“I know my kid’s a brat, who do you think she learnt it from?”

I was asked recently if I would tell off someone else’s child.

Tough one.

This is one of those situations where I think it doesn’t make a difference how close you are to the person in question. If you don’t know them that well (or at all) then you’re the evil stranger who is telling off their child… But if you do know them, then what kind of friend / relative are you to be telling off their child?

Firstly, I would never dream of telling a child off for what might call ‘bad behaviour’ in my own kids. I’ve witnessed scenes like this, and no-one takes it well. I’ve seen adults commenting on other kids table manners, (I think it’s so refreshing that you don’t mind him talking with his mouth full!Play skills, (Don’t you think she’s had a long enough turn?) and language (Oooh, where did she learn to talk like that?) with disastrous consequences for the relationships with the parents in question. There is generally no reason at all to comment on someone else’s kid’s behaviour when keeping quiet would have no effect on your own children.

I would even say this is true when it is affecting you. You’re an adult; just try and get over the fact that little Timmy is kicking you under the table / drew all over your carpet / spat your lasagne onto the floor. But what to do when the behaviour is affecting your kids? 

I have always been of the opinion that most things can be said tactfully to the parents, and in agreement that parenting should be left to parents, not well meaning observers. I would say (well…hope) that in at least fifty percent of cases, especially when you know the person, parents know that kids all misbehave and will at the very least stop their child from hurting yours in that particular instance. If you still find it awkward bringing it up, you can always opt for vague statements/questions that make the other parent stop what they’re doing and notice the event occurring. These need a subtle degree of acting, and include:

  • Oooh.. What’s happening there? I missed it, who was playing with that toy first? (Translation: Notice that your kid just took his favourite bear please.)
  • Oh sweetheart, did you bump your head? That’s so strange, I didn’t see you fall over… (Translation: Because he didn’t. Your kid pushed him.)
  • How lovely that you can give -insert childs name- two biscuits, that would ruin my own kids appetite. (Translation: Pay attention you lax parent, she just stole my son’s cookie.)

But what about the other times, where you come across either complete strangers who don’t care about you and your kid, or parents who are just frankly bad at parenting? All parents come across other mums and dads who basically use soft play / libraries and the like as babysitting services, and are nowhere to be seen while their toddlers wreak havoc. There are even some parents who will watch with rose coloured glasses as their kids kick and punch their way to their favoured toys.

You can’t force them to discipline their child, but you cant really ignore the situation either once your own kid is old enough to point out the injustice. Apart from anything else, surely without getting some acknowledgement from the other side, you are condoning the behaviour in your own child.

First step always has to be try approaching the parent as above. I once was at a soft play with R, not long after he got his glasses. He was about 15 months. Another child, around 2 years old was following his army crawl around the area, pulling them off his face and laughing. I ignored it twice, and then (knowing how difficult it is to get a baby to wear glasses to begin with) looked for the mum. Spotting her, I gave her a friendly smile and said “Sorry! (why did I apologize?!) your little girl keeps taking my baby’s glasses.. do you mind to watch her?” which I thought was possibly the nicest way of asking that question humanly possible.

The mother scowled angrily at me, and replied, “Well, it was your choice to put your baby in glasses” and then turned away. I was actually flabbergasted, and felt absolutely no qualms in giving the little girl an evil glance and a slightly sharp “you mustn’t take his glasses, he needs them to see” the next time she approached him.

From then on, I always approach the parent as nicely as possible first, and then if they are entirely useless, have no concern in saying something to the child themselves.

So there we have it parents of the world. (Bearing in mind the golden rules so we don’t all get thrown in jail: Absolutely no touching, shouting or swearing at kids other than your own!) You now have my permission to tell off other people’s children, only when they are mistreating your own and when their parents are being brattier than they are.

This of course includes mine, I plan on ignoring R locally tomorrow if anyone wants to pop by and give him a good talking to.

