When we first moved into our house almost 10 years ago, there were really no kids in the neighborhood. Or, kids under the age of 12 is a more accurate statement.
The neighborhood was a combination of rentals and new owners. The longtime owners had already raised their kids and were empty nesters. But even those people were few and far between.
We had hope though. We represented the people buying into the neighborhood. People who didn’t want to live in the suburbs (not that there is anything wrong with that) and who would rather be part of a renewal effort of this old neighborhood. Or, at the very least, weren’t put off by the once violent history of North Portland.
North Portland was the site of gang violence during the 80s and early 90s. Drugs, gangs, drive-by shootings were all the norm. A handful of the older residents in our neighborhood tell stories about creating watch groups which would actively patrolled the 3-block by 3-block neighborhood which makes up our little area. They told stories about logging activities, working with police and literally chasing this out of the neighborhood. They were proud of what they had done. Proud that they could create a place for their kids that was safe and without this crime. Jimmy who is now in his 60s still proudly tells the story – he was the ring leader of their efforts. He had a daughter, and he wanted to keep her safe.
Today, there are kids everywhere. DJ is one of 6 nine year olds in the neighborhood – and the only girl. Indigo and two others are in the minority age wise, but like all little kids they are determined to keep up.
There is a single mom who lives next door to us who has three kids – 9, 5, 3. She works her ass off to keep food on the table and a roof over their head. She is a proud woman who never asks for help despite the fact any one of us would help her out. She is embarrassed when someone helps her as I think her goal is to not be a burden.
Her oldest child is a 9 year old boy. She puts a lot of responsibility on him – a lot more than a normal 9 year old has or, in some cases, should have. As a result, he has become the bully. He picks on his siblings, he picks on my kids, he picks on the other kids. DJ tends to be his focus though. Why? She isn’t a follower like the others. If he is being a jerk, she walks away. And, if pushed, she will tell him why.
I should point out that he is not doing the “I like a girl, so I’m punching her” sort of thing which is normal at this age. He is mean. He picks on her. He tries to tell her she isn’t as strong as he is. He is always challenging her. This was his mistake.
Last night, the kids were all outside playing. All seemed well. The dogs are pretty tuned into this gang of kids and the treatment of our kids within it. As odd as it sounds, if they start going nuts, I know something bad is happening that will require an adult. They are always right. Last night, they were calm. All seemed to be well. Our checks outside confirmed it.
DJ came running into the house. This is the norm when the weather is nice, so I didn’t think of it. Until Garbanzo went storming out of the house. I asked DJ what had happened.
The bully had decided to grab her arm, she asked him to let go, she tried to pull away, but he wouldn’t let go. So, she used her Haikito (taekwondo self defense) on him…..successfully. This managed to make him mad. She had shown him up – and, well, the fact she is the only girl probably had something to do with it as well. Each time he tried to show her up by trying to hurt her, she turned the tables on him. I think she said she had him on the ground at one point. (I am actually impressed if she did that because this is the latest Haikito that had given her grief mainly because to do it properly, you risk hurting someone. She’s being a little too shy about using.) When she let him up, he tried to kick and hit her. She is really fast, and ran home. She knew that she could really hurt him if she were to kick back – and decided it was time for an adult.
The last time this happened, DJ didn’t say anything. She didn’t fight back at all. In fact, it took some prodding before she told us what had happened. We pointed out that she could use her taekwondo – especially her Haikito – in situations like that. I mean, that is one of the reasons you learn it – self-defense. She was so wrapped up in the promise to never use it outside of class that the thought hadn’t even crossed her mind. The fact she just reacted and let herself use it, but showed self control over which parts she used was something that made us proud.
I think she surprised herself too. She was not upset that it happened. If anything, she was feeling powerful. She had taken care of herself, didn’t get hurt, and showed the neighborhood boys that she was not weak. I will now have to officially stop worrying that she won’t take care of herself if the situation arises. I now know that she will not be passive, but will stand up for herself. Until this incident, I was not sure.
Oh, and I should mention that Garbanzo whipped out the teacher voice on that kid. Fifteen minutes after he came in, I went out and all of the kids were gone. I can’t help but wonder if their mom had heard and pulled the kids inside. These are times when I’m glad I’m married to a teacher. He just knows how to handle the kids and parents – and not create a war amongst the neighbors.
With the nice weekend we are expected to have, it will be interesting to see how things go with the kids. I have too much shit to get done outside today, so if they don’t watch it, I will put them all to work. Hmmm….maybe I should hope for that…..