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BLOG: She said THIS to my daughter. So I sent her home.

Bec

By REBECCA SPARROW

It’s possible I over-reacted. It’s possible I’m an uptight prude of Esme Watson proportions*. Maybe I’m just tired and irritable.  Or maybe I actually did the right thing.   I’ll let you be the judge.

So I currently live in a suburb that is teeming with kids.  They’re everywhere. And frankly, I suspect they’re secretly running the suburb whispering into their Dora walkie-talkies as they sail past on their skateboards and scooters.

All of which I love.

Consequently, we routinely have a house filled with neighbourhood children. Again — I love this. I’d rather see Ava and her 7-year-old cousin (who lives with us) outside making club houses and treasure hunts and doing something weird with the hose, some sticks and leaves and a bucket then have them constantly sitting on the couch playing Plants versus Zombies on the iPad.

But I’ve hit a glitch.

I’m not lovin’ one of the neighbourhood rascals. She’s less rascal and more Heatlher Locklear on Melrose Place circa 1995. Put it this way, she comes over and it’s like a 7-year-old Sharon Osbourne is visiting.

The first time “Codename: Heather” came over to play, Ava asked if she’d like to go back down to her room to play with her dolls house.  At which Heather adopted the bored and slightly irritated look of a supermodel, RAISED HER EYEBROWS and said in a withering tone, “No. I’ve seen your dolls house and it’s really small.”

Bec with her four-year-old Ava

Ava’s face dropped and I quietly contemplated the ethics of sending Heather an email virus.

Since that first visit, I’ve cringed whenever she’s come over asking to play.   There are no ‘hellos’ or ‘goodbyes’.  No please or thank yous.

She sneers quite a lot and is fond of sarcasm and through it all I have worked really, really hard not to be the crazy, cranky, pregnant mother in the street.

Because, well, I have a desperate need for everyone to like me and, you know,  Ava and her cousin love to play with her.  So I’ve sucked it up.

Until now.

A few weeks ago a group of kids were watching a DVD together in our loungeroom.

That’s when Heather told Ava to shut up.  And not in a playful, jokey way.  In a tone more suited to an altercation between Prue McSween and Roxy Jacenko on Celebrity Apprentice.

Now if there is one thing I won’t tolerate in my house, it’s kids being rude – to each other or to any adults.

So I walked up to the group, making sure I made eye contact with no Heather person in particular and said:

“Now I just heard someone in this group tell someone else to shut up.  We don’t speak to each other like that in our house. Because it’s rude. So the DVD is over and if I hear any of you girls speaking to each other like that again there will be no more playdates. At all.”

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And the girls stared at me as though I’d just told them the Wiggles were actually the Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse and they scurried home.

So did I over-react?

I mean it’s not like I heard them peppering their conversation with f-bombs or c-bombs.

Shut up isn’t even a swear word.

Am I living in 1956?

Planet Nana: Population One?

I don’t know. All I know is that raising Ava and Fin to have good manners is one of my priorities.  Good manners, being empathetic, showing gratitude, giving back and having integrity — they’re big on my “what makes a good human being” list.

If you can’t make your way around this earth knowing how to behave – then you end up as Kanye West.

I also know that some people will read this and deride me for writing about something that is no big deal.

To which I say, “Eff-off!”

Joking.

Obviously.

But I think it is a big deal.  If you can’t make your way around this earth understanding how to get along, how to behave with graciousness and not be a self-absorbed prat then, well, you end up as Kanye West.

We live in a society that clearly needs a big dose of Charm School 101. And it’s not just on social media and online where people are routinely DISGRACEFUL to one another. It’s in the real world. Today it’s a seven-year-old thinking it’s okay to hiss ‘shut up’ to another child. Tomorrow it’s a footballer who thinks it’s somehow acceptable to, you know, WEE ON THE FIELD DURING A TELEVISED MATCH.

My parents were big on manners. We were expected to say please and thank you. To look people in the eye when we said hello. To not start eating our meal until everyone was at the table.  To read the card before we ripped open the present.  To show appropriate respect to adults and those in authority. And swearing? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  I still don’t swear in front of my parents as a matter of respect. (I’d like to point out that I’m not saying I don’t swear – just that I don’t do it in front of my parents or my kids …).

And yet from one generation to the next, somethings gone awry.  I think Gen X and Gen Y are – by and large- doing a fairly pedestrian job with teaching our kids how to behave with a bit of graciousness.

It doesn’t matter how smart you are, how beautiful, how rich, how connected … if you’ve got bad manners doors will slam in your face. And it all starts with thinking it’s okay to hiss  ‘shut up’ to someone else.

How strict were your parents on manners when you were growing up? And have you ever told off another child for bad manners?

*obscure A Country Practice reference. Please google “Esme Watson” if you were born after 1985. Or don’t. Whatevs.

* Not Heather’s real name. Obviously.

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