Monday, January 01, 2007

Hell is other children + my child

F is no longer playing with his best friend, outside the schoolyard. That’s it.

So, now I’ve done one more thing I always told myself I wouldn’t: I’ve messed with my child’s friendships.

But it’s not just that F and A don’t play nicely together anymore. It’s not all about the rude words, the dobbing, the tantrums, the attitude. It’s also that I can’t stand Those Conversations with The Mother anymore.

I can handle criticisms of F’s behaviour. Even if I don’t agree with the interpretation, I can listen to it and (mostly) respect it. But criticism of my son that centres on ‘his personality’, I won’t tolerate. That’s a criticism of who he inherently is.

After two Very Bad play dates this week, the first at my house, the second at The Mother’s, I decided to be honest about what I see as The Problem With F.

‘I think,’ I told the Mother, ‘that part of F’s problem is being an only child. He has no family here with kids, I have no friends with kids, and he’s only just got a brother. He’s good with me, and he’s usually very good in the classroom these days. It’s in the playground and when he has kids over that there are problems. My instinct is to say that he can’t have friends over to play, or visit friends, anymore, but that won’t solve anything. He needs to have other kids over more, unfortunately. He needs to learn how to play with them properly.’

‘Oh, I don’t think that’s the problem,’ said The Mother blithely. ‘I think the problem is his personality.’

I looked at her, not quite believing my ears, and not sure if she meant what I thought I heard.

‘Um, yes, the way his personality is influenced by being an only child.’

‘Oh, no. It’s just his personality.’


I’ll backtrack now, to the first Very Bad play date. My house. Wednesday. 8.45am.
I open the door, in my pyjamas, to the Mother, A and his younger brother, W. They are dressed in matching outfits, with matching vinyl backpacks. The Mother is on her way to work, and I have the boys for the day.

Somewhat inexplicably (to me, anyway), the Mother has insisted on packing lunch for her boys, though I’ve told her not to bother. After all, I’ll be feeding F.
‘It means they can just eat when they’re hungry, and they won’t have to ask you for food,’ she explains.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve told F not to constantly ask for food at her house. The Husband’s less charitable view is that it’s because she thinks we won’t feed them properly. The genesis of this is an idea we once had (and discarded) for similar reasons. F went to play for the day at a friend’s house, for the first time. When he was dropped home, he crawled out of the car and literally collapsed on our doorstep, moaning and clutching his stomach. (I’m going to be siiiick!’) He’s a drama queen, so I poked him and told him to get up. The mother dropping him off cheerily informed me: ‘Oh, he’s probably a bit full. He’s had chips, popcorn, cake, two bowls of chocolate ice-cream – he asked so nicely for a second bowl, I couldn’t say no – and biscuits. Boy, he loved my biscuits. Couldn’t get enough of them!’ I looked at F again. ‘Can I go to bed?’ he asked in a small voice. That’s when I knew he was genuinely unwell. I spent the next 45 minutes reading him stories while he moaned on his bed. We thought about sending him with a packed lunch next time, but discarded the idea as too rude. (Though I’m well aware we could be projecting, in this case.)

Anyway: the boys raced into the lounge room, where F and The Husband were playing F’s new Lego Star Wars Playstation game. The Husband downed his control and disappeared for a shower. F, still in his PJs and dressing gown, tossed a coin to decide who should take over the Husband’s turn first. I set the timer for 12 minutes and arranged that the boys would rotate every time the timer went off. I disappeared too, to the kitchen to make breakfast pancakes. Down the hallway, I could hear the bickering start.
‘I want to be Luke.’
‘No, I do!’
‘Euuwww! I’m Princess Leia! Help me change characters! I’m a girl!’
It is my policy not to know anything about working the Playstation, which I loathe. It means that, at times like this, the Husband is summoned to sort things out.

The Husband has things to do today, he informs me as he scarfs down his daily rice porridge. I eye him suspiciously.
‘So, you’re leaving me alone with the kids?’
‘I’ll hurry back.’
I think about this, and decide I’d rather cope on my own. They will drive him even crazier than they will me. And there are some perks to being the stepfather.
‘Don’t,’ I say. ‘Take as long as you like. As long as you can.’

