Phil’s college friends, a couple with a two-year-old daughter, have been staying with us for the past eight days. Today is day nine. Their departure date was this coming Monday, day twelve. Yes, was. They’ve chosen to leave, to research nearby hotels, and to call to secure a room. Their bags are packed.
“Yeah,” Phil tells me privately, “They’re going to stay in a hotel.”
“They just don’t think the girls are getting along well.”
“So. They’re kids. It’s not like there was pushing or biting or hitting. Or even screaming. Seriously?”
“I just think their daughter doesn’t really know how to play with other kids because she’s not socialized.” Phil didn’t say socialized. I don’t know what he said. I still couldn’t get past “What?!”
They travel often for work, taking their daughter on the road with them. Because they’re on the go so often, their daughter doesn’t have the opportunity to play with other kids around her own age. At least, this is what her father has shared with me.
“So, they’re butting heads. So, what? This is an opportunity for both girls to learn. You don’t just pack up and leave. Seriously?”
“Dale Carnegie, Stephanie.”
“Yesterday, didn’t you tell me that whether or not the other party is completely off-the-wall 100% dead-stupid-wrong, that you just go ahead and let them believe what they want? Think what they want. Let them think that they’re right and to keep your ego out of it?”
“Well, there it is. They think going to a hotel is the answer, so let them believe it.”
Before I play the empathy card and step into their guest slippers, I’ll share the details that stick with me as likely catalytic events to their wanting to vamoose, realizing that the backup singers to this entire gig sing lyrics something like this: take nothing personally.
This is Abigail’s house
These are her toys, that is her doll, her fork, and her pink plate. And guess what? Abigail needs to learn how to share her things, in her house, especially with a “her” two years her junior. Abigail is used to sharing with Lucas and with her friends—and especially doesn’t mind sharing when it feels like it’s her own decision, her good choice to share. But sometimes, she becomes a toy hoarder. I attribute this “those are my babydolls!” to the fact that she’s often coaxed into sharing because it’s the “right” thing to do, even when it doesn’t feel right. We all know how it goes. Tell me to share, and sod it off. But if it’s my good heart that wants to share with you, then we’re all happy.
She doesn’t particularly have to like it, but she’ll hopefully (eventually) feel good about seeing another child experiencing joy from something Abigail has shared with her. But “eventually” won’t come with the packing of bags. Kids need to learn to work things out as much as adults do. The older child, my Abigail, can benefit from having a curious toddler in the mix. It’s an opportunity to set a good example, modeling good manners, learning how to lead and teach. And in a Montessori world, it would happen after the very first “We share our things because we want other people to share their things with us, too” sit down. But it takes practice. And it takes practice for the Little(r) Miss to learn not to grab, not to take without asking, not to call everything “mine.” But that’s what two year olds do, all of them. And they learn not to do it in time, and with practice. Kids know right from wrong—they need gentle reminders and boundaries—but they’re capable of working it out.
We all want what we want. Know why my children share a room right now? Because, most likely, for the rest of their lives they’ll be sharing a room with someone else. Life is sharing. Ideas, credit, tears, laughter, possessions, space, and fudge. Both girls have an extraordinary opportunity to learn and grow, but it doesn’t come with “get up and go.” That said…
Nine days is a long time to stay with anyone, even your best friend.
I actually don’t believe this, unless a mother-in-law is involved. If you’re out and about doing your own thing, apart from your hosts, having your own private dinners now and then, eight days a week is nothing (but a harmonious Beatles song).
So long as there’s alcohol, I actually think day fourteen marks the official See Ya! Threshold, especially in this house, where “the guest quarters” are far removed from the family bedrooms upstairs. And it’s cheaper to stay with friends than it is to stay at the cheapest of shoddy hotels. Also, I’m pretty sure we have less semen on the coverlet.
Their leaving reminds me of the film The Family Stone with Diane Keaton and Sarah Jessica Parker, where uptight SJP throws a passive-aggressive hissy fit by booking herself a room at a nearby inn in lieu of staying at the home of her boyfriend. Eventually, SJP returns and becomes part of the family, not by departing, but by throwing herself into the mix (literally, mixed on the floor with her strata, egg on her face – so to speak, tangled in a slippery laughing mess with her boyfriend’s mother and sister). The point being, this right here is what life is about, struggling through it, working it out. Staying. There’s no lesson learned when you’re pulling yourself away from life and all its conflict. I actually think you’re doing your child a disservice by removing her from the situation altogether.
And as much as I can chant “take nothing personally,” perhaps the couple is pulling a Dale Carnegie on me, neglecting to mention some thing or the other and instead “taking the blame” by claiming “terrible two’s” when in fact they’re thinking, “terrible you!”
What do you think? I could use an objective point of view or two.