A few weeks ago I was walking through my neighbourhood, with my daughter in front of me pedalling her tricycle.
We were on our way home from the park and my daughter was crying. Nothing too serious, she always cries when we leave the park.
Other than a whimpering toddler, things were going good until we were followed by three teens, about 16 or 17 years old.
I am not one to be fearful of teens or paint them all with the same brush. In fact, I really like rebellious teens and have a soft spot for misunderstood youth.
But these teens were making fun of me for my weight and saying things I wouldn’t want to see in print.
It was two girls and a boy, but it was one of the girls who was doing the talking.
She carried on yelling loudly across the street to me. She made some hand gestures and continued to harass me – even crossing the street to walk behind me and my daughter.
The years I’ve spent in kickboxing and taekwondo would have really come in handy if I reacted how I wanted to (I have a pretty awesome roundhouse kick, if I do say so myself).
I have never punched someone without my boxing gloves or outside the ring. I’ve never punched someone because I was angry. Right then I sure felt close.
I looked down at my daughter, who was still crying, and thought about the message I wanted to send to her. So I kept my hands on the tricycle instead of on the girl’s face.
All kidding aside, I don’t believe in violence, it’s no better than the behaviour of those teens.
So I kept walking, listening to the taunts and contemplating the right way to respond. What should my reaction have been? Should I have followed them home and spoke to their parents?
I was angry and if I were to respond, I would have used some choice words my daughter doesn’t need to learn quite yet.
At one point I stopped to talk to my daughter and the teens walked past me. I looked them right in the eye and watched their faces turn humble.
Maybe that was enough.
These teens weren’t wearing hoods or smoking cigarettes. They were well-groomed and appeared to be straight out of an American Eagle catalogue.
I have written many stories on bullying and talked about the issue with kids, parents, teachers and police officers. Regardless of all the work people are doing, the problem is still here.
Bullying is nothing new, but that doesn’t make it OK or some kind of rite of passage. There are kids killing themselves over things just like this.
It has been a long time since I have been bullied. Probably since I was in middle school.
I hope those teens look back on that evening a few years from now and realize it’s too late to apologize to the stranger they mocked.
Do they realize the message they were sending to my daughter?
But hey, if you are reading this, it could have been your kid or grandchild. Would you be embarrassed to know a column was published about how disrespectful they were?
The whole situation is rather embarrassing for me, too. Before writing this, I never told anyone about my evening. I was trying to forget it ever happened.
Maybe this is why bullying isn’t reported to school officials or the RCMP. If, at age 30, I am too embarrassed to talk about it, how can we ever expect a child to?
Which is why I am writing this. I shouldn’t be embarrassed because of someone else’s poor choices.
Charla Huber is a reporter with the Goldstream News Gazette.