Soon, the boys are all furnished with honey-smeared pancakes. W has brought breakfast as well as lunch. His plastic container of Nutri-Grain languishes uneaten on the floor. I tell them Play Station time is over. After F gets dressed, they descend on his room to play their favourite game, Pooland, which consists of F and A making a cubby under the bed, with an adjoining cubby for W between the bed-end and the wall, where the toyboxes usually sit. W comes to inform me that he needs help clearing the territory, and I oblige.

Half an hour and much merriment later, they have moved on to Lego. I am summoned to adjudicate on who got which piece first and who snatched from who. At some point, I admonish F for not sharing a new Christmas toy.
‘We share with him at our house!’ exclaims A, and I agree.
After a few rounds of me being Lego Judge, the boys migrate to the study, where they sprawl across the floor, drawing. They are relatively content.

I pass F’s bedroom and pause in the doorway to inspect the damage. It is a spectacular mess. The toyboxes are empty; their contents forming a second layer of carpet. The floor rug ripples like the aftermath of an earthquake, littered with Lego and other debris.

I summon them for a clean-up. I get a chorus of ‘excuse me, but I didn’t play with that one’ and ‘I didn’t touch those toys’.
I channel my mother: ‘I don’t care who made what mess. You all clean it all up.’
They do.

‘Excuse me,’ calls A. ‘F isn’t really cleaning up. We’re doing it all.’
I look at them. A and W are mechanically piling toys into boxes. F is wandering across the room, singing to himself, fondling a piece of Lego.
‘Okay,’ I concede. ‘You boys can go back to drawing.’
They disappear in an instant.

So begins an argument that escalates to some smart-arse remark I don’t remember. I smack his hand, not very hard. He glares at me defiantly.
‘Didn’t hurt.’
I smack him again, harder.
‘Still didn’t hurt.’
‘What,’ I say, ‘on EARTH are you doing? Why would you say something like that to me? Why, F, do you WANT me to hurt you?’
‘I’m trying to show you how tough I am,’ he spits.

I am astounded at his honesty. And furious, of course.
I tell him that’s ridiculous, that showing me how tough he is does not impress me and won’t help him one little bit. At the same time, I’m aware that the ‘tough’ image is for the benefit of his friends on the other side of the door. So. It starts, already.

I tell him that there will be no more Bionicles again, for the rest of the week. His entire body clenches with anger, concentrated in the tight fists bunched at his sides. He fixes his gaze on me and yells, at the top of his lungs.
His eyes dare me to respond - and recoil from the possible consequences.
‘That’s your Lego and your Exoforce and your Bionicles and your Playstation gone for a week. Your friends can play with them, but not you.’

I am engulfed in the same pure anger he is burning with. The flames have leapt across the divide between us. I stand there and splutter, genuinely speechless. He has never done anything like this before, never. Well, not since the terrible twos anyway. And he didn’t swear then.

I scoop up the toyboxes filled with Lego and take them to the study, one by one. A and W watch, wide-eyed, as I stack them neatly. I manage a smile, and a few reassuring words. ‘I know what you should do!’ shouts A excitedly. ‘You should tell him Santa won’t come to him next year! No Santa!’ I manage a ‘hmmm, maybe not’ before I storm back into the bedroom, green garbage bag in hand.
‘That’s IT!’ I shout. ‘I’m taking some of your toys to give away to kids who deserve them. You’re obviously spoilt. You’ve got too many things.’

I am shocked anew when the tiny powerhouse that F has become, fuelled by rage, is upon me. A punch lands in my chest, hard and deliberate. Another first. I look at my son and I don’t recognise what I see glaring back at me. I am appalled, at both of us. I grab him and try to smack his bottom. He ducks and weaves, twisting in my grasp, manages to squirm himself away from me. His triumphant grin taunts me. There is no doubt about it. He is winning and I am losing control fast. Okay, I’ve already lost it.

‘Go to the laundry,’ I order.
I try to bundle him up under my arm, but it is useless. He grips my legs with his, an angry koala at my ankles.
In desperation, I pry him off, shut the door on him and call F’s father on his mobile. He is at the cricket. With his parents and his new in-laws, who will all be most impressed that I need his help to discipline his son. Oh well.
‘F is being physically abusive,’ I tell him breathlessly. ‘He punched me and now he won’t do anything I tell him. I don’t know what to do.’
‘Well, send him to the laundry.’
‘He won’t go.’
‘Make him.’
‘I can’t. I already tried.’
‘You’re bigger than him.’
‘I know.’
Eventually, he offers to speak to F. I gratefully accept. As I said, I am desperate. I give F the phone, tell him who it is in ominous tones, and watch him take it reluctantly. I stand back and wait for a grim telling-off to begin.

