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Monday, June 09, 2008

A one size fits all

As the time for the play date approaches I have a growing sense of dread. I have my own mother’s words circulating through my skull, variations on ‘don’t be such a wimp.’

It’s one thing to discipline my own children in my own home, but it’s quite another to tackle someone else’s child. It would be so easy to do irreparable harm, however unwittingly. I just don’t know the child well enough.

In theory, I have decided on my approach, the one that I generally use. I practice in my head and anticipate reactions, but it’s all just theory. The practice rarely turns out as planned.

When the first demand is bellowed I ignore it, or rather I pretend to ignore it. After a couple of repeated demands she comes to seek me out in the kitchen, “hey! I said I want a snack. Didn’t ya hear me?” She turns on her heel and stomps back into the family room to continue playing. I swallow hard and ignore the yellow stripe down my back. Am I the only one afraid of ten year olds? I tiptoe into the family room to survey a relatively calm scene of play. I am cautious of the firecracker child. She glances up at me, or rather my empty hands, bristling. Her mouth drops open, presumably with outrage or disbelief, as I sit down next to her on the carpet. “You know “Rebecca,” in our house we try and use our indoor voices.”
“We try and use quiet voices so that we don’t hurt our ears.” She looks at me as if I am a thing from another planet, which I probably am. Will she spontaneously combust?
“O.k. so can I have my snack now? Is that what ya want?”
“That is sooo much better, much easier to listen to.” She looks at me again. Is she checking for sarcasm?
“I’m going to get everyone a snack.”
“I’m going to start now and I should be ready in about five minutes. Here. Do you see this timer. The red bit shows five minutes. It would be great if you could wait those five minutes because there’s six of you and only one of me.”
She looks at me. She looks at the timer.
“Is that o.k. with you?”
“Shall I tell you something else about our house?”
“When people say please and thank you, I work sooo much faster.” I attempt a smile to the unknowable child, the stun gun in the arsenal of sophisticated pre-teen population.

Save me from the typical types.

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