Bunnies, bodywash, and neighborhood friends
It’s probably better that you don’t live in my neighborhood, because I would likely judge your kid by some really weird criteria.
Like, stuffed bunnies and bodywash.
It’s been my experience with neighborhood friends that are only children tend to a) lack boundaries, and b) not be mindful of smaller children. Now, if you have only one child, please don’t get mad. This probably isn’t true of your child ;). It’s just been my experience in… two neighborhoods now, for a total of four only-children.
Point “a” manifests itself by kids just walking into our house without even knocking. Or, blithely inviting themselves into my bedroom while in our home, or opening our fridge or pantry. Or, pushing past me and our front door’s threshhold when I’ve just told him/her that the children can’t play, because, “I just want to tell you something.” And so on. With a little training and clear guidelines, these issues are usually quickly circumvented.
Point “b” is a little more problematic. Maybe it’s because our school systems are so age-segregated, and if there is no one else younger at home, perhaps an only child may have very few opportunities to develop the everyday skill of patient, careful play that is required when there are littles in the underfoot. I have found it a lot harder to instill in neighbor kids a value for smaller folks.
We have a neighborhood friend, who is a couple of months older than my oldest son, and is a friend to both Ethan (who is 12), and Grant, who is nearly 10. He’s an only child. He is very polite (other than the pushing past me thing), and I have developed trust in him that he’s not going to play or speak… culturally inappropriately, which is a great relief. His interests are very similar to my boys’ and they all enjoy playing together. He seems to have a few tics (literally), but frankly, with all the various weird issues my own kids have, this makes me more comfortable with him. The only problem is that he is absolutely reckless with smaller children, and has no patience with them whatsoever. He regularly plows over 3yo Audrey (who continues to adore him), has open contempt for 7yo Wesley’s comparative immaturities, and I haven’t even attempted having baby Fiala roam around when he’s over. Recently, we took about a 3 week break from playing with him, as he ripped into Wesley (only verbally!) at the park, and Wesley came running home with snot and tears streaming down his face… then, when I confronted the friend, he denied the whole thing, even though there were other witnesses… I wasn’t sure if the friendship would ever recover. But, kids prove to be more resilient than moms, because they’re all back playing well together again. Maybe it’s because he has a pool and we don’t. Still, though, I have been a bit on edge with him, given how he treated Wesley.
Yesterday, he came knocking on the door. Ethan was at a different friend’s house, and Grant was running a fever, so I had to send him home. As he turned to go, he said, “Wait! I forgot! I have something for Audrey!” Me, shocked, “You have a gift for Audrey?” He confirmed this, and was ready to run home and get it, when I told him I’d call him when Audrey woke from her nap, which I did. He came back, bearing a large stuffed ivory-colored bunny with pink ears and paws, and a pink bow around its neck. Apparently, he’d attended a 4th of July parade in a small town, and the riders on one of the floats were tossing stuffed animals out for the kids. He snagged the bunny, and said he immediately thought of Audrey.
I was stunned. He went up about six notches in my estimation of him, and I felt my heart softening as Audrey buried her head in the bunny’s fuzz. Lord knows we do not need yet another stuffed animal, but I was bowled over by the friend’s kind thoughtfulness.
Last night, we were watching the Diamondbacks beat the Padres (woo hoo! They’ve won a whole three games in a row!), and an Axe bodywash commercial came on. I hate Axe. It is clearly marketed to young men to cause them to foolishly believe that, if they wear the body spray, young women will literally be attracted to them with some sort of violent magnetic force. I don’t agree with the shameless marketing. I don’t agree with the premise. I cringe at the innuendo and outright sexuality of the commercials. In fact, we usually have our boys turn our eyes away from them. I didn’t this time, though, and Ethan, after thoughtfully and bemusedly observing the commercial, turned to me and said, “Mom. Matt* has Axe bodywash in his shower. And he has that body buffer thing, too.” What??!!?? The kid in question is nine. Almost ten. But, still. NINE!! Why in the world does a 9yo think he needs to attract the ladies???? And why in the world would Matt’s mom buy such an item for him, to let him try to attract ladies????? Here we are, as parents, saying, “Turn your head, boys!” and Matt’s mom is thinking, “I will buy that for my son!”
I suddenly — even though I know Matt’s mom fairly well, as Matt was on the boys’ Fall Ball Little League team last autumn — had doubts about my sons spending time in Matt’s home. Ugh. I still haven’t decided what to do there.
*not his real name