I hear: ‘So, mate. I hear you and your mother are having some problems. What’s happening?’ He sounds chummy, inviting confidences. I listen to a few more lines of this before snatching back the phone.
‘Be angry!’ I say. ‘You can’t be nice to him. He punched me! Be stern with him.’
I pass back the phone and watch F listen to more of his dad’s calm exhortations to please be good and show your mother some respect. To be fair, as he listens, some of the heat dies down. His eyes lose that possessed gleam and his body language softens, goes limp.
I put away the green garbage bag - my concession to a truce. The rational part of my brain begins to take control again, my instincts and emotions receding. We have some stern words about respect and appropriate behaviour, language and attitude. I tell him to clean up his whole room, not just the recent mess.

I return to the study, and sit at my computer. I smile inanely at A and W and ask them about their pictures.
‘Remember how you were going to give F’s Bionicles to his friends if he was naughty?’ asks A.
‘Mmmm,’ I mumble.
‘Are you still going to do that?’
‘That was before Christmas. It’s passed now.’
‘So, will you do it?’
He returns to his picture.

F comes to show me his clean room. He is meek and obedient. Peace reigns for a while. I make F grilled cheese on toast for lunch, with apple on the side.
‘Can we have that?’ asks A.
‘You’ve got your sandwiches.’
Their faces fall. I return to the kitchen and immediately relent. I bring the boys grilled cheese and apple. They eat companionably over a Superman comic. After lunch, they want to play Pooland again.
‘Outside,’ I say. ‘I don’t want the room trashed again, and you don’t want to clean it up. Do you?’
They don’t. I help them forage for blankets, cushions and sleeping bags, which they trail outside. I read my book on the couch, inside.

I receive various complaints. Bad words. Not sharing. I deal with them. W runs screaming into the house, F’s Hot Wheels fleecy blanket streaming out behind him. F is in hot pursuit.
‘Give it back! Give it back!’
W has conducted a raid on F’s fort. I remind W he has his own blanket for his fort.
‘But I needed another one.’
‘Well, you can’t just snatch something someone else is playing with.’ I fetch him a large towel.

The Husband rings from the relative safety of Highpoint Shopping Centre. I give him a brief run-down.
‘Do you want me to talk to F?’ he offers. I am reminded of how much I love him. I tell him I’ve got it covered. W appears at my side, grinning up at me.
‘I’m Darth Maul!’ he beams from beneath a swirl of texta.
‘Oh, W,’ I say. ‘No! You can’t draw on your face with texta.’
F and A run by, squealing with approval.
‘NO!’ I shout after them. ‘You can’t draw on yourselves with texta!’
I tell the Husband I really should go. I am about to hang up when F and A run past again, covered in texta. They bolt into the bathroom, followed by W. A slams the door behind them. Hard. The door is faulty and is never shut, because it jams and can’t be opened. Right now, it is jammed at a very strange angle.
‘Oh nooooo,’ I wail down the phone. ‘I really have to go now.’
I tell the Husband he should shop as long as he can. One of us might as well be sane tonight.

I peer through the crack in the doorway at the boys. F and A’s faces are worse than W’s. They are all giggling madly.
‘I’ll open the window and we’ll all climb out,’ announces F.
It takes me roughly 15 minutes to get the door open. It feels much longer.
I catch the boys as they pour out enthusiastically.
‘I thought we were going to be stuck FOREVER!’

‘I need to wash your faces.’
I do A and W first. It takes a long time. The boys giggle as I come to F. He rolls up his sleeves.
‘He did his willy, too,’ says A.
‘And his bum,’ echoes W.
I inspect his handiwork and grimly deposit him in the shower.

After all the boys have been cleaned up, I feel slightly bad. They were being creative. They were naughty for using texta, but what if I had face paint? I am inspired. I dig out a few old lipsticks I never use. I take them into the backyard and tell the boys they can use them to paint their faces.
‘This is make-up,’ I say. ‘It’s MEANT for faces.’
Ten minutes later, the boys visit me in the lounge room. I regret my decision. A has covered his entire face in glitter-flecked orangey bronze lipstick. He shimmers as he bounces excitedly before me.
‘I look CHINESE!’ he shouts.
I haven’t seen any Chinese people with glittery bronze faces, but I am too gobsmacked to respond. This time, it’s my fault. He has also helped himself to my mascara, which he has used to paint his eyebrows.

