Monday, March 21, 2011

When other kids come to play

One of Little Guy's friends came over today to play. He's a nice kid, creative, fun. The boys get along well. About three hours into the playdate the boy said to Little Guy, "I'm hungry!"

A few moments later, he said it again. And then again. I didn't respond, because I'm the  old-fashioned type who draws a distinction between announcements and requests. If you're six or seven and give me a news report like "I'm hungry" I'll acknowledge that you said something, but I assume that if you wanted me to do something you'd ask me.

Eventually the boy asked if he could please have something to eat. "Of course," I said, "We have fruit, or I can make popcorn."

"I hate popcorn!" the boy said. I blinked in surprise.

"I think you meant to say, 'no thanks' to the popcorn," I suggested, in a slightly puzzled tone. The boy looked at me funny. "I have apples, pears, bananas, and oranges," I added.

"I only like grapes," the boy said. I raised my eyebrows.

"I'm sorry, but I don't have grapes. They're not in my budget at this time of year. But I have other fruit"

"My dad buys grapes," the boy countered.

I honestly don't think he meant to be rude. I reminded myself that he probably hadn't been in this situation often, and was still learning that different families have different ways of doing things. I took a deep breath to fight off irritation. I told myself, This is part of my job as a mom. To help set boundaries for kids, even if they're not my own.

I mean, if it was my kid who was being annoying, I'd want you to teach him -- kindly and gently -- a better way to handle himself. I'd want you to correct him, guide him, explain things to him. What I wouldn't want would be for you to blame my parenting skills and take out your irritation by withholding a future invitation to play.  

The conversation with the boy took another ten minutes before he settled on something he was willing to eat. I gave it to him and he said, glumly, "I guess I'll have to try something new..."

I smiled and replied, "I think you meant to say, 'Thank you'."

And d'you know... the boy took his plate to the kitchen without being asked. And Little Guy forgot to do that.


  1. Sad to say Julie, I think that little kid is a symbol of our society today. Many children are not being taught to be polite and no one corrects them. When I was little (many decades ago) all neighbors watched out for all the kids in the neighborhood and there was no problem if a neighbor corrected your child if they were doing something they shouldn't be doing. But today, that has changed. And w/ too many kids it is all "What I want". He said his dad bought grapes; so is that another problem; a split family where the kid has everything at both parents houses and has learned to manipulate his parents and others. I sound cynical but look around today and sadly that is what is happening in a large part of our country today.

  2. I think we'd all revert to "what I want", given the chance!

    The thing is, we *need* other parents to be part of our kids' lives. If I'm the only adult who says, "If you're eating, you're sitting", my kids are going to view me as an oddball and discount what I say. And in some senses kids listen to other parents more attentively than they listen to their own. I think that's because the other parent is an unknown entity, and when we're caught off-guard we're doubly alert.

    I know there are parents out there who act as maids to their nine year olds, and who cater to whims, and who never say no. Their kids are welcome at my house... as long as the kids follow my rules. What I have to remind myself of is that instead of thinking, "What an obnoxious kid!" I need to think, "Here's a kid I can help".

  3. And was the plate that he took to the kitchen empty?

    The random feedback I get makes me think that my kid is more polite at other people's houses than she is at home! (And she's not bad at home...)

  4. Curious that Anon assumed that the boy was from a divorced family because the dad was doing the grape husband does the lion's share of the grocery shopping in our house.

  5. @Magpie,
    Yes, the plate was empty! My kids tend to be on best behavior elsewhere, too.