We didn’t have a lot of money. We weren’t poverty stricken. It’s not like I was eating out of a can of beans that I shared with my brother and sister over a fire made in a barrel. But we certainly weren’t well off. The houses in the town I grew up in were HUGE. These are mansions that sell for upwards of $13,000,000 now. I knew a lot of the kids who lived in those houses but we weren’t friends. All the kids knew each other because we would all congregate at the public pool in the summer, we’d ride our bikes up and down the suburban streets, and run around in the forest. Problem was there was always a disconnect. Those kids that lived in those huge houses, well, they were dicks. It’s only really through retrospect that I realize it. I didn’t know that when I was 8. It was this kind of feeling that they knew they were better off than myself and several other kids in the neighborhood. But they outnumbered us. So when 3 or 4 of them would pin me down and feed me grass it was supposed to be that way because I was one of the poor kids. It was made worse by the fact that their parents seemed to have the same outlook, which is most likely where they got their behaviour from. But I wanted so badly to be a part of that group, I wanted to be their friend. The more I tried to ingratiate myself to them the more they took advantage of my good nature. Stealing my comics, bullying me even taking the little bit of money I had to go buy themselves candy from the store the next town over. Like dude, you live in a house with 10 bedrooms and you need my $3? What the shit is that?
I was always a shy kid, I wasn’t able to just approach people and become friends with them. I mean I’m friendly enough and I make friends easily once I’m comfortable but I would always be afraid of approaching groups of kids I didn’t know. It’s a trait that has carried into adulthood but luckily my kids have seemed to be able to avoid this social awkwardness. So because I was so shy I guess I was more trusting of these kids, or more wanting to be a part of their group. They seemed so cool. They had cool bikes, big houses, they were members of the yacht club and went on vacations. Of course I wanted to be one of them. But know I realize I had something they didn’t have. I had parents who paid attention to me, who encouraged me to pursue my interests. I wasn’t coddled but I wasn’t ignored. I had freedom but also limits. They did their best with what they had. We never went without at Christmas, we always came down to piles of presents under the tree (paid for with he change and money they’d been able to save over the year).
I think as jealous as I was of those rich kids who bullied me and treated me like shit, they may have been equally as jealous of me. My parents actually cared about me, took an interest in my life, they sent me outside to explore and learn not just because they didn’t want me around. I can’t say for sure that this is what was happening behind the walls of those mansions but more and more it seems likely. I was just a kid what did I know. Maybe their parents were around and did pay attention to them and they just raised shitty kids. But they certainly weren’t taking an interest when their children were pinning me to the ground and shoving handfuls of grass and dirt in my mouth, or beating me, or stealing my comics or money. And they saw. I remember lying on the ground, tears streaming down my face as one of them sat on my chest, laughing as he made me eat the fresh grass. His parents were sitting in lawn chairs on the soccer field at the pool not 50 feet away from us. Nothing. Not a word of admonishment, not a raised eyebrow, didn’t lift a finger to help. This is the way the world is, their kids were strong and showing their dominance. I was weak, to be dominated.
I can’t stand bullies. I talk to my kids about it, I make sure they treat everyone with respect. You don’t know what’s going on at home or in their lives. Don’t add to it by being an asshole. And it’s just bad mojo. But back in those days it wasn’t like it is today. Bullying wasn’t viewed as a problem. It wasn’t seen as something that needed to be stopped. It was a part of life. There were bullies and the bullied. If you were too weak to stand up for yourself no one was going to do it for you. At least that’s how it was in my little social circle.
All that being said don’t let your kids be dicks. If you see them being a dick call them out on it. Even if it isn’t your kid. If you see some kid pushing around another kid who looks scared and uncertain step in. Kids need heroes. There’s too much evil in the world, too many problems that a kid shouldn’t have to worry about if the bully from his neighborhood is going to take the comic book he bought with his only couple of dollars. Someone needs to speak up for the poor kid in a rich town.