C and I are lucky to have found a great place to live, with a huge garden to run in and a 4-year-old neighbour who is always there to play cars, dinosaurs and ball. Sometimes they play in the garden, sometimes at the neighbour’s house, and sometimes at ours. Perfect. They have spats, make up, play some more, fight again – you know, standard preschooler stuff.
However, this morning I realised that whenever there’s a kiddy snit within my earshot, I *always* side with the neighbour. Not because the neighbour is always right, but because he is our guest.
You see, I was raised by my beautiful, elegant, eternally-disappointed-in-me grandmother, who
wasted devoted years of her life trying to make me into a lady after her own image. (I’m glad she cannot see me now: I am writing this in oversized pajamas while sitting on my front step keeping half an eye on C. Oops.) And one of the few precepts of noblesse oblige that she managed to hammer into my subconscious was the notion that a guest is like a customer: always right. You don’t argue with a guest, you don’t make a guest uncomfortable, you most definitely don’t snatch a toy out of a guest’s hand. This is one of the rules upon which the Universe is supported, and the world would come to a swift end if they were broken.
And so whenever I hear C holler or wail I simply yell “C, you have to share with your friend!” or “C, nobody likes to play with a whiny kid” or “C, if you can’t play nice you will have to play alone,” and I feel I’ve discharged my duty to noblesse, to the Universe, and to my grandmother’s memory. Firm but fair, that’s me.
Because today when I yelled “C, stop making a fuss!” he started crying. REALLY crying. I’m sure a few tsunami alerts were issued.
I stormed in to put an end to the silliness, and I realised that it wasn’t drama crying, but real tears from real hurt. C’s sense of justice was clearly outraged, even though the poor thing doesn’t have the vocabulary to explain half of it. However, his face said it all, and it broke my heart to realise how incredibly unfair I’ve been to my poor boy in the name of 1940s etiquette.
They’re off playing again, all forgotten and forgiven, and I’m here on the stoop feeling like an asshole.
Hello bad parenting. Mama’s back.