The little girl is a friend of our daughters and we thought it would be nice to get them all together before school started. The girls were so thrilled that this friend of theirs was coming over, they could hardly contain their excitement.
When she arrived they hugged and gushed about how much they'd missed each other and so on and so forth and they reminded me of sorority sisters reuniting after years apart.
They set off to play in the girls' room with their dollhouse and things were going great. Charlie and I smiled at each other as we could distinctly hear the boys laughing together in the basement, while the girls' giggles and sweet voices indicated that their imaginations had taken flight.
Very soon, we soon became distracted and although we could still hear the girls playing, we weren't eavesdropping or hovering over their social time. Perhaps an hour had passed when suddenly, we heard what sounded like our little visitor angrily screech, "YOU GET OUT OF THIS ROOM! GET OUT OF HERE RIGHT NOW!"
The boys were in the midst of helping me make a batch of muffins (pouring contents in to the Kitchen Aid) so Charlie bolted down the hall to see what was going on. En route to the room, in the hallway, he passed Elizabeth who looked shell shocked.
"What happened?" he asked.
She shrugged her shoulders and continued walking away from her room, towards our living room with eyes full of tears. Charlie walked in to the girls' room and asked, "What just happened in here? Who said GET OUT?" The girls were sitting cross-legged facing each other and Carolyn pointed her finger at her friend.
"She said it, Dad. She told Elizabeth GET OUT OF HERE."
My husband looked at our little visitor and asked, "What? WHY would you do that?" The child stammered before replying, "I told her to GET OUT OF HERE because she had to use the bathroom. I was just telling her to go." Charlie was suppressing fury as he said, "First, this is ELIZABETH'S house and ELIZABETH'S room. Second, it is NOT OK to talk like that in our house. We use NICE language, do you understand me? Now you need to apologize to Elizabeth!"
He spun around and left the room. When he found Elizabeth, she was sitting on the couch with tears streaming down her face as she silently sobbed. I had been in the next room, but hadn't even heard her, above the whir of the mixer. Which is probably a good thing because me, being the overprotective parent that I am, would have popped a few buttons off my blouse when I turned in to the Incredible Hulk.
"Oh sweetheart, what happened?" he asked.
"I, I, I don't know," she answered. "We were playing nicely and suddenly she told me she didn't like me and to GET OUT RIGHT NOW. So I left..." The tears dripped off her cheeks and on to her little polkadot dress.
Charlie has an incredibly soft spot in his heart for his sweet Elizabeth. But he suppressed the HULK and scooped up his little girl with a tight embrace. Then he turned and walked back down the hallway to the girls' room. As he was holding her in his arms, he said to our little visitor, "You need to apologize to Elizabeth. That was very unkind what you said."
At that moment, he noticed that the little girl was sobbing. Tears, streaming down her face. Charlie put our daughter down and she ran over and knelt next to her "friend" who apologized, "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry!"
Elizabeth was wiping away her own tears and saying, "That's OK. I'm OK. Let's play again!"
(For the record, a bit later after their friend had left I asked Carolyn why she didn't stand up for her sister and she said she didn't know. I then asked Elizabeth why she didn't stand up for herself and she said, "I didn't want to make her sad..." William piped up that if he'd been in the room, he would have told said, "How about YOU GET OUT?" Atta boy. Although he's only a minute older, thankfully he's got the Big Brother instinct.)
Charlie rejoins me in the kitchen and tells me what has happened and then, has to cordon me off when he sees my skin taking on a greenish tinge. Thirty minutes goes past and I'm pulling hot muffins out of the oven. We summon everyone to the breakfast nook for a little snack. All five children are seated around the table and I'm in the VERY NEXT ROOM washing mixing bowls and muffin tins.
I'm not exactly sure what instigated it, but all of a sudden, I hear our little visitor angrily screech, "YOU SHUT YOUR MOUTH. SHUT IT!!!"
I throw down my sponge and am spinning around to say something when Charlie bellows, "WE DO NOT TALK LIKE THAT IN THIS HOUSE. WE USE NICE LANGUAGE! DO YOU HEAR ME?"
There is more profuse apologizing followed by more tears.
Our children are stunned.
Less than five minutes later, the girl's father pulls in to our driveway. We all go out to the front yard to meet him. I'm wondering, do I mention any of this? As I'm debating how to say something, the girl runs back in to the house and returns with one of our children's favorite dolls.