I let them dance about in front of my bedroom mirror for as long as I can stand it. I take a group photo, then summon them to the bathroom for another round of scrubbing. They emerge with raw red faces. I leave A until last. I takes a very, very long time. When I finish, his eyebrows are still tinged with glowing orange, as is his hairline. I can’t help laughing. He looks vaguely demonic.
'I’ll have another go later,’ I tell him.
He runs off, grateful for an end to his ordeal.

I return to my book. A soon appears before me, sniffing and rubbing his shoulder. His other hand grips a light sabre.
‘F hit me.’
I yell for F. He appears, wielding his own light sabre.
‘Did you hit A?’ I demand.
‘It was an accident.’
I look at the light sabres.
‘Did he hit you with the light sabre?’ A nods.
‘Were you having a light sabre duel?’ He nods again.
‘Was it an accident?’ Another nod.
I dismiss them.

There is lots of to-ing and fro-ing from the yard, F’s bedroom and the study. There are squabbles over using W’s red light sabre. (‘It’s mine, and I want my brother to use it, not F.’ I allow this.) Half an hour later, there is a squabble over F’s green light sabre. (‘I want my brother to use it,’ says A. I don’t allow this.) There are tears when F adds something to W’s picture. I tell him off. A leans over and adds something.
‘SEE!’ yells F. ‘A did it!’
W sniffs.
‘He’s allowed to,’ he says.
‘Oh, and you don’t like me. I get it.’
‘I do. You’re my friend,’ says W solemnly. ‘But he’s my BROTHER.’ He shoots A a worshipful glance. It seems that the old F-A alliance has shifted in favour of a brotherly one, today.

When The Mother arrives to pick up the boys, she asks how they were.
‘Oh, you know,’ I reply. ‘They were, um, interesting. You know how boys can be. There was a bit of fighting, and F was pretty naughty. But it was okay.’


I have a blissful day on Friday, my birthday. After the early morning festivities, I drop F at the Mother’s soon after 9am, telling him to treat The Mother with respect and do as she says. The Husband and I spend the day eating, shopping and lazing about.

At 6pm, I arrive at The Mother’s. She leads me into the kitchen, where smoke is pouring from the griller. Forgotten toast. F and W are quiet, nestled under a sleeping bag before the TV. A is nowhere to be seen.

The other tells me that she has had a tough day. Apparently, A had a screaming tantrum when F wanted to play with his new toys. Didn’t even want him in his bedroom. He is asleep in the mother’s bed. They had an afternoon nap together while W and F watched a DVD.

Apparently, the boys were badly behaved at the Vic markets, this morning’s outing. They were giggling and pointing at a girl’s exposed muffin top as they walked behind her. Her friends overheard and turned around. They were shouting questions at passers by while The Mother was making purchases at a stall.
‘Well,’ I admit. ‘I guess I have seen F do that before. On Grand Final Day, he was stopping people in the street to ask if they were barracking for Eagles or Swans.’
The Mother doesn’t react.

‘And they’ve been talking about sex again,’ she continues. ‘They were teasing each other, saying they wanted to have sex with a girl at school. And they said something about boobs.’
I sigh and apologise.
‘Why do you think F is so obsessed with sex?’ she asks.

My mind whirrs. On Wednesday, A was just as bad as F on this topic. I wonder whether to mention this.
‘They were all talking about that a bit on Wednesday,’ I venture.
‘Mmm. It starts, then goes around in a circle, doesn’t it?’
‘I think it’s about having just learnt how babies are made and getting their heads around it,’ I offer, deliberately keeping it plural.

‘I think it’s because he’s so accelerated in his reading,’ she says, reprising her theory from a few weeks ago. ‘I mean, he can read anything, so who knows what he’s reading? He’s obviously reading beyond his age. Like that book he brought over.’ She gestures at a nearby table, where Andy Griffiths’ The Bad Book sits. ‘It’s totally inappropriate and very rude. It’s all about bums and things.’
I am momentarily floored. I didn’t really think when I put the book in his bag, but now it seems obvious that that was a bad decision.

