It is wrong to get joy from other peoples misery. Except when you are out with friends and their kids are being naughty while yours are behaving.
It happens all the time when you are parents – and it recently happened to us again in a restaurant when we were out with friends.
What I noticed this time was that the love for my two boys increased proportionately to the offending child’s bad behaviour and their parent’s growing frustration. I gave my boys a knowing smile and a wink to tell them I was proud of their good behaviour. My empathetic acknowledgement to the parents did nothing to help. I could only sit back and thank my lucky stars it was not me this time.
Trying to pacify, reason with and ultimately discipline a child in a public place is a parenting rite of passage. We all go through it and we all hate it.
The worst is usually in a restaurant or a supermarket. But it can happen anywhere. A melt down over the maltesers during a movie ranks as one of the worst.
Getting the tone and volume level right is a parenting skill that few possess. Too loud and you lose sympathy from other parents, too harsh and the sympathy is directed towards the kids. But if you get it right then other parents will come over in a gesture of solidarity and offer words of comfort and support.
“don’t worry mine do the same”
“he’s just tired”
“it’s hard when they get like that”
Those without kids will always just give you a look of disapproval to make you feel worse.
We know kids are smart. They are the best negotiators. The finest liers. The most dramatic of actors. They use these skills to gain leverage. When one of my boys is misbehaving the other one becomes unnervingly good. It is a mutualistic relationship that we both use to our advantage. I can have bedrooms tidied, gardens cleaned, homework done, cuddles and kisses given and dinner fully eaten without complaint. The well behaved child can earn extra pocket money, a possible treat and maybe even an extended bed time.
However this only serves to infuriate the other child who gets even more frustrated at the attention of his now perfect brother and the seemingly unjust consequences of their own bad behaviour.
This bad behaviour often occurs between 5 and 7pm. Towards the end of the day when everyone is tired, mum and dad have little patience left and the dreaded bed time approaches.
Brushing teeth seems to always – no pun intended – hit a nerve with my boys.
Often one child refuses to do it – while the other seizes the opportunity to score some more points and announces that “I am going to do it”, sprints to the bathroom, brushes teeth and runs back. He feels the need to prove this by breathing on me inches from my face while his flecks of minty saliva shower me.
Prior to this recent restaurant meltdown we had all discussed going out for an ice cream after dinner. My boys were quids in. Best on ground. They knew they had scored an ice cream. The other family pulled out in a show of discipline. The consequence to the earlier actions. Dad was gutted. He was really looking forward to that ice cream.
So we went our separate ways. There was a lot of love in the car on the way to buy that ice cream. The boys were very proud of themselves.
The ice cream was purchased and we get back in the car.
“Can I try a bit of yours” – asks Max
“Sure” Says Zak
“….but just a little bite”
I catch the conversation a little too late. The world turns to slow motion as I turn around, reach out and scream “nnnnnnnooooooooooooooo”
But it is too late. Max has his mouth over the ice cream and he has chomped off more than his little mouth can hold.
Zak’s eyes widen in super slow mo as he looks slowly down at his mangled half eaten ice cream and then up to Max’s grinning ice cream covered face and screams…..
And so it begins.