Most children don’t escape childhood without at least one run in with a bully. Usually it is a kid in the neighborhood or at school who inflicts emotional and sometimes physical distress on your child because they are insecure, are having a tough time at home, or are just wired that way. And as parents it breaks our hearts when we have to deal with the fallout of the emotional toll bullying can have on our children. But we also know that we need to teach our kids to stand up for themselves and handle it.
Instinctively when someone hurts our children we go into “mama bear” mode. You want to hurt my child—well you’ll have to go through me first. And when the bully who was targeting my child turned out to be a bunch of adults I was in a state of mama beardom that I didn’t even know existed.
Anyone who has lived in a community with a Homeowner’s Association knows that mean eight grade girls have nothing on HOA board members. There is no other bully on the planet quite like a Homeowner’s Association. And our sleepy little HOA which until five months ago had been completely laissez-faire with our little 32 home subdivision was taken over by members with an agenda and their first order of business was to take away the portable basketball nets our neighborhood children had played with for over the last five years.
When we received a letter fining us for the hoop in front of our home which had been there for over five years I thought that it must be a mistake. I assured my children they shouldn’t worry about it, I’d go to the next HOA meeting and get it all sorted out.
That meeting was probably one of the most frightening things I have ever witnessed. As you can probably guess truth is stranger than fiction and the human drama behind this initiative is as petty and awful as you are probably already imagining. I couldn’t believe a group of grown men and women were so bent on breaking a bunch of little kid’s hearts. What I learned at that meeting was that the drive to take our children’s hoops away from them was spearheaded by one of the newly elected board members who had a chip on her shoulder because her husband had been forced to move his work van due to enforcement of the community rules. In retribution she decided every rule needed to be enforced and appointed one of her crony neighbors to the board with the help of her other neighbor who was the board president to help her to rid our community of the handful of portable hoops that actually got our children off their electronics and outside playing with each other. It was essentially a fascist dictatorship of three targeting our neighborhood kids. Holy Mother of God what alternate universe had I stumbled into?
Of course my Pollyanna response was that we should vote to allow the hoops to stay and change the rules. And in fact at two meetings the board had agreed to do just that. I think they were hoping all us community members would just be happy with the lip service and go away. So I assured my children that this was a silly thing and to not get upset about it.
But, you guessed it, the board decided to not let the community vote on letting the hoops stay where they were. They said they controlled the amendment process not the community so we were S.O.L. I was incredulous.
I still haven’t told my children. As a parent I want to be their protector. The one who makes the boogeymen go away, who keeps them safe. And now I have to admit that I failed them. That sometimes the bad guys win. That bullies can hurt them after all. And it breaks my heart. I’m heartbroken for them but also personally I feel like for the first time in their lives they are going to see me fail to make it right for them. And that is a bitter pill to swallow. I keep telling myself it will make us both stronger. And I want to believe it but I can’t quite get there. No one ever said this parenting gig would be easy!