The art of being Californian, it seems, is to cultivate a loose-limbed insouciance while secretly working away like a frantic ant.

--Richard Fortey The Earth: An Intimate History

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Kids Will Out You

*I wrote this blog two months ago and have been meaning to post it; however, between travel and moving and generally being a stressed-out mess, I just don't have any time. Oh, and I still can't get blogger for my iPad to do the font and size I want, so I have to wait until I am on a real computer to do that. And who has real computers these days?*

I have new neighbors.

When they first moved in, I was really excited because they have boys my son's age. I thought it would be awesome for there to be normal boys on the block for my son to play with. I envisioned Saturdays with the boys riding their scooters on the sidewalk as the neighbor parents and I sipped beverages and chatted. Or perhaps a summer Tuesday night where my son goes over to their house to play or vice versa. It seemed like an awesome scenario.

It still does.

IF the neighbor kids had been even remotely human.

It's funny (in a sad desperate way, not actually laughable) how kids can reveal exactly the worst part of you that you never want anyone to see. Kids have no social filters. So if you are an animal who doesn't follow even the simplest conventions of human politeness in your private life, no matter how hard you try to hide it with a public face, your kids will out you.

Which sucks for everyone concerned because a) you don't want anyone to know that you are a beast and are raising wild beasts, b) those who know your kids aren't going to want to have them be around their kids, and c) now we are all faced with the awkward moments where my kid tells your kids that I told him not to play with them and now I look like the asshole.

And that is really the hardest part for me. Not because I can't handle telling my kid that he isn't allowed to play with kids who destroy houses, break toys, are disrespectful to adults, and rummage through every nook and cranny of my house. I am great at setting those boundaries. And in fact, if my son ever behaved that way, I would hope that other parents would tell their children the same exact thing. However, what I can't do is look another parent in the face and tell them their kid is a beast. [and I am not exaggerating about their beastliness: these kids are out of control like feral raccoons or opossums.]

I'm a pleaser. I want people to be happy with me and informing people that their children are not welcome in my house does not make them happy.

It's not that I really care about the neighbor mom. I sensed crazy on her the day I met her and she tried to have a homeschool-off with me (it's okay, you can win--you're more homeschooled than I am). It's that I don't want to seem mean. And because I don't want to seem mean, I am actually mean in a sneaky, underhanded way.

I tell my son to stay away from her kids. I lie to her face when she asks me if I told my son not to play with her kids. When she invites us to do stuff, I feign regretful enthusiasm because of course I would love to get together today for X but sadly we're already busy--let's make plans for another time. Then I conveniently forget to call back with my schedule. I cheerily wave from my yard when she's in hers, all the while thinking about how horrible her kids are.

I don't like this version of me. I don't like that I can't hide this version from the world because my son is still without guile and can't hide a freaking thing. I don't like that my son sees this (and know that with the law of kids, it will bite me in the ass someday). But I am a straight up coward.

It is not my fault that her boys are animals. I didn't raise them. I also know that my personal tolerance for boy behavior is pretty high, so I am not being picky. I am not the one who sends my kid over to their house right at bed time to do homework. I also don't send my child over to their house without dinner so that he asks them for food. Nor does my child borrow scooters from them and then leave them lying in front of the garage door of the other (childless) neighbor (begging to be run over). Nor do I forget that I even borrowed those scooters and fail to apologize when they disappear from my yard.

I am not the one who initially behaved badly. And I shouldn't feel guilty about calling her out for her children's bad behavior. If she wanted to hide her crazy, she shouldn't have had kids.

However, I am the one behaving badly when I resort to passive aggressive behavior instead of direct conversation. I am the one behaving badly when I can write an 800-word blog about her terrible children while she sits two houses down and thinks that we are fine. I am the one behaving badly when I force my child to be sneaky-mean just like I am being.

In many ways, I am also being outed. My not-so nice nature is coming to the front because of my son's interactions with others. All the crazy that I want hidden is on display.

I knew I shouldn't have bred.