Willow encountered her first bully today.
We've had some great luck so far. All of the children Willow has interacted with have been very sweet to her. The older girls are especially quite "motherly". I wasn't surprised that Willow has always been treated kindly -- after all, she's still just a baby. Who would want to be mean to an innocent baby?
Today at swim class, there was a girl about six or seven, coloring at a small table. Willow decided she wanted to make a friend, so she toddled over to her and handed her a crayon as a friendship offering. The girl shoved her hand away and stared her down with a spiteful look on her face, then proceeded to continue coloring. Willow tried again, confused by the reaction. The girl once again pushed her hand away... so hard that Willow dropped the crayon. The second Willow leaned over to pick it up, the girl quickly reached down and snatched it up first. Since Willow didn't know any better, she simply tried to reach into the crayon bucket to fetch another one. Instead, the girl grabbed the entire bucket and kept it out of Willow's reach so she couldn't have any. Willow reached for a different item on the table and the girl grabbed that as well, so Willow had nothing to play with. The girl handed the items to her friends and continued on coloring.
I watched the entire scene play out from a nearby chair, shocked by how this girl was treating a little baby. She maintained that spiteful look in her eyes the entire time -- she wasn't being silly or playing a game. She was being mean. For no reason. And she was old enough to know better.
I was mad. My heart was pounding. I wanted to march over to that girl and tell her what a mean brat she was and that I hope her life never amounted to anything. Obviously, I did no such thing. There was a crowd of people around me, not to mention I had every intention of returning to swim class next week. Instead, I walked over to Willow, picked her up, and said "Let's play somewhere else. That's not a very nice girl." I'm not sure if the girl heard me -- if she did, she didn't care. She didn't even blink. Of course, Willow tried a few more times to play with that girl but was only greeted with the same treatment.
Now, I was never good at sticking up for myself. I'm still not the best. I've become more outspoken with age, but it's still not my strong suit. But when it comes to my daughter, I have a fierce gut instinct to protect her and stand up for her. The only thing holding me back is the fact that I don't want the authorities called on me for making a child cry.
Any parents out there who've had experience with this? How do you react if you see your child being mistreated by another kid? What should I have done?