It’s Not All Mary Poppins

It’s not all sweetness

“Mummy! Mummy, mummy here!”

End-of-day is very sweet. All that excitement. The children jostle around, the anticipation thick in the air.

“Daddy! My daddy!”

Daddy swoops the child up, Mummy kneels down with her arms open, and there is much mutual adoration. I love it.

“Mummy, mummy, mummy!”

A child breaks from the wee mob around my knees and bolts for the door. Only, it’s not the child of the mother coming into the door. And as her child struggles to the front of the pack, the other child flings herself into the arms of the mother.

Sometimes this is cute. Sometimes this is the overflow of enthusiasm, the exuberant anticipation of their parent’s immanent arrival, and for a moment any warm parental body will do.

The parents almost always receive it like that. All this enthusiasm, even when misdirected, is truly very sweet. They take the child into their arms and give them a snuggle.

Only, you know? Once the children are over two and a half or so, that’s not usually what it’s about. It’s not simple affectionate exuberance any more. By this age, usually, it’s competitive one-up-manship. Usually it’s the prima donna child, the one who cannot conceive of anyone but them getting the prime spot in anyone’s affection and attention. This child will do this with every incoming parent, to the point of pushing the rightful child aside.

I do not find this cute. My feelings always go to the parent’s child… you know, their actual offspring? The one who has been waiting for their parent’s arrival with eager anticipation, and must now stand to one side while the cuckoo’s child gets the attention that’s rightfully theirs? It’s odd how rarely it seems to occur to the parent to at least open their other arm so as to hug both children. Now, when I know I have one of those kids in the mix, I make sure to be holding them when any parents but their own are arriving.

I will also have a priming conversation before the parents start to arrive: “We’re all excited when the mummies and daddies come. But no matter how excited you are, you must let Suzie say hello to her mummy first.” That sort of pre-direction works sometimes, particularly if pushy child catches me giving her/him the stink-eye as they prepare to launch themselves at someone else’s parent.

I don’t know whether the other parents are honestly duped by this, whether they’re too naive to see the negative aspect of this behaviour, or whether they do see it but just don’t know how else to respond, but in almost every instance, unless I prevent it, the pushy child gets a reward for their behaviour that just shouldn’t happen. That’s injustice, people, and it really annoys me.

Which is why I was about ready to kiss the dad who smiled down at the child clamoring for his attention, arms upthrust, and said, “I bet you’re really excited to see your mummy. I’m sure she’ll be here very soon!”, reached right over the interloper and scooped his own child into a big bear hug.

That, my friends, was true parental finesse. Beautifully done, dad!

August 8, 2011 Posted by | aggression, manners, parents | , , | 7 Comments