This last weekend I did something I don’t recall ever doing before: openly chastising another person’s child in front of the parent.
Let me start with the cast of characters, names changed to protect the innocent and guilty alike.
- Margaret, my young teen-age niece
- Velma, mother of Margaret
- Daphne, sister of Velma and my wife
- My Wife, sister of Velma and Daphne
- Yours Truly, husband of My Wife
- Other Children, offspring of Velma, Daphne, and My Wife and Yours Truly
And now for the story, details changed to protect the innocent and guilty alike, and also because memory isn’t necessarily the most reliable in the heat of the moment…
Daphne asks her child about going to a movie. Not just any movie, but the hot movie of the week, and the late show at that. And in full hearing of Margaret’s ears. Margaret asks Daphne if she can tag along. Daphne says it is fine with her, provided Margaret’s mother, Velma, gives her OK.
Velma thinks a moment, and gives a thumbs down. It will be quite late before Margaret will get home, and there is school tomorrow. Margaret is not happy with that answer, and she proceeds with a couple rounds of begging and pleading. Getting nowhere, she tells her mother she is mean, and storms off.
Margaret waits awhile, then goes back to her mother to plead her case again. Again, the answer is “no,” and again Margaret calls her mother “mean.”
Rinse, and repeat.
It is now about time for my family to gather up our belongings and head home. Thirsty, I head to the kitchen for some water before the trip. In the kitchen I find My Wife, Daphne, Velma, and Margaret. And guess who is pleading her case to tag along for movie night again.
Velma is tired of the pleading. Daphne doesn’t really say anything. My Wife asks if Velma has heard about the parenting plan we are about to try in our family. (More on that in a later post.) Velma doesn’t want to hear about another book. “I have tried them all, and I am ready to ship off them off!”
Margaret asks about the movie one more time. Velma is clearly mad, and says “no” one more time. As I make my way out of the kitchen I hear, “You’re mean!” again.
Normally, if my child is not involved I try to bite my tongue. But this time my tongue would not be restrained, and before I could stop myself I let Margaret verbally have it.
“All of us parents are sick and tired of you kids pulling the ‘you’re mean’ card. We have had it.”
I don’t think I have ever seen her eyes get that big. My voice grew louder, but to me still seemed under more control than that of a raving madman.
“‘No’ means ‘no,’ period. If you don’t like it that is just too bad. How many times do you need to be told that you are not going to the movie tonight? Your mom is mean because she said ‘no’ to a movie? Are you kidding me? There is no way in hell any of us would have gotten away with talking to our parents the way you all talk to us, and we are done with it!”
The swearing cued My Wife to gently touch my arm in effort to calm me down. It probably worked, because pent up frustration was starting to come out under less control, and more like a raving madman. And this wasn’t even my kid. I left the kitchen with a few more ranting phrases.
And then silence. In the entire house.
On the way home, My Wife said Margaret ran out the back door in tears, and that Velma didn’t seem to mind. And both Velma and My Wife are miffed at Daphne, for once again bringing up something like a movie in front of children other than her own, putting her siblings in the position of potential bad guy yet again.
Even if Velma didn’t mind, the incident bothers me. It doesn’t strike me as one of my proudest of parental moments. Sure, Margaret was being a disrespectful brat. But was I too hard on her? Was I out of place? Maybe those are questions best answered by Velma.