Thursday, January 8, 2009

The truth of the matter

The past few days, first on blogs, and then on NPR of all places, I was reading about a woman who Twittered (Tweeted ? Twitted ? Twhatever...) about her difficulties in trying to get her child to go to bed. It was late, and the mother made a comment about smothering her kid, and asking if - in this situation - that would be so wrong.

I'm not going to get into it anymore then that, and I have left out a great deal of detail (purposefully) but the reaction of the people who received this Twitter (Tweet ? Twit ? Twhatever.) covered the gamut, from sympathy to concern to outrage. In the end, the police were notified, and they went to the woman's house to make sure she had not, indeed, smothered her child in an attempt to get the kid to go to sleep.

And I am telling you all of this only so that when I get all honest and down and dirty here, you know that No Children Were Hurt in the Writing of This Blog. There is no need to track down my address via my Amazon wishlist and send the police over here. (Seriously).

So, the cold, hard truth.

I don't like most Other People's Children (OPC). I love ALL babies, I think toddlers are wonderful and funny and I can't get enough of them. Once kids get to be about, oh, say, 4 or 5, and they start to get a bit of an attitude, they stop being so cute, and start being FUCKING OBNOXIOUS.

Lately I have had several run-ins with some completely obnoxious bahavior - some from my children, some from OPC. And I have 0 (zero, as in NO) tolerance for OPC who are rude/obnoxious/intrusive/dirty/smelly or have bad table manners.

Let's talk about table manners, shall we ? I work my kids to death about their table manners, and their table manners STILL suck. But compared to OPC? They eat like the God Damned Queen of England. I just spent 20 minutes cleaning greasy, disgusting fingerprints off my glass door in the kitchen - OPC's fingerprints. I have seen kids do some of the most disgusting things imaginable (and I am including my own children in this, I promise you they are GROSS). And along with the actual feeding of themselves, the table conversation leaves a lot to be desired when you have a group of kids together. My solution ? The kids eat outside on the screen porch. Hey, it's Hawaii. And it's nice out there !

And then, there is just the general hospitality, enthusiasm and good old fashioned manners offered up by OPC. When people come to visit our house, for the most part you would think a God damned Circus had just pulled up out front. The kids are running and screaming and tumbling down the stairs to greet the arrivals. There is frequently someone standing on the couch shouting out the window as friends approach. It is the warmest, most enthusiastic welcome you could imagine, and the response of OPC is, well, tepid. To be fair - they might just be frightened. But many times, the disinterest continues with one child (sometimes mine, but rearely) preferring to watch a movie or play a video game, despite actively seeking out other children's company prior to the playdate. Children can be downright rude - and I m not talking about how they speak to adults - I am talking about how they interact with EACH OTHER. Unless we have mandatory enrollment in charm school, I have no idea how kids these days are going to be able to get along as adults, where announcing that someone's breath stinks or that they are boring, or annoying, or whatever is just not socially acceptable.

I do like SOME people's children. It is a small minority, mostly made up of the children of my closest friends. And even then, it is not always a love-fest. But I know the kids well enough (and my kids know the kids well enough) to just let the whole thing roll, or call for backup. And when faced with a complete breakdown in communication, or when my tolerance has dipped to frosty levels, I can just call it a day. My friends understand. And there are children who can (and have) gone o the bathroom in the middle of my livingroom, and I have not batted an eye, it didn't bother me one little bit. Whereas if that little punk from across the street even looks at me the wrong way I load my kids in the car to run an errand, just to GET AWAY from him.

I am known for my strategy of cut and run. Iam the mother who WILL call the whole thing off. Starting when Max was a toddler, we lived with 3 strikes. Strikes were whining, hitting, crying, throwing, grabbing, not sharing, or any other behavior I found unacceptable or hurtful to others. For instance, if we went to the park, and Max caused any sort of problem, that was one count - and those counts could add up fast. Sometimes we were only at the park for 10 minutes.

We used to frequent a playgroup at our local playground, and some days I would be working, and Sami would have to take Max to playgroup instead. I saw one of the other mommies one day shortly after playgroup and she laughed and told me that Sami had been at the playground, and Max had been acting like a nut job, and finally one of the mommies went over to Sami and said "This is usually when Max goes home." He was relieved to hear it, and left immediately. Because being out in public with a kid that is being bratty is NOT a lot of fun. So the 3 count rule was a win win win - good for us, because we didn't have to put up with infinite amounts of pleading and negotiating. Good for max because it set clear limits. Good for everyone else because they didn't have to deal with our kid when he was on the warpath.

And that, right there, is the most important part of my whole post. Yeah, I don't like OPC. But I get it. I understand that kids are tired or whiney, or excited, or overwhelmed. I get all of that. And I have the utmost respect for parents that can also see that in kids, understand that, and respect that. And react to it. If my kid or your kid is acting like an ass, let's not hang out and suffer through it - let's just try again another time, with more prozac (for me) alcohol (for you) and snacks (for the kids). 'Kay ?

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