June 17, 2012
Guest Behavior; Not Necessarily Best Behavior
Why on earth do my children pick the worst possible time to misbehave? They are charming young boys who know how to handle themselves with restraint and dignity. Except when I really need them to do so. Take this weekend for example. We took a short trip to a neighboring state. Being 3 and 5, they were a little goofy in the car. Sure Liam wet his pants before we were out of the county. Of course, there was the usual "I don't care if it is 9 am, I want a Happy Meal" tantrum. But all in all, they were fine. Until we got to grandpa's house and they were expected NOT to tear it apart and throttle the living daylights out of each other.
The more I calmly (and then not so calmly) redirected them, the wilder they became. It was awful and it was embarassing. After suffering through the noise, destruction, violence and, oh, the whining, I just wanted to get them across the border and into their bedrooms (where I planned to make them stay for 3 days.) But you know what? The minute they were buckled in the carseats, they turned into gentlemen. I heard please and thank you. They each took out a book and read quietly. My older son and I had a pleasant conversation discussing how telescopes work. These were the children I had needed them to be all day long and while I was tempted to lament, I decided to be grateful that the boys I knew and loved were back.
I spent much of the drive home trying to analyze just what was going on with their behavior. This wasn't the first time the two of them presented disappointing behavior at the exact moment I needed them to be their best. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate their sweetness and compliance when we are home. Yet there are times when it's vital that they hold it together in public and not act like unparented hooligans. Take for example, the wake I attended recently.
I did not have anyone to watch them that worknight. The plan was to let them sit near the cookie table while I quickly paid my respects then I'd reward them with their favorite dinner. As back-up, I allowed Henry to bring his Leapster. As an aside, I abhor video games. I don't restrict screen time in my home; I banish it completely. But desperate times call for desperate measures. Not only did I allow Henry to have his Leapster, but I thought ahead and borrowed a neighbor's for Liam. The boys did play quietly for ten minutes. Video games held their attention as planned. Until, that is, they decided to hold each Leapster by its stylus and swing the console in the air in an attempt to give each other concussions. As I broke up the mayhem, Liam whispered in his sweet 3 year old voice, "I want to give the sad mommy a hug." I almost melted. I took him to the receiving line where he promptly turned to the first woman he saw and gave her a big hug. Then he started to leave. I told him that that lady was not the "sad mommy" and that we had to wait some more to see her. This news was met with a meltdown so loud and distracting that even the funeral directors came out of their offices. I ended up carrying Liam to the car, kicking, screaming and swinging his borrowed Leapster at my head.
Which brings me to a related topic. In a week or so, we will be taking a nine hour road trip to visit friends. We will stay with them for 3 days and nights, then get back in the car and make the long drive home. We will do this without the assistance of electronic devices (not a smartphone, not a gps, not a dvd player and certainly not a Leapster.) We won't have the first two because I can't afford them. We won't bring the second two because Henry and Liam are too young for screens. I'm bound and determined that they experience the real world before entering any virtual one.
I wonder what the week will bring. Will we become closer as a family while we watch the miles pass? Will the boys show their best or worst behavior while guests in my friends' home? One thing's for certain, for better or for worse, we'll make memories.