We have a great set of neighbors around us. Many of them are like us – and in some cases, they even have kids the age of our kids. We are happy that the parents around us have a similar philosophy about child rearing. The ultimate desire is to let the kids be kids, so we emphasize sticking together and looking out for each other with the rules.
One exception is this one family. It is a single mom with three kids. The oldest is a boy who has way too much responsibility for his age. He’s only a year older than my oldest, but where my kids “help me” do things – he’s solely responsible for things like laundry, watching his siblings, etc. As a result, he is often resentful and mean when interacting with kids his own age. If they are all playing and his brother gets hurt, he doesn’t make sure he’s okay – he yells for him to get up and to “stop being a baby”.
I know this is not what is in this kid’s heart. Sometimes while the other kids play on the swing set, he plays with our yellow lab. The fact there is a creature who wants nothing more from him than to get pets and to have a ball thrown is exactly what that kid needs. Within a few minute, his demeanor is different. He is calm, less rough around the edges, and actually nurturing.
Case in point, last night, we heard someone banging on our door. It was this boy and his younger brother. He was clearly upset. After getting him calmed down, he explained he was at home (alone) with his younger brother when he started hearing noises in the house. He started noticing there were doors open that he hadn’t noticed before, so he grabbed his brother and made a run for it. The kid was scared to death. We told him over and over again that he did the right thing – that he protected his brother and himself, not by confronting the possible situation, but by getting the hell out of there. My husband called his mom who said she was on the way back from the store. He also went next door to find out if there was indeed someone in the house – there wasn’t.
I sat there hugging this big tough kid as he cried. I told him it was hard being the big kid when things like this happened because you felt like you had to protect your siblings. We both told him over and over again that he did the right thing – that he was always welcome to come here when he was scared. Finding an adult you can trust is what you should do in this case. He eventually settled down. And it helped further to talk to him about other thing, and the girls came and played Legos with them. I think it also helped that our other dog, sensing he needed some love, came and sat next to him.
Mom eventually came. She apologized profusely for the inconvenience. We told her that they were welcome to come by anytime they were scared. She started asking her kids why they were without shoes (or a shirt in the older boy’s case) – kind of scolding as she did it. I piped up that they were scared – and it was fine. I didn’t want to hear the kid get scolded for doing the right thing – to get yelled at instead of hugged.
I don’t want to judge the parent. I know she is doing the best she can do with what she has. I just wish she would be okay with help. That she would be see that we do not judge her for the situation she is in – but for how she is reacting to it. Her son needs to be a kid. He cannot be expected to be the man of the house. Kids these days already grow up too fast, he doesn’t need to grow up faster. Heck, he shouldn’t even be left alone – he’s way too young especially in our neighborhood. (In our state, they don’t specify an age for staying home alone – they simply say “A child should not be left in a position of authority or be left alone in situations beyond his ability to handle.”)
No one can truly do it alone – we all need help sometimes. And, she is surrounded by people who get that – and who help each other out. I guess I will have to let the her son know that he is always welcome….even if he just wants to throw the ball for the dog.