Four’s a Crowd

Me and my mother don’t really argue any more. We have ‘near-fights’ instead. They are similar to how women generally argue, ie: it doesn’t seem like we’re fighting, but we are. Women can be smiling, laughing, talking in an un-serious tone, and yet be having a huge fight at the same time. It’s all about the subtext. So it is with the two of us. We’ve got really quite good at not ignoring each other, or storming off in a huff, or shouting in public any more. But we still say mean things, or start a controversial topic knowing it wont end well, or say things in a sing-song happy voice which we know will grate on the other’s nerves. All part of the process, we’ll get there eventually.

Today we had a ‘near-fight’ about something which I think people will have  opinions over. So I’m going to throw it into the public domain and see what I get back, even though I know some people may disagree with me.

While out and about running errands together, I mentioned what we’d done at the weekend. By we, I mean myself, my husband and our 1yo. We went fruit picking. I didn’t say anything else. My entire sentence was “We went fruit picking at the weekend.” I’m not sure what I expected as a response, maybe “That’s fun-where did you go?” or “How nice, what did you pick?” or “Did R enjoy it, was he old enough?” etc. Basically I was just starting a conversation, and sharing-as I’ve heard people do with their parents once they’ve left home and lost the teenage secretiveness. Maybe I wanted to tell her how we went home afterwards and made strawberry ice cream together, or how the blender woke up R in a frantic state and it took an hour to get him settled again.

I didn’t get to say any of the above however, because the response I got was so negative. “Oh…. I would have loved to go fruit picking.” 

What can I say to that? Should I have said I’m sorry? Should I have said “next time we’ll invite you along then”? Should I have ignored the comment entirely and just carried on with the ice cream part?

Obviously I did nothing like the above, I got irritated and asked why she would answer like that, (putting her on the frightened defensive) and told her how the 3 of us rarely get a chance to go out as a family together (making her feel excluded of course) and that it’s not like every time we go out the house I think how lovely it would be if my mother joined us (making her feel like I dislike her company) and gave her a list of answers she should have said instead (making her feel condescended to). Her response was “you have so many lovely outings, and I have nothing.”

I did all the wrong things, and by the time we parted company, things were stilted and awkward, and ‘near-fight-like’ and no progress had been made. But I don’t think I’m wrong for the underlying point. Surely it’s fine for C and I to take our son out for family day-trips or outings just the 3 of us, without worrying about her not being there? It’s not our responsibility to invite her along every time we’re doing something she might also enjoy.

It’s not that we don’t ever want our parents with us. We spend lots of time together, and I told her that it would be lovely if she thought of something fun to do, and she phoned us up during the week asking if we wanted to do that on the next available day we all had. (she never would.) But nevertheless, if we make a plan, and carry it through, and have some much needed ‘the three of us’ time, I’m not going to feel like I have to keep it a secret because anyone else may feel left out. Especially when it is something that can so easily be replicated again anyway.

I know that at some point in our lives, our parents are meant to stop looking after us, and we start looking out for them instead. For some, it starts earlier than others, and certainly some of the older generation have more of a ‘life’ than others and so need it less. But I think we can only take responsibility for them so far, even if we do empathise with their loneliness. If a person chooses not to ask for what they want, or not to find the means and drive to do the activities they enjoy, it’s not up to their children to do it all for them. And it certainly doesn’t seem fair to make your kids feel bad for having that ‘get up and go’ which they themselves lack.

The thing about Twitter is…

You don’t know the people on it.

Twitter has taken social networking to a new level. Wheras on Facebook, Google+ and similar, you add the people you know, on Twitter, you actively search for people you don’t know.

On Facebook, you know your boundaries. Theyre the same as in real life. Easy to work out and adhere to, because you know the people in real life. Would you reply sarcastically to them in a group? Great, then it’s okay to do the same on their wall. Would you wish them happy birthday? Go ahead then. The advent of the ‘like’ on Facebook means that we can do the equivalent of smiling at something someone said, which means we interact more with acquaintances who we wouldnt normally ‘talk’ to, either online or in real.

