"Tell Me You Would NEVER . . . "
The title of this post is something that I find myself saying to LG with rather alarming frequency. It's always after one of her little girlfriends has done something heinous. We were talking about this at the agency where I work the other day, and everyone there had stories to share of mean girls. Mean little girls, be they nieces, neighbors, what have you. Aren't parents teaching their kids the basics of politeness, courtesy, and such? This may be the post in which I reveal my hopelessly old-school, uncool true self.
This is a letter (mistakes intact, names disguised) that my daughter received last year from a friend (?):
Because of my popularness, I cannot play with you and eat with you every day. I will be busy playing and eating on the following days with Erin and Andrea:
So it will be far to all my friends that are close to me like best friends. So this is how it is going to be for now on. If you have any complaints please e-mail me as soon as you can.
Brigitte Bordello (aka a best friend maybe)
For the first few years of LG's school life, I invited every girl in the class to her birthday parties. I couldn't bear the thought of some little one feeling excluded. We were the only ones who did this. I realize it's not always practical, and perhaps not even reasonable, especially as kids get older and form groups of friends. (I miss the days of pre-school, when the entire class, and even Miss Betty and Miss Carole were "my friends" to LG.) We invited kids that did not invite her to their parties -- and they always came. I've tried not to encourage a tit-for-tat mentality; more Golden Ruley, whenever possible.
One thing that is practical and reasonable, though, is to teach children not to discuss a party in the presence of anyone whom you are not absolutely certain was invited to that party. This is a rule that I made up, I guess, but it seems kind to me. We are clearly the only ones who have this rule. And the corollary is, invitations are always mailed or hand-delivered to homes; NEVER taken into school where it becomes so obvious who is and is not invited. Until this year, we were the only ones who followed that rule. Interestingly, this year the school made it a policy that no written invitations could be distributed there. Not that everyone follows it, but it did feel good to point out to LG that someone other than I felt that was a bad idea. I can just picture a mean kid flamboyantly handing out little envelopes, and the little uninvited ones waiting, hoping, only to be disappointed. Grrrr! I know how it has affected LG to listen to some of her friends talk about going to so-and-so's upcoming soiree, when she has not been invited. I can only use these moments to reinforce "our" value system, "See, we're making a good decision by not doing that; it can be hurtful." And then I go into all the reasons why people must limit the number of guests, etc., but little Veronica is still your friend, etc.
At LG's recent birthday party, one of the young ladies (*cough*choke*) had a problem with the refreshments that we offered. I said to her, as I had to each of the other guests, "Would you like fruit punch or lemonade?" And she said to me, as no one else had, "What?! You mean you don't even have any sodas?!" Yet another occasion after which we got home, did the post-mortem on the day and I found myself saying to my daughter, "You must tell me that you would NEVER say a thing like that to your hostess . . . " And I hear her say, somewhat wearily, "No, Mom, I would never do that." Cheez!
Are kids getting meaner? Are parents neglecting to teach kindness, politeness? Am I an old fart?