Irene came, saw and uh…left. Perhaps the rows of windows duct taped in Xs, zigzags and random desperation made her laugh at our attempts to contain her. While some folks feel cheated out of a good show (!), it merely frees up my overstuffed worry trunk and allows me to ruminate over other problems I seem to have no control over – like bullying.

Bullying amongst children has gotten a lot of attention in recent years and I’ve greyed my hairs some at the prospect of sending a 5th percentile by weight Nibbles to public school kindergarten where he’ll be the youngest in his class thanks to the day he decided to enter the world. It doesn’t help that I’m a total pushover with no helpful tips on how to stand up for oneself.

Being a mother hen, however, I have to fight the blood-boiling urge to start cluck-clucking and violently flapping my wings when another child taunts Nibbles in an attempt to find his breaking point. I usually wait to let Nibbles sort it out by himself, and flash the occasional leave-my-kid-alone-or-I’ll-have-you-for-breakfast glare when the bully refuses to simmer down.

This morning by the slides was the Playground Bully. PB has developed quite the reputation for himself amongst toddlers and their moms, and Nibbles got to experience his moves first-hand: pushing, spitting, dangling his leg mid-air and a host of other lovely behaviors that were conveniently ignored by his grandma. Grandma tried to divert my attention with a developmental milestone contest between baby byte and her younger grandson, which only pissed me off further.

In the midst of my teeth-crunching and glaring, I was surprised by how calm Nibbles remained and felt helpless when he asked, “Mamma, why does that boy do that?” I muttered, “Maybe he does not know how to be nice. Maybe he just wants to be friends”. Ah yes, everyone’s an angel and it’s our fault for not seeing it. WTF! Why am I transferring my please-allow- me-to-lie-down-so-you-can-do-the-irish-jig-all-over-me attitude? Nibbles even said “sorry” when PB rushed down behind him on the slide and pushed him off because he thought he was in PB’s way, and PB just cracked up, “sorry! haha! let’s do it again”

I don’t want Nibbles to push back, but I don’t want him to be pushed around either. I want him to be firm without whining or apologizing. I want him to be a fighter without getting into a fight. I want him to believe in the inherent goodness of people and I want him to know that people can be assholes. I want him to know how to be smart enough, strong enough, brave enough and safe enough to be Nibbles.

So far, it looks like he has a better handle on this than I do, but I worry it may not be enough. I wish I could do more than just stand there and watch his childhood being chiseled away till it forms the likeness of a grown man. I do the only thing I know how to do – I squeeze him till his ribs are about to pop and hope that he feels my presence whenever he needs it.