Today, we met the new boyfriend of a close friend. A big occasion requiring us to be on our best behaviour. On reflection then, not the best idea to take our often charming, but slightly unpredictable children with us…
And it all started so well: jokes, laughter and mildly amusing children: dinner was a relaxed, enjoyable event. All indicators seemed to suggest that things were going well. I secretly swelled with pride in the reflected glow of my cute off-spring….
…but, of course, it didn’t last.
We made the mistake of extending the event to include pudding and then things started to fall apart. A squabble developed over who should have the pencil to draw (I should add the squabble was between the children, rather than the assembled adults!); our eldest daughter began to resemble our recently acquired Furby on a bad day (if you have a Furby in your household, you will recognise that this is a very bad thing); and suddenly our carefully curated ‘perfect family’ image started to crack.
Because we were in a public place. Trying to appear to be good parents. With nice, likeable, polite children. So how do you proceed with a recalcitrant 9 year old in such a situation?
Well, if you are us, you proceed rather badly with thinly veiled threats and an attempt to demonstrate some semblance of control over our children’s behaviour, which quickly backfired making us look ineffectual and Ana look like the rude, obnoxious 9 year old that she really isn’t. Everyone loses.
So why does this happen? Why could we not have nipped this tiny outburst in the bud and continued in blissful contentment? Well the answer lies in pride, I guess. If you are trying to fool people into thinking your children are perfect and your parenting is exemplary, then any hint that this might not be the case inevitably results in panic and poor decision making. Ana behaving badly – even momentarily – made us all look bad and made me sad that she was going to leave a bad first impression.
We all want people to like our children. We want them to see the best in them. To glimpse the fantastic, funny, friendly little people we know them to be MOST of the time. So when things go awry, we panic.
In retrospect, I know I could have handled things better and we would have all come away feeling like we had done our best to make a good impression. But reality isn’t like this. We are all flawed in little ways (parents and children alike) and we all make bad decisions.
And pride…well that never does anyone any favours, does it? Maybe next time I will learn to swallow it, and enjoy my pudding instead!