My four-year-old grandson has a little friend called Jak who lives nearby and visits often – as I do, meaning our visits often coincide. Jak’s mum, and my daughter often describe Jak as “spirited”… but I can think of plenty of different adjectives to describe the boy.
Am I becoming a grumpy old grandma? It’s possible. Perhaps my tolerance has gone down, or I can only remember how my small children were perfect angels (ahem).
Or perhaps children just aren’t expected to be “restrained by rules” any more or, in terms of ye olde days, polite.
Let me describe a typical visit and then you can tell me if I’m expecting too much.
When Jak comes to visit, it is entirely typical to find him climbing on the back of the couch, emptying kitchen cupboards and upending the dog bowl. Usually within 30 seconds of bursting through the front door.
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While these behaviours would earn my grandson stern words and a stint in the “thinking corner” (don’t ask), Jak is cajoled with gentle cooing sounds to “be a good boy” and find something else to do.
As the mothers pick up all the magnets that have been swept off the fridge by the little terror, I stay close to make sure no animals are hurt. Within moments, the latest Lego creation has been destroyed, the sheets removed from the children’s beds and the dog has fled.
Satisfied with the chaos he has created (for now), the child will march into the kitchen, interrupt his mother speaking and demand food. If he dares refuse, Jak will cock his head to one side, narrow his eyes and scream until something is produced.
At this stage the mothers, one bewildered, the other a little embarrassed, will retreat to the front room for tea and a chat; the children follow for the biscuits, which have to be gluten, dairy, nut and sugar-free as Jak has allergies.
For the next 15 minutes, he will disseminate crumbs, spill milk and break anything within arms reach. Every time the grown-ups try to talk, he will interrupt with “mu-um, mu-um” pitched at just the right tone to cause you to physically recoil from the sound.
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Eventually, the mother of the child will implore him to “go play”, which makes me think of that scene in Mary Poppins when the household staff prepare for the boom of the cannon that shakes the ornaments and sends the piano rolling across the room.
A crash, shatter or wail of pain usually signals that it’s time for the play date to come to an end. Some feeble attempts are made at trying to encourage the children to clean up their mess, but mercifully, they take their leave pretty quickly.
Somewhat shell-shocked, my daughter and I will survey the trail of destruction and, as hard as I try, I simply cannot bite my tongue.
“That child is the work of the devil,” I mutter.
“Oh no Mum,” says my daughter wearily. “He’s just high spirited”.
Have you ever encountered a “spirited” child? Do you think little kids get away with too much these days?