‘(My husband) bought some marvel comics the other day,’ she continues. ‘They were aimed at eight-year-olds, I think, but we couldn’t believe it. There was some very suggestive stuff in there between Peter Parker and Mary Jane. Not explicit, but you know, implied. F must read that stuff. Maybe that’s where he gets it.’
I reiterate that I think it’s Where Did I Come From? that’s the influence, but she ignores me.

Then she makes the comment about how F’s problem is obviously his personality. I call F and find his shoes. We make small talk while I tie his laces and tell myself furiously that I have HAD ENOUGH. The Mother wishes me a happy birthday and gives me a plate of biscuits on the way out.

As we ride home, I lecture F about respect and lack of it and furiously interrogate him about his day.
‘A wouldn’t let me play with any of his toys,’ he complains. ‘He was angry that I was in his room, so he said: “you want to sex with X”.'
‘And what did you say?’
‘I said he wanted to sex with her.’
I give him the talk about appropriate language and ‘it’s for adults’ and ‘just because he said it, doesn’t mean you should’. I tell him that the Mother now thinks he’s a rude child and that it doesn’t seem that he’ll be welcome there again. I tell him that his bad behaviour is not a nice birthday present for me.

The Husband greets us at the door. I fill him in. I am confused. I don’t quite know who I should be angry with about what and to what degree.
‘That’s f**ked,’ he says. ‘What a bitch.’
‘He’s not playing there again, even if he is invited,’ I decide. ‘I can’t take more of this. And they don’t play well together anymore.’
The Husband takes F by the shoulders.
‘Mate,’ he says. ‘No matter what (The Mother) says, you’re a great kid. We think you’re great.’ He hugs him.
‘Your behaviour today was not great,’ I add. ‘But you are.’ I apologise about my comment about his behaviour and my birthday, and he cheerily accepts.

I’m left feeling more confused than ever and pretty sure I haven’t handled this entirely well.

F**k it. It’s my birthday.

We all go out to dinner, to a local place we know F likes a lot, and I read him stories while we wait for our meals, holding him very close on my lap.


cristy said...

It does sound to me like they need some time apart and that it is not good for F to be at A's mother's house at the moment.

If you can avoid making either of those decisions permanent that would also be good, but that may not be easy. Kids do grow apart all the time.

Ariel said...

You are wise, Obi Wan. (Sorry - reinstated Play Station firing in background.) Yeah, I think semi-permanent decisions on this is probably best. Poor A's mother, she had a helluva day too and F is adept at being a royal pain at the moment. Maternal fury (mine) is a killer, though. I don't think I can yet see sense through my protective instincts. Eurgh!

meva said...

A's mother sounds like a right bitch. And I don't think F should be made to feel that he is a pariah because of her problems.

He sounds like a pretty normal kid to me. Especially that power play in his bedroom. Just remember that you're the grown up, and kids will always try to test you. Noone wins those showdowns. I have a very strong willed son, and I find that if he stays in his room and I go somewhere else in the house for a few minutes, we both calm down. I know... not easy.

redcap said...

It does sound very trying, you poor chook. Meva's right - A's mother does sound like a royal bitch. Fancy implying there's something wrong with a seven-year-old's personality! Does F even want to play with A any more or go to his house? It doesn't sound like they're getting along very well. He might make the choice for you.

Galaxy said...

Happy Birthday!

Ariel said...

Meva: Thanks - that's just what I need to hear. Normal. And you're right - showdowns BAD, time out GOOD. I don't know, on reflection, why I didn't just walk away and come back. Next time ...

RC: I know! What I really can't believe is that anyone (let alone a mother) can bag a child's very personality to its MOTHER, and not realise she will want to kill you. *sigh*

Galaxy - thankyou!

redcap said...

Oh, yes, and happy birthday!

Kate said...

Sounds very tough and trying for everyone. Though the Mother sounds pretty vindictive if she can't see her own children can misbehave too.

Susoz said...

It sounds like much shorter playdates could be useful in curtailing some of the behaviour.

Lynn said...

I'm with Susoz on that one. Putting up with two kids for the whole day as you did is too much to ask of anyone!

Reading through I thought of a couple of little tips to keep the fury down. First threaten (or remind of the threat), then deliver the consequence (ie removal of toys) (and keep breathing in between time so you stay calm). I would have screamed out 'shit' if I'd lost my toys unexpectedly too!