But on Twitter, we have no social guidelines to stick to. People can talk to us, and we need not reply. People share what we say without our permission, we are suddenly allowed to pester celebrities with our every unhilarious thought, and worse than celebrities, real people. It’s kind of like entering a party in the middle, where you don’t know anyone at all. But you have to speak to people, or why are you there?

It is so easy to overstep the mark when you dont know someone and they dont know you. Recently, I made a flippant comment to a new follower, which evidently not only upset but also offended. I apologized, and was forgiven, but was then basically made fun of by them and a friend of theirs for about 2 hours. 2 hours on Twitter, unlike in life, is like 2 hours at a party. I tried to ignore, but when a conversation is sent directly to your Activity tab, it is much like two bullies following you round the party throwing mini sausage rolls at your head. It was horrible. Now I don’t think they meant much harm, and to be honest I started the problem myself, and I’ve seen at least one of them to be lovely, (in the Twitterverse at least) but I was thrown back to the geekiest version of myself. Nervous that everyone was watching and laughing, in the equivalent of a room full of strangers.

Up until now, I’ve only seen the benefits of using Twitter. For my business, it drives traffic to my website, tells people succinctly what I do, and helps me find potential authors and businesses to work with. Personally, it’s a fun way to network with new people, be introduced to great books and blogs, and as all internet resources, an invaluable procrastination tool.

But beware. When people dont know you, they can’t hear your voice when reading your comments. They don’t see your facial expressions, and someone seriously needs to invent a sarcasm font. Twitter forces you to be fun, flippant and quick, as you only have those all important 140c. But at the end of the day, you’re talking to strangers, and I don’t know about you, but introducing myself generally needs more than that.

Communication

What to do when the fight isnt worth having?

Most of you know that my relationship with my mum is strained to say the least. Less of you know that lately we have for the first time attempted to do something to improve the way we communicate with each other.

As a longtime fan of counselling, I truly believe that talking things through with an impartial third party can not only help to open lines of communication, but can show you things in weeks that you wouldnt have been able to see by yourself in years. I wont pretend it was easy to convince my mother of this, she is against counselling as much as I am for it. But finally, we started seeing someone, and for the last month, things have been truly the best I can remember them being.

But what to do when a problem arises? We are firmly at the point where we are able to spend time together under normal circumstances and not argue. It doesnt sound like much, but trust me-it’s a huge breakthrough. Yet to work out however, is how to fight maturely and without the drama. You know, discuss things. Like we all have been doing with everyone in our lives since we were about 19. The way I do with everyone else in my life apart from her.

Today I encountered my first real issue of the last month. And instead of confront it and do what we’re being taught, to calmly and maturely say “This isnt working for me,” I chose a slightly different route. I walked away. And when she shouted down the road after me “Are you cross?” I didnt even turn around, just shouted back “No.” no doubt crossly.

It isnt awful. I didnt yell. I didnt get moody. It didnt end in tears. But I’m disappointed. I feel like I have a whole bunch of things left unsaid, I feel like I’m annoyed and missed the opportunity to say so. And most of all I’m frustrated that I didnt trust myself to discuss something that upset me without getting into a fight, so chose to ignore it instead.

It isnt even a big deal. If I tell you it was about a shepherds pie, you’ll see the kind of level we’re talking about here. No doubt this time next week I wont even be thinking about it. But surely relationships are made up of the kind of small things that you forget about each week. In a difficult one, they leave a residue of hurt feelings and clashing personalities and painful memories, whilst in a good one, fun reminiscing and warm feelings and compatibility.

Maybe I’m being too hard on myself. Like I said, we didnt fight. But on this new journey of acceptance, and discussion, and openess with one another, I suppose I’d just hoped for more.