Thursday, December 28, 2006

When "No" Means Something Else

It's a well-known fact that the earth, the universe and everything revolves around my nephews. And while I find it admirable that their parents are instilling them with a fine sense of self-worth (low self-esteem certainly won't be among their issues), I find it incredibly stupid that the word "no", in addition to having been completely erased from their mother's own vocabulary, has simply never sunk into the heads of these three boys.

On Christmas Eve my husband and I visited with his stepsister who was in town with her beau from Vegas while the other aunts and uncles entertained the boys. My tolerance for the boys is very low, mostly because I get tired of orbiting them with the rest of the world and once in awhile would like to focus on something else. The boys spent the evening telling people to be quiet so they could tell their stories or sing their songs (which was fine once in awhile, but everyone was expected to stop midsentence; if you didn't, you were reprimanded by Mom). Once, when the oldest landed at our table and was offended that the grown-up conversation didn't come to a complete halt, I let him know that Uncles A and D were in the middle of something, and when they finished their thoughts we could listen to him. I told him it wasn't polite to interrupt and got glared at. When the middle child walked, without knocking, into the bathroom while I was in there (thankfully on my way out), I nicely told him he should knock before opening a closed bathroom door. Another glare from Mom.

I'm going to interject with something here: I know that it is a complete faux pas to discipline someone else's child. I gave them no consequences. I didn't make them apologize. I didn't tell them to go away. I didn't yell. I simply stated the facts: It's not polite to interrupt when someone's speaking, and it's not polite to open the bathroom door (that had no lock) without knocking. The problem, if you haven't gotten it yet, is that I told these boys that something they did was unacceptable. In essence, I told them "no", and we don't do that with these boys. Nosiree...

So as the evening goes on, I see more evidence that these boys OWN their mother, their aunts & uncles, their grandparents. "Can I have some cake [even though I just had four cookies and Uncle Brett snuck me a piece of cake already?]" Suuuuuure! "Can I play with this? [read: can we open and assemble the Mouse Trap game, punching out all the little pieces and spending a half-hour building it even though we have to leave soon and it would make much more sense to open it at home and besides, there are two dozen OTHER toys already open and strewn about.]" Of course! Anything for you kids! Sometimes a good healthy "no" is all you have to say. They probably would have accepted it after a moment and moved on to something else, but we don't tell these kids "no". Nosiree.

They wouldn't have immediately accepted the "no", though. Because "no" doesn't mean "no"; "no" means a couple different things. It means "go ask someone else... maybe Uncle Brett because he's a pushover, or maybe Daddy because he can't handle even the mildest temper tantrum". It means "these people are boring and they don't love me because they won't give me everything I want". It means "how dare you defy me! I control the universe and I *always* get what I want... MOMMYYYYYYYY!"

So many parents teach their kids that they are infallable, that the world revolves around them and anyone who tells them differently couldn't possibly love them.

This isn't so much a rant about children -- they only know what they are taught -- but about parents. I can appreciate that sometimes it's just easier, especially in a very social situation, to say "yes" to everything in order to placate the children. It simply made me ill to see how the adults around let the children control the entire evening so completely, how they looked at anyone who dared tell them otherwise like we were horrible, because "it's Christmas!"

I really, really hope that their mother doesn't allow them to control their house like that at home. Somehow, I doubt that anything is different in their own home.

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