Recently we went to a dinner party. Our whole family was invited, which doesn't happen too often when you have three kids. The hosts have a son the same age as one of mine. There were two other families there as well.
With nine kids, the hostess wisely hired a neighbor she knows well to watch over the kids, help serve them dinner and make sure they didn't get out of control. The kids had their own table, ate dinner early, and then went to the detached rec room to play the Wii and hang out while the adults had a lovely dinner at the dining room table.
Conversation centered around the sub-prime mortgage collapse as each couple had some connection or was affected in some way by it. Despite terms like "negative amortization" and "inflation" flying around, it was a good conversation, sometimes veering off to other topics such as schools and Van Halen concerts. Soon after the adults sat down to eat, the oldest of the children present, a 13 year old girl, came in and whispered to her mother, then sat nearby playing her hand-held video game. The mother mentioned to no one in particular that there was some bad behavior going on among the kids. I thought she was referring to her own child, or one of the boys I didn't know, but of course she wasn't talking about any of my kids.
She got up to check on the kids, came back, sat down, filled up her wine glass again. Wait, did I miss something? Why does this woman look like she wants to slap me?
She leaned forward in a sort of fake, mean-spirited conspiratorial way and said, "I want to tell you that your seven year old was beating up my daughter and he is really not a nice kid. I'm telling you this because if my son did anything like this, I would want to know about it. Is this the way he usually acts?"
So many reactions and thoughts were rushing through my head that I just sat there and stared at her. What do you do when someone insults your child in the middle of polite dinner conversation? I mean, besides calling them a bitch? I really like the friends who hosted the party, and I didn't want to ruin the dinner. I'm not really a confrontational person. So, wondering what my second grade son could have possibly done to this seventh grader, I told the woman that I would find out the what was going on from all my boys. But I would do it later. And I just sat there, turned to another guest at the table, and joined another conversation.
A few minutes later I caught my husband's eye. He looked at me and immediately said, "What's wrong?" I had that look that spouses instantly recognize in each other, the "I'm really really pissed off" look. He started to panic thinking he did something when I motioned to the woman next to him. He rolled his eyes, letting me know he understood my feeling but would get the story later.
As soon as we were in the car, I instituted an absolute dictatorship. I announced I would hear what went on from the seven year old with no interruptions or comments from anyone, then the brothers would have their turns. I was seething mad but knew I didn't have the whole story.
It turns out that the seventh grader refused to let the second grader have a turn with the Wii. And she was picking on him, telling him girls were better than boys, he was a bad person (which was particularly hurtful to him) and telling him to shut up. He admitted his anger got the best of him but he did not hit her, he instead was hitting the back of her chair. One brother backed up his story and the other said it was such a minor thing that he didn't even notice anything was going on. The babysitter didn't notice anything amiss either. When the mother came out to check on the kids she was particularly rude to the seven year old. All the kids noticed that.
How to explain all this to a second grader? My god I couldn't even explain it to myself.
My husband came to the rescue. Utterly uninformed of the situation until we got in the car, he summed it all up for the boys by telling them that 13 year old girls are creatures to be wary of, they can unpredictable and not very nice. Be careful and steer clear of them.
I guess that goes for their mothers too.
I'm not sure it was the best explanation. But I had to agree with it, I was a 13 year old girl myself once.
Thank god I have boys.