Prefacing the story you are about to read with a “this happens every day…somewhere,” is entirely appropriate. You’ll recognize the behavior because you’ve either been a witness to it or on one side or the other of the bullying fence.
Less common is the response that one mom who witnessed what was happening did when she stepped in.
“He looked like he had a very devastating time or surgery.”
The Target employee serving them had visible facial and cranial deformities. The staples in his head, a medical necessity, were showing as well, as were his drooping eyes. “He looked like he had a very devastating time or surgery,” she said.
The kids were even taking pictures of him and posting them on Snapchat.
The cashier’s’ condition was evidently more than fair game for teasing and mocking him.
They were even taking pictures of him and posting them on Snapchat.
Yes, this cruel bullying, as hard as it may be for some to believe, happens every day somewhere.
“My heart was racing, I am super non-confrontational.”
Backstrom’s emotions quickly went from saddened to enraged, and she would have none of it. Her instincts took over.
“My heart was racing, I am super non-confrontational,” says Backstrom. But this was not a situation that one could just walk away from. Many have under similar circumstances—not Backstrom. Not then and there. No way.
After leaving the store, Backstrom walked up to the group of kids and confronted them. She asked them how they could be so cruel? How did they think their cashier felt, knowing they were mocking him? She let them know that she saw and heard everything they said and did, even if some of it was missed by their victim. She also told them how it made her feel and how awful she thought it was.
“You were being very cruel to that man,” she told them.
Backstrom wasn’t done. She asked the kids how they were getting home, none were driving age. The kids shared that their mom was picking them up.
Perfect; Backstrom waited for their mother.
Backstrom was terrified—“I am dying inside,” she recounted—she didn’t know how this mom would react. But when their mom arrived, Backstrom described to her everything that had transpired.
The mom listened intently as the kids stood frozen, knowing they had been called out. The mom looked at the children, asked if this was true—“Yes, ma’am.”
Then she turned to Backstrom and said, “Thank you for telling me.”
The mom told Backstrom how she appreciated all she had done and assured her that there would be appropriate action taken at home.
“This mom is a freaking good mom.”
“As terrified as I was, sometimes it takes a village to raise these kids,” said Backstrom.
“This mom is a freaking good mom. She is a kind woman,” she said. “I just wanted to say to the lady whose kid just acted like a complete butthole in Target, you’re a really good mom and I didn’t get a chance to tell you that, and I hope you find this video. The way you handled that was with so much grace. I know you are about to go home and straighten your kids out and send some decent people into this world.”
Backstrom understands the reality of bad choices kids and all of us make on occasion. But these kids are still learning.
“This is a refining process for them,” she explained. And the flip side to teachable moments like she experienced and took action in is apathy that fuels silence and empowers more cruel behavior. In other words, NOT doing something should never be an option. And silence is condoning.
Backstrom invites anyone who witnesses her own kids making similar choices to call them out.
Parents can’t be with their kids 100 percent of the time and they need practice making good choices. As adults, we should all want others to call our kids out for bad behavior, simply because it’s not acceptable. We’re all in this together, and it’s easy enough to support each other for the greater good, yes?
Backstrom offered in summar: “This was an adult success, let’s help each other’s kids not grow into buttholes, okay?”