As for your Mother friend - the recipe swapping and behaviour comments seem like some sort of competitive mother thing that you can do without. It's funny watching people who get wierded out by children's interests in bodies and sexuality, but not too funny if they single out your kid as the source of it.

One of my friends has an expression for kids who like each other and play well but get each other into troubled dynamics - it's 'a poison pairing'. It's a nice way of looking at two kids as individuals but acknowledging they are bad when they are together.

Lynn said...

Oh, and the 'personality' remark is way, way out of order. Start talking about her personality and see how she likes it.

Ariel said...

Thanks RC!

Kate, I think she can accept that they can misbehave, but not that they might be being RUDE of their own accord.

Susoz & Lynn - yes, I think so too. And poison pairings is a goodie. F has two of them (the other one with the kid he ate junk with until he literally dropped).

Red said...

Ouch, poor you, what a day! Gosh, that comment about F's personality is way out of line--A's mum sounds a tad passive-aggressive.

BTW, please don't worry too much about the 'only child' thing. Many of us grow into socially well-adjusted adults ... even if we do spend too much time online :)

Happy birthday and thank you for another wonderfully honest and moving post on being a parent.

Anonymous said...

Two things, writing from what seems like aeons away from this period:
Other parents don't go away. But
kids' squabbles do become their responsibility one day.

That mother has a nerve expecting you to mind two for the price of one, then making comments about your child being solo. I don't really like the sound of that. Where I come from, you don't offer to take siblings for the whole day and then put up with that kind of rubbish.

It seems to me that your son's friendship might require that he have 'quality time' with his friend, and that you see how they get on one on one before ditching the kid altogether - they might both be different without little bro to show off to (yes, that is what kids do!). The little brother being thrown in is not helping you, it's helping her. And I would make the play date shorter for sure. Even ask a third friend over once things have settled down. But not the little brother, I think A is using him and is obviously enjoying going home and dobbing bigtime to Mum. (Which does raise the question of whether he is a good friend in the first place. But one on one time should give you some idea of whether that is the case.)

If she will not agree to a one on one play, perhaps she's just using you anyway. In which case you are more than entitled to feel intense maternal instincts when she insults your son.
I had one of those 'sexing' inquiries from another parent once,
who was able to ask the right questions with sensitivity and respect for us as parents rather than laying it on my kid - he told me what his daughter had told him, then when I made it clear our daughter would not have been the source of such information he was able to conclude quite gracefully it could have been another child. It doesn't have to be a blame game, all she really needed was information about what happened and it's really bad that she has chosen to make her own judgement without asking you what you know first. I think you have every right to be angry.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, that should have been 'kids' squabbles do become their own responsibility one day'. WHoops.

Watershedd said...

Oh, Ariel, what a day - or two! I may not have children of my own, but I have been a step parent and it was not easy. I like Genevieve's suggestion of the one on one time. There's a big difference in caring for two rather than three. there's often an odd one out when there's three. Also, there's a maturity issue, because the age you're dealing with, one or two years makes an enormous diference to interests and coping strategies. As for the Mother, sounds like she's happy to dispense criticism to you and your child and none too subtlely. Your own attempts to more tactfully address A's issues may need to be more direct (careful not to sound spiteful).

As for the sex thing, education is always better than a lack thereof. I read the same book at the same age. It's written for kids and is great. Don't stop educating F. If he's old enough to ask or use a word, he's old enough to get an explanation put in a way he can understand. Ignorance breeds arrogance and a lack of compassion for others.

audrey said...

Ariel, you are a leader of mothers. I read your posts and marvel at how you do it, and then write about it so beautifully. Your posts are always so compelling. Happy birthday xoxo

Ariel said...

Red - Thank you on all counts. And I tend to agree on the passive-agressive.

Genevieve - Food for thought - and thanks to you, too. Play date definitely too long and hadn't thought about showing off for little brother - that was some of it, but they haave also been pretty BLEH one-on-one lately. Time apart, I think, and see what happens next year ...

Watershedd - I do agree (conflicted though all this crap can make you) that education is a good thing. It's not too unusual to have a period of getting his head around the knowledge while he learns about appropriate behaviour.

Audrey - *blush* That comment was a marvellous birhtday present.

genevieve said...

Have to second everyone's comments about how it is written, too - I can practically see those kids enjoying the dobbing thanks to your great account.