The other day, I did something that I thought was right at the time, but it turned out to be wrong. Quite wrong.
I ate Nuttvia, a sugar-free Nutella substitute.
Just joking, I publicly shamed my child. Nuttvia is actually very good (honest opinion, not sponsored, yet).
We were at a big playground that is next to the ‘beach’ that is Shorncliffe. For those that aren’t local, this is the sort of beach with water that is so murky and clogged with seaweed that you feel dirtier when you come out. But kids love it because it is shallow water and they don’t know any better.
My son had ventured into the playground, taking part in the usual Lord of the Flies re-enactment scenario. His ten-year-old cousin was there to supervise, provide moral support and to dob on his younger compatriot if the situation compelled him to.
Surprise! The situation compelled him to dob on his cousin many, many times. My son presented a robust defence (‘Well, they were butt-butt heads,’) but eventually I felt like I had to do something. I put it off for as long as possible, but the elder cousin was quite insistent that justice should prevail. He was high on the glory of being the dobber and not the dobbee. Who wouldn’t be?
‘He was being rude to those kids over there,’ the dobber told me, helpfully pointing at a group of children who were scowling at my child and miming machine gun fire (so oblique, wow, puzzling).
I took the little fellow by the hand and marched him over.
‘If you were rude to these kids, you need to say sorry,’ I told him.
‘I’m sorry,’ he mumbled, from behind my leg.
‘That’s okay,’ said the kids, and they disappeared.
My son’s tiny face crumpled and my heart broke and fell out of my chest and onto the ground right there next to the swing-set. He put his arms up for a cuddle and I picked him up.
Almost immediately, I felt terrible. He was not sorry, and he had no idea what had just happened. I know it’s not okay for kids to be rude as a general rule, but that whole exercise was pointless. Four-year-olds don’t have a concept of propriety. How can they have a concept of its breach? They are constantly rude to each other. They call it ‘being best friends.’
I won’t be doing that again. Instead, I will stick to my tried-and true formula of making a hasty exit from a playground if the situation deteriorates to threats of violence communicated through mime. Directed at either of us, or from either of us.
When my son is older, we can talk about being rude and being kind and all of that. But for now, I’m going to stop wrangling him into performing niceties that achieve nothing, because that is being a butt-butt head. And I, friends, have a butt and a head and they are distinct and shall remain so.