Sunday, November 1, 2009

Other People's Children


We encounter them all of the time, good and bad. They are other people's children. The good ones we hold up as examples to our own children, "look there how that little girl is quietly reading a book, not running around like some heathen banshee." The point gets kind of lost as your child doesn't understand the meaning of "banshee" and, well, "heathen" is sort of vague too, but they do get the idea that both are bad descriptions. The bad kids are great examples to point out, "I swear, if I ever catch you doing THAT I will tan your hide!" In fact, my kids have probably learned more about acceptable behavior from my comments about other people's kids.

But what do you do when THAT kid is your kid? Notice I didn't ask "if". They all do it at some point or another. If you swear your angelic darling isn't THAT child then chances are they REALLY REALLY are. Even good kids can act the ass.

All three of my kids have been particularly good kids, but even they have had their moments of glory. My very first teacher conference ever was for my daughter in kindergarten. We brought her along, knowing that this was going to be rave reviews. And it was. Amanda was a very good little student. But that night she decided to go haywire. She was scooting under the desks and running around like a wild... banshee. Both teacher and I stared at her in absolute shock - me in embarrassment, teacher in bewilderment.

Another time I was at the grocery store and Amanda and Keith were running some form of tag between the aisles. I cut the trip short, ushered them through the check out line and once we hit the parking lot I read them the riot act all the way to the car. A woman with a little baby screeched at me threatening to call Family Services. Yeah, just wait lady, your day will come.

Maybe that is the key, the parents' reaction. That there should be a reaction.

Last night the Halloween party was invaded by twin heathens, possibly four or five years old. They rolled out of the van literally screaming at the top of their lungs with mom and dad ineffectively hushing them - and bam, Spiderman and Hulk broke loose and never stopped for the next three hours. Screaming, running, hitting, poking, provoking, hiding, screaming and more running. Mom and dad moseyed to the dining room leaving the miniature tyrants to run loose outside, assuming the other adults would keep an eye on them. Which that right there is a huge mistake - NEVER assume another adult will monitor your child. We have our own children to monitor and hell one of the children I was monitoring was a legal adult. I served my time chasing around energetic kids, I do not appreciate having someone else's brats thrust on me.

What is one to do when left facing unattended children misbehaving? Most people try to look the other way, but not me. I have a schoolmarm raging inside of me and she comes bounding out whenever children are running rampant. I have found her to be quite competent in squelching errant behavior. A stern look dead in the eye and an even tone leaving no question that you are quite serious and I say things like "put that down, it doesn't belong to you" or "you're not allowed to___". Sure enough I had to tell Spiderman that he was not allowed to touch my daughter's costume (he was hitting her constantly), that no one was to open the pumpkins, it was not nice to blow out the jack-o-lantern candles, and that he could only run on the grass, not the parking lot. The kid avoided me like the plague but was peeved to find that I did not stay close to my jack-o-lantern and was instead in all of his places of misbehavior. He'd been chewed out a few times.

Another mother reprimanded Spiderman for hitting her daughter but he came back with "she hit me first". The mistake this mom made was trying to be nice, to not start a scene. The little snot ran to his mother, who had finally come outside, and was clearly trying to tattle-tale. She ignored his pleas. And there was the whole problem.

It's hard not to cast judgment, but the problem seemed rather cut and dry and everyone was privy to it except Spiderman's parents. Rather sad actually.

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