Very matter-of-factly she says, "Carolyn said I could have this..."
Her brazenness surprised me. "I'm not so sure about that..." I say. "Santa brought that to Carolyn and she really loves it."
I shoot my daughter a quizzical expression that was intended to convey, "Are you out of your mind giving away your favorite doll?!" and she reciprocated with a guilty expression that was intended to convey, "I did it in the heat of the moment because I wasn't really thinking. Help me out of this. Please."
Thinking that my explanation as to why she could not have the doll would suffice, I was taken aback when the girl stuck out her lower lip and said to her father, "BUT DADDY!!! SHE SAID I COULD HAVE IT AND I WANT IT!!!!"
The father tries to console his daughter by saying, "I'm so sorry but you can't have it."
She stomps her feet, punches at her father and starts to cry.
"Now, now..." he says. "Santa brought that to Carolyn and you can't have it, sweetheart."
Then he says, "Maybe you can pick out something else instead."
Okay, I know it's the age. When kids go to other kids houses, it's FUN to come home with something new. And while I'm all for purging as much out of our house as possible, this isn't a store. She isn't going to go "shop" and find something else that she can "take" as they're walking out the front door. In my handbook, which is the only handbook that matters as it pertains to my children and their belongings, it doesn't work that way.
So I said, as graciously as possible, "No, I don't think so. It's really not a good habit to get in to - this whole giving things away because inevitably, whatever we give away, we'll be missing later tonight at bedtime."
The child stomped her feet and sat down in the middle of our stoop with her arms tightly crossed across her chest. I KID YOU NOT. If Charlie read my blog, he'd chime in to corroborate this story. (I might force him to sit down and comment for that very reason.)
The father as gently as possible, leaned down to look at his daughter in the eye. "Oh sweetheart, I know you're disappointed but you can't have anything today."
I'm thinking to myself, "Or tomorrow or the next day, or the next month, year, decade, century. Assuming you ever come back to this house again ... which OVER MY DEAD BODY."
The child spins around and hisses at her father, "YOU SHUT UP."
Oh no she didn't!
Oh yes she did?
Oh sweet heavens ... just when you think it can't get any worse.
Suddenly my mind is reeling with DISTRACTION! I spot what looks like a FASCINATING leaf that is falling from the tree and I pretend like I DIDN'T HEAR ANYTHING as I try to gather our children who have eyes the size of saucers.
"Oh my gosh!!" I excitedly exclaim. "You know what that means, don't you? Soon all the trees will be barren, again!! Guys, look! The leaves! THEY ARE FALLING FROM THE TREES!!!!"
The kids are frozen still as the father helps his daughter up, and makes a bit more small talk with my husband as he walks his child to the car, loads her in, and they drive away. Who knows what happened on the drive home.
I can only imagine how I would have responded.
After they left, Charlie and I sat down with our children and we discussed what happened that afternoon. We discussed the poor behavior of their friend and how it was absolutely unacceptable that she would be allowed to act that way. We were surprised when the children asked us, "But why did her father put up with that?"
We honestly don't know.
But this experience reminds me of my good friend, Ron, who once told us the story of a neighborhood child who was notoriously acting up in front of his own children.
One day, when the two families crossed paths in the library, the mother asked if they could get their sons together for a play date and Ron said, "No, I don't think so. Your child is OUT OF CONTROL and I don't want to expose my children to that terrible behavior. Maybe once your son learns some manners, we can discuss the possibility again."
Later that night, we're sitting down for dinner. Our conversation soon turns to their misbehaving friend and how it will be more important than ever that they demonstrate good behavior when they see her at school. "Hopefully," we tell them, "you can help teach her that people need to be respectful and use kind language."
I sneak a peek at my husband and he is beaming at our children, over the rim of his milk glass. We exchange a proud look that screams, We Are Doing Such An AWESOME Job! Look at our little children! They are so well behaved because of US!"
We lean across the table to give each other a high-five when at that exact moment, Elizabeth - our sweet, sweet Elizabeth takes a deep breath and says, "I'd never behave the way that she behaved today. That was UNF***ING believable!"
With my high-five hand outstretched towards Charlie, the last thing I saw as I fell out of my chair, was milk shooting from my husband's nose.