“Well, he is a bit, you know… a bit spoiled… and a bit of a brat sometimes.”
“He likes a tantrum when he doesn’t get his own way, doesn’t he?!”
…Cue an irrepressible rage (and lots of crying, obvs) from yours truly.
A couple of times recently, I’ve been witness to my own child’s character assassination. And boy, it hurt me to my very core.
I’d opt for a harsh critique of myself any day of the week. I’d willingly hear about about my annoying sneeze, ever increasing weight and possibly excessive Pinot habit, all day every day rather than hear that.
Now if I were to get a bit of perspective on the matter, I would calmly say that the comments weren’t all that derogatory, nor if I’m being completely honest, are they false. They are 100% true and I say that, though through gritted teeth, totally confidently. In fact, I am guilty of having many a Mum moan and saying exactly the same myself, although probably with worse language, after a 40 minute argument about trainers.
So why does it bother me so much?
Is it that I am completely over sensitive when it comes to my kid, or is telling someone else about their child’s occasionally bad behaviour unnecessary and unacceptable?
I think the thing is… I can say that, but you can’t.
My boy is generally very well behaved and low maintenance. Actually, he’s been a doddle to rear if I’m honest.
However, I am acutely aware of when my son is less than perfect (most tea times and bed times without fail), and I make sure he knows about it. I’m not one of those parents who allows their child to hit and kick them while shouting and screaming, and not say a word (not that I’m judging those parents, of course). In fact, I often feel sick to death of hearing my own voice citing that I’m disappointed, appalled, ashamed and so on. I’m not crying out for a rude awakening from my utterly oblivious state. I don’t need your help so please keep your crappy opinion, to which you are quietly entitled, to yourself.
Maybe I can say it because it’s clear that even if I am having a brief moan about one rare moment of “being a child”, I still love the bones of him. Other people, who don’t know him that well don’t have that safety net of unequivocal love. Meaning that I’m left with the impression that they just hate my kid. And that is unacceptable.
I encounter feral behaviour from children every day. Not just through my son, but also through my work with the General Public. However, I would never think that it is appropriate to bring it up in conversation with a parent, in what would undoubtedly be an awkward attempt at offering some unwelcome assistance. I wouldn’t feel it acceptable to pass comment even if I was asked for my opinion, nor if the kid is genuinely bloody horrible.
I recall a colleague of mine telling me about a fall out she’d had with a friend over a similar comment. At the time, I didn’t understand what the big deal was. At the time, I wasn’t a parent. Perhaps that awareness of the effect of throwaway comments comes with the overwhelming love you feel as a parent. Perhaps that is the filter you need to empathise and therefore understand what is appropriate and what isn’t. Or perhaps I’m being utterly pathetic.
I don’t know for sure, but I’m sticking with… It’s not me, it’s most definitely you.