Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Jerk

"Watch Daddy! I'm going to behave like a complete arsehole!"

My daughter didn't actually say that. But she did behave like that last night. Parents come up with a lot of reasons why their kids start behaving poorly. Things like too much sugar or too much sun tend to come up a lot. A child being over-tired is a big one. Some people even go in for the under-tired excuse too - as in their child has so much energy wound up tight that it is physically impossible for them to keep it in any longer. I'm not claiming to be any sort of expert but spend five minutes Googling about and you'll find the too much/too little reasons for a child behaving like a twat somehow linked to an innate mental illness (usually bi-polar disorder) that can only bet treated by lots of doctors and even more drugs. I even remember being at someone's house years ago one morning when their child (maybe 3 or 4 years old) tried to bite our then three or four month old daughter. The reason given was that the day before their child had eaten chocolate. And, "this always happens when they eat chocolate."

First up - if that was a proven cause and effect process STOP GIVING YOUR CHILD CHOCOLATE. "Oh, after he eats a Curly Wurly he goes batshit mental and tries to eat people" isn't something that others chuckle at in that way. Secondly - I completely understand that certain things can cause a child to behave strangely on occasion. Anyone with kids constantly realizes that their child is displaying the tell-tale signs of being hungry or tired. I do it often - usually a glance at the watch triggers the epiphany that it's 11am and the kids haven't eaten a thing since poking at breakfast nearly five hours earlier. I'll grant those occasions.

Nobody though is amongst friends or acquaintances and witnesses their child flipping out, and then cheerily tells the other parents, "oh yes - sometimes my daughter is a complete twat." Which is surprising considering every single one of us knows a parent and child who fit clearly into this category. It's a safe bet that the child - and ergo by extension, the parent as well - will act like arseholes in the time they are in your company. That's entirely behavioral. Honestly - it's like learning to be racist. Nobody is born racist. Not even Chelsea defenders. It's a behavior learned and incubated by adults in kids in an accepting environment. Anyone who's been in a home where a parent openly makes a prejudicial comment in front of a six year old kid can attest to that. I feel it when I'm in the car with the radio on - completely enamored by the strength of emotion being displayed by whichever shock-jock is on at the time - as they repeat over and over again that they know the President is a terrorist sympathizer. And they know he wants to bring the US economy to it's knees. Then they start explaining how they know. My instant reaction is that I really want to hear the argument behind that because it's so obviously demented (I'd really like to know the "why" aspect behind this but am yet to hear it). But I don't want my kids hearing it. A few repetitions of that and a sordid seed would be planted.

Still - sometimes kids do have moments when they do behave like a twat. Last night my daughter turned it on quite quickly. She'd had a traumatic morning granted. But the afternoon had been breezy and delightful. It involved wallowing in the back yard, picking berries, playing in a huge cardboard box and pretending to be turtles. When her mother got home we ate dinner (which my daughter chose all of bar one thing), then went to the library ad got an ice cream. All of which is conducive to happy, pleasant children. It also works into the social contract argument that I've explained (boringly I'm sure) to my kids over and over. That being that people have certain responsibilities to behave civilly and politely in a given society. Especially in return for certain conditions. In this case my kids were experiencing a lot of nice, happy fun things that they know are sometimes offered as extra-normal. Libraries and ice cream in particular. So when those are offered without conditions (ie - if you behave now maybe we'll go to the library later) it's somewhat understood that in return we expect them to be appreciative, polite and nice. Not a snotty, ungrateful wanker. And my kids were delightful.

But when we got home it was bedtime. Actually it has slightly passed it. And whilst I recognize that it isn't my kids preferred routine to get home and go almost straight upstairs to get ready for bed - they did know ahead of time that was what we'd be doing. A bargain had been bartered beforehand. So while my son bolted up the stairs ready to brush his teeth and pick out pajamas, my daughter kept coming up with delaying tactics. Not very good ones either. She needed to scratch something. Her shoe was stuck on. She couldn't climb the stairs because she'd eaten an ice cream that stopped you from doing that. After running out of any whiff of plausibility she went up. Then her mother escorted her into her bedroom to pick out pajamas. Cue twattery. Screaming, whining and whirling about like an angry whirling Dervish. Then - after repeatedly being told to hurry the fuck up - she lashed out. Not in a walk-across-the-room-and-kick-in-the-shins way. More a spasmed elbow-bash at the person next to her. But she did it. So down rained her mother's Zero Tolerance - and rightly so. No way is one of my kids ever going to have the understanding that doing stuff like that is remotely acceptable. Quickly the entire bedtime routine, the following day's swimming club and a few other things were held up in front of my daughter as to be confiscated unless she behaved like an angel. She howled and recoiled. She had one or two more quick eruptions. Then she flamed out.

And this morning she really has been a complete delight. I didn't want to plant ideas in her head - but I did have a conversation with her that if something was bothering her she should just say what it was. There may not be any solid logic to it - but getting home and then walking right upstairs to bed might bother her enough to physically annoy. I get that with showing up late (and by late I still mean early) to something. I'm physically annoyed bothered by it. Having to wait for people o get somewhere on time when they clearly couldn't give a shit about not appearing rude does it to. I don't just become emotionally annoyed - but I become physically irate. In other words - Hulk Want Smash. So my daughter just has to learn that way of handling herself.

But what if your child really is just an arsehole? Some people are. Every facet of their characcter oozes complete arseholiness. There are different camps behind these sorts of things obviously - but some people believe that not everyone is intrinsically good. I certainly don't believe in pervasive altruism. Some people really are just no good. Think of it this way - everyone knows someone who is so unselfish, pure and kind that it boggles the mind. Their goodness and altruism is so pure that you truly feel that it is natural to them and not a learned behavior. The opposite is true too surely? We all know those people in a neighborhood we lived in that don't care one iota about social order. And from childhood up into adulthood they don't care about rules, authority, law or other people at all. Add we've all read stories about people doing evil. And I mean real evil. And some of us have experienced it firsthand. Either you believe that person is to-the-bone nasty, or you believe they are polluted in some way (socially, religiously, mentally, etc). And it makes sense to accept that some people are just all bad. Individuals really are unique after all. You can mold a child only as far as their own personal inner-being will accept.

Well - having been around some kids who's parents don't exhibit twattery I'm willing to at least offer that some kids are just wankers. Not mine though. That's obvious. But good Lord it would be awful to know your child is a twat. You'd know it for years before it became a wider social problem. Then it would become understood to all that your child is a twat. And despite the somewhat widespread understanding that I outlined above - that being that we all know people that are just wankers all of their own creation - your child's twattness would be held to be your fault. Even though people could see what a nice person you were - who was good-natured, polite, socially conscious and loving - they'd see your child (of whatever age - even into adulthood) behaving like a twunt and know deep inside it's because you are a poor parent of some kind. So I'll happily take the sporadic arseholery.

Better to decide to be a wanker than to have to decide to try not to be one all the time.

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