it was gorgeous today after school, and as i'd just finished a run before pickup and was feeling good, we went to the park after school. D's usual buddy wasn't there, so he hooked up with another classmate he doesn't often hang out with, and i sat in the sun with the other kid's mom and chatted. she's 2 days overdue w/number 2, and we caught up a bit.
at one point i went off to chase Fynn who was having a ball, and saw/heard a growing murmur of kids off to my right. I looked over and saw about a dozen middle school kids (10 or 11 years old perhaps?) circling two boys wrestling on the ground. i heard angry words and racial slurs, though the fighting wasn't violent but almost slow motion. i saw one other mom watching, and waited to see what would happen. i didn't like it, but didn't see anyone getting physically hurt and so hesitated to step in. after some kicking and louder murmuring, i threw a 'hey guys, take it easy!' their direction, but not really effectively at all. the boy being ganged up on (or so it seemed) stood up crying, and was further taunted. some circling/re-engaging/stalking later, and he ended up leaving. going purely on appearances, he was of a different race than the rest of the kids, but i wasn't convinced that was the issue. i felt loath to intervene, both from my desire to avoid confrontation of all kinds, but also because i felt like it was too delicate a balance to step into. if i stopped it and didn't let him 'fight for himself' he might be further labeled a wimp. i felt stymied and powerless. 3 other parents also witnessed it, and non felt the urge to step in either. i don't really have regrets, but am not happy with it entirely either. what would you do?
the other, and far more disturbing incident, was in the little kids area. some of the same-age crowd (11 or so) was hanging out at a picnic table, and one of the kids threw and broke a bottle. they were chided for it, and looked a bit guilty. a few minutes later one of the girls headed to the bathroom, and her friend suddenly ran after her, shouting "don't do it, Patricia, don't you dare!!!" and then more yelling from the bathroom. A minute later both emerged, one holding the other's arms, and then she tossed a chunk of the bottle glass onto the ground. Patricia was marched off to the bench, sat down, and hugged hard. More "don't you dare's" and passionate words, and the tossing of the glass over the park-office roof, and more comments and mutterings. Patricia raced away again, in an angry but lethargic way, and was hauled back and hugged yet again.
She wanted to cut herself. While i know this happens far more than I'm aware of, I'd never seen it that directly before. She didn't succeed, her friends were on her in a second. The love was strong between them, and the sorrow equal to it. A glimpse of something that made me far sadder than the fight and the kids' ability to hurt each other. The desire to hurt yourself. a pain unimaginable to me, at least for now.