I’m passing by a school. A woman is ranting to a child. One arm on her hip, one arm held aloft, finger waggling vigorously; voice raised. I’m witnessing an adult bullying a child. There are other people: another child, another adult.
I hesitate. It’s none of my business. But that’s for a fraction of a second. Then I walk in. The boy has been ‘troubling’ the woman’s son for days. So this mother thought that she would ‘warn’ the child off. The child who was being yelled at did have an adult accompanying him—a maid; which in the power equation being played out, meant nothing. The other child, the ‘victim’ stood apart, gloating—enjoying his moment of being a lion after days of being cowed down. I challenged the same parent to rant to the same in child in the presence of the child’s parent. My “I think instead of pulling up the boy, you should speak to his parents” was met with bluster.
Last month I went to pick my son from his squash class to find him looking worried. He responded to my presence with a distracted ‘hi’ and hurried off. Behind him was a woman. I hurried after them. Apparently my son was playing with her son and now her son’s ball was missing. So, while her son was eating dosa, she decided to collar my fellow to hunt for her son’s ball. “I’m sorry,” she informs me tersely, when I ask her what she thought she was doing, “I’m borrowing your son.”
It takes me to the time when I was a child. Always up to mischief, always goading the group of kids who I played with, into mischief. Invariably a parent would come over and decide to ‘protect their poor baby’ by hollering at me and ‘warning’ me off. I always felt small. The parent pulling me up was always the giant.
No matter what the crime is, and kids can be mean, how does it help if an adult comes over and does exactly what they are feeling incensed about: shouting at a child, using their size and their position as an adult to make a point? As a child I always felt wronged and I always wanted to shout back—but intimidation froze me over.
Lecturing a kid, pulling them up, or shouting at an unaccompanied child should be punishable. I find adults who use their presence, their size and their vocal cords as adults to ‘deal’ with children, despicable. The thing is, there are no rules in the inter-personal world. And an unaccompanied child (or a child accompanied by a maid) either learns to fend for himself/herself or gets used. Period.