I love my children dearly but sometimes they drive me up the bloody wall.
I know it’s good that they are confident and spirited and this will probably stand them in good stead as adults. I’m not expecting them to be ‘good’ all the time but sometimes it would be really helpful if they would just Do What They Were Told. Every now and again, you know?
The trouble is, when I take them out in a group they seem to adopt a pack mentality and their ears become, not highly functional sensory organs capable of hearing a biscuit packet rustle 2 rooms away, but purely for decorative purposes. They completely ignore me, and instead do whatever the hell they feel like.
And that is why I rarely take them visiting.
Yesterday, on my way home from the school run, one of my neighbours came out of her house to talk to me as I passed by. This isn’t that unusual in our street but what was unusual was her invitation. They are a Muslim family who were celebrating Navarathri Golu and invited me to bring the children around to view their display. I like to find out about different cultures, so thought ‘why not’ and accepted.
Then the kids came home from school tired and grumpy, and I thought ‘Uh Oh’.
I did my best. I gave them a quiet afternoon, fed them and cleaned up their school uniforms. I told them about the festival and what to expect and I made it VERY,VERY clear that I expected them to ‘behave’. Perhaps this is where I went wrong; I should have clarified what I meant by ‘behave’.
I meant ‘sit nicely on the sofa, say please and thank you, don’t run or yell and don’t argue or fight with your siblings’. They took it to mean ‘do whatever the hell you want in someone else’s house.’
The neighbour’s house was lovely and tidy with lots of glass cabinets and glass topped tables everywhere. My heart sank. Everything looked rather breakable.
DS and DD3 wouldn’t stop bouncing on all the sofas and foot stools and just ignored me when asked them nicely, then not so nicely, to sit down. Then they started kicking each others heads and almost put their feet through a glass cabinet.
The host bought us some samosas and some sweets but DD2 was in a strop and just slumped on the sofa wailing ‘I’m bored’ and ‘I don’t like that’ intermittently. Eventually she nibbled a corner of a samosa and started immediately crying that her mouth was on fire. Our host bought her a drink of water and then of course everyone wanted one. I was so busy making sure they all put their drinks on on coasters, I wasn’t supervising them properly and of course DS dropped half of his on the sofa.
Then I tried to have a chat with the neighbours, who were lovely but the kids had gone into the dining room with their year 8 daughter, and were fighting about who was going to play what on the keyboard. Everyone wanted to show off. We had a little peace and quiet as when they all went upstairs to the DD’s room, but then they were soon back again and playing football with an oversized foam ball in the living room.
I was trying to get them to settled down as the hosts explained about the Navarathri Golu display, when there was a crash as DD3 kicked a football right through the adjoining door into the middle of the shrine and knocked some gods over. I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me right there and then.
When they asked if my children knew any songs, the older two, who are both in choir, refused. But DD3, who has a voice like a xylophone on a gravel road insisted on singing a song about cabbages ( WTF?) I’ve never heard it before and can only imagine she learnt it at school. Our hosts must have been tone deaf as they thought she was charming. Encouraged by their approval, she started doing prayer and yoga poses on the prayer mat in front of the shrine. I was in full on hissing mode by this stage but the host thought this was hilarious and took some photos of her poses.
Finally, when they handed out some small gifts, the two youngest got into a fist fight over who got the sticker book that was included.
I couldn’t get them into their coats and shoes quick enough after this. We went home and they were straight to bed as it was now 8pm. It was really too late at night to go visiting with badly behaved kids.
Our neighbours were very gracious about the chaos my offspring caused in their house but I know I’m going to cringe every time I walk past their house four times a day on the school run.