We live a life that comes with built-in friends. It’s not as strange as it sounds but it’s a unique situation that has required our family to tolerate people we cannot stand for the sake of the group. Because it’s true; where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and that fire can engulf an entire entity in mere seconds.
That being said, we have met some true, lifelong friends; people who will get emails, phone calls, texts, Christmas cards, and birthday presents, and whose children would receive the same, no matter what side of the world they live on, even if it’s been Junior’s whole three years of life – and then some – since we’ve actually sat in the same room as his parents. This is great when you need a village. It’s also great for our children, kids who must be uprooted time and time again. They will inevitably have a few – or a football team’s worth – of children to play with. I know they will make lifelong friends from this situation, just as we have. Sometimes, though, they simply won’t like someone, just as we sometimes don’t.
We ran into a situation recently though, that threw us all for a loop. Our kids are still relatively young, so there hasn’t been much conflict yet, but, we weren’t prepared for what happened.
Mom and dad seemed great (“seemed” is a key word here). The kids were great at first meeting. Then little by little things would happen that made me question whether these were the kind of kids I wanted mine to play with. There was outright defiance, not only to their mom, but to me as well. There was continuous rule breaking, back talking, anger and even occasional physical contact between the kids. I have kids and have seen them beat the tar out of each other. It happens. However, I have never seen my children use the same kind of force on another child that did not share their same mix of DNA. That is completely unacceptable.
Kids will be kids. They will test limits, with themselves, each other, parents, people of authority, or the dog. However, there is a point that testing needs to stop, rules need to be adhered to, physical well being needs to be taken into account and the knowledge that young kids copy behavior needs to be considered. I started seeing some of these behaviors, things that were never issues at home, with family, school or anywhere else, exhibited by my own kids after they’d spend a few hours with their new friends. I began to dislike these other children, despite how much my kids seemed to like them and despite how much I thought I liked the parents.
Then it hit me. Wisdom from another village. It wasn’t truly the kids that I didn’t like, it was the parents, one of the parents in particular. While the kids’ behavior was unacceptable at times, it was becoming apparent that the things they did were more than likely a direct result of the atmosphere they were living in. One of the parents was hostile, almost all the time. They were combative, disrespectful to their spouse, even said things to their kids that I can’t imagine my children ever hearing me utter…about them. Yes, I’ve been hidden in my closet after a long, stressful day, one where my patience has been tried at every turn, nothing has seemed to go right and there seems to be no end in sight, with a closed door, children downstairs yelling up to me, “Mom! Mom! Mom!” I have told my kids to shut up in that moment: under my breath. There have been moments when I imaged telling them to leave me alone and heading off into the sunset with an ice cold beer. But, there are a few things I heard said to those kids that I honestly believe are the things that crush their spirit.
Those moments were the ones where the kids got a pass, an extra bit of love from a parent that wasn’t theirs, and a lot of redirection into things that they weren’t used to doing. I watched them smile and perk up at a different kind of affection and couldn’t help but feel like a complete and utter jerk for the things I had thought about them before. It wasn’t their fault they were caught in the middle of a relationship that was being questioned. It wasn’t their fault that some of the skills they needed to communicate and interact with others in a different way were put on a back burner that was so far away it wasn’t even visible at times. It wasn’t their fault, and it wasn’t fair to them, to have an adult think less of them when it was their adult who was failing them.
It wasn’t the kids that I disliked, it was the parent.