“My mummy-instinct kicked in, but now I’m worried I did the wrong thing.”

What do you do when kids cross the line in the playground?

My son is a sensitive little sausage.

In the lead-up to starting kindy this year, he declared he didn’t want to go to big school, thankyouverymuch. His Christmas holidays were tinged with doubt and dread. My husband and I rallied around, propping him up with positivity.

And lo and behold, when he started school in February, he was actually… happy. Not filled-to-the-brim bursting with happiness, but a sense of quiet contentment. The first few weeks went by without a hitch.

But my bubble burst when he started crying in his sleep some days ago. One morning, I could sense his apprehension growing as the clock tick-tocked towards nine.

“I don’t feel too well. I think I should stay at home,” he pleaded.

“Nerves,” I thought. “It’s finally dawned on him that school’s the real deal and he wants out.”

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It was a long walk to school that morning. Each step he took was laborious. He wouldn’t let go of my hand. At morning assembly, his teacher had to peel him off me, his tears as heavy as lead as they fell on my heart.

Next day, same story.

And the next…

Left out from the in-crowd

And then, a few nights ago, it all came out, faltering at first, but then in a gush, like he needed to get it out. Turns out four boys from Year 1 had been following him around the playground, teasing and taunting him.

"Teeny!" they kept calling him. (Yes, read that first sentence I wrote. The emphasis is on the word 'little'.)

He told them to stop it; that he didn't like it. Several times. But they pursued him every lunch break, day after day. Relentless. In a pack.

My heart crumbled. And then my hackles stood on end. My mummy-instinct to protect my progeny revved up a few notches. How dare they mess with my child? How can they gang up on a kid who is, let's face it, half their size? I was seething. Bullies. Big. Mean. Bullies.

The mothering instinct to protect your child

"Calm down," said my husband. "Maybe these boys don't realise the harm of their actions. Maybe it's a case of 'boys being boys'. Let him speak up more forcefully and tell them that what they're doing is wrong. Let him learn to fight his own battles. When he faces his fears and confronts them, it will boost his confidence."

I didn't listen.

I had a quiet word with his teacher. She was shocked.

"We do not tolerate such behaviour at our school," she stated. And proceeded to take prompt action. Those four boys have since then had a serious talking to. They'll know better than to tease another kid again.

Ever since, my son has been sleeping right through the night, peace written all over his mighty-mite nighty-night face. But a little part of me wonders if I did the right thing. What if these boys' punishment exceeded the crime?

Should I have left my son to fight his own battles?

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