constantly, but it is my life.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Preschool Neighbor Bully? What would you do?

I am seriously irked at the neighbor's kid. The family doesn't speak much English. The kids speak enough. The older kids speak more than the younger kids.

The youngest kid is probably Vinny's age, possibly a little younger. He and Vinny do not play together. However, his playground and Vinny's playground come up to about even level, so the two can see into each other's yards from the top of their playgrounds. As a result, they began talking shortly after we moved in, a little over a year and a half ago.

At first, I thought it was cute. This was when Vinny spoke only to the boy in English, and the boy spoke only in Spanish. Yet somehow, they seemed to have a friendship of sorts. Kind of cute.

Then about a year ago, the toys began to come over the fence. Usually when we are not home, and sometimes when we are, they for some reason throw their toys over the fence. It is not just the young kid. The older ones (by older, I mean like ~5-8 years old) have done it too.

When they see us in the backyard (from the top of the play structure), they ask us to throw their toys back over. We are usually pretty obliging about it. They even had Marc digging through thorn bushes for a tiny yellow dinosaur one day.

I am starting to wonder... how are the toys coming over the fence? An occasional baseball I would totally understand. But a soccer ball? A miniscule dinosaur? I don't get it.

Today, Vinny was outside playing (had already been outside playing happily for quite some time), when a soccer ball came over the fence. I hear Vinny say, "I'll throw it back to you. He goes over the the place where he can get closest to the fence and starts trying to send it back over, with no success. He was even less successful because Woody thought it was a game and kept trying to chase the ball away from him when it would hit the ground. I heard Vinny getting upset at Woody, so I went outside and got the ball. The kid starts yelling at me- and I do mean yelling (he now speaks some English), "Throw it back! Throw it Back! It's mine!" I was on my way to throw it back. Before I did though, I said to the kid, "Look, this is like item number 55 over the fence. Enough with the stuff over the fence." Then I threw it back and Vinny mimics, "Yeah! Enough with the stuff over the fence!" (Okay, that part was kind of cute).

A couple minutes later, I realize the kids are arguing again.

"Vinny, what's the problem."
"He wants the yellow ball."
"Is it his ball?"
"No, it's mine."
"Well, then it is yours, don't give it to him."

Next, Vinny comes to me, "Mommy, he wants my water gun." I recognize the gun as one we got him for his birthday party. "Well, its yours, don't give it to him." I hear the kid yelling, but I can't hear what he's saying. I hear Vinny yell back, "You can't have it! It's mine!" Vinny is starting to get rather aggressive in his yelling. Then Vinny comes to me again, "Mom, he says he is going to hit me if I don't give him my gun." I tell Vinny to just completely ignore the kid, don't listen and don't say anything back. The next time the kid says something, Vinny yells, "I'm not talking to you!"

I go to the door to tell Vinny to just say nothing, but at that moment, I see the kid (actually saw him this time) chuck the soccer ball back over the fence. He immediately starts to yell for it back. I tell Vinny to come inside and tell the kid, "Nope! Not this time. If you want it back, you will need to tell your parents to come get it."

I feel like I did the right thing. Marc told Vinny he could go back outside, but Vinny didn't want to. I think it is better to avoid the situation for right now. I intend to throw the kid's ball back over the fence tonight. I don't want to steal his ball or anything; I just don't feel like he should have the instant gratification of getting his stuff returned to him when he is obviously just being obnoxious. Plus, I have considered that he is intentionally throwing things over the fence to try to claim extra stuff when he asks for it back, in hopes we will not realize it wasn't his to begin with.

Seriously... why do they start this junk so early? Is this a frightening preview of things to come?

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