Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Demon Children Redux: or how to achieve peace, love and understanding

So if you read my post about demon children you will know that toddler music class is a fraught time for me. I’m not going to say that it is totally unenjoyable – there are sporadic moments of delight and humor – but it is by no means a walk in the park. Seconda is not what you’d call a joiner.

Let me amend that. Her brother -- who spent a full year of Montessori drawing at a nearby table while the class conducted circle time -- is not a joiner. Seconda loves joining, but on her own terms. She’s just a nonconformist. So she’s totally up for circle time, but neither hell nor high water will make her sit. Instead she runs around the perimeter of the circle, shrieking suggestions at the teacher and lightly touching children on the head, like there’s a big game of duck duck goose in session but she’s the only one playing.

Our current class is more dance-oriented than the last and there is a part where all the adults and kids run over to one wall and bang a rhythm on it with our hands, our feet, our heads. Then, at the teacher’s command, everyone runs over to the other wall en masse and repeats the sequence there. What makes this game a game at all, as opposed to just banging on a wall, (which incidentally I can do for free at home) is the uniformity of it. But my daughter, who literally goes against the grain, refuses to be a part of our collective movement. Instead, while everyone’s banging on one wall, she’s banging on the opposite one, and when the teacher yells “Other wall!” she speeds full force into the oncoming throng, with her head thrown back in laughter. And she stands alone on the wall we’ve just abandoned, banging her little heart out.

Despite the fact that is it inconvenient and somewhat embarrassing, I actually love the fact that Seconda marches to the beat of her own drum and to be quite honest, I consider it an indication of her budding genius. The problem is, no one else in the class does. I can tell the other moms have pegged her as a “problem” kid. And it’s not just that she grabs the parachute out of the teacher’s hiding spot before the appointed time, but the fact that she also tends to get a little -- how should I put this? -- physical with the other kids.

I wouldn’t call her behavior “aggressive,” per se. It’s not hostile or anything. She just likes to make an impact on the world around her and often the easiest way to do this is through physical contact – say, by swatting a child on the arm or bear-hugging them so they topple over, or very vigorously caressing their hair. She’s a bit of a wild card. But I’m on top of it. I am SO on top it, in fact that my soundtrack could be the Police song, “Every Breath You Take,” because every move she makes, I am WATCHING her, all right.

So, we were at our last toddler dance class last week and we got through nearly the whole class without incident which was almost too good to be true. Sure, Seconda didn’t follow any of my instructions (Don’t touch the egg shakers! Put that boy’s sippy cup down! Don’t you want to sit down with everyone else! This wall, Sec, THIS WALL!) but still, there were no attacks.

And then, when everyone else is compliantly singing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and making the corresponding gestures, my daughter walks over to another little girl, just about her age. First she caresses the girl’s hair in an “Awww, cute” sort of way. Then, with no warning whatsoever, she gently places her hands on either side of the girl’s collarbone. She’s not squeezing, or applying any pressure at all, she doesn’t look mad or mischievous, in fact the two of them are just regarding each other calmly, like “Everything’s cool, we’re just getting to know each other over here,” -- but still, she has her hands around the kid’s NECK.

While mentally tallying up how many parents are going to go straight home and call Social Services, I take action. I quickly move Seconda’s hands and say, in a relaxed tone, “We don’t touch our friends’ necks, honey. You could hurt her.”

Of course, as soon as I advise her not to pursue a course of action, you can bet your bottom dollar that she will continue at all costs. So her hands slide back up to the girl’s neck. And then, while I am reaching to grab her away, I hear a voice in the crowd say, “That’s kind of scary.”

Dear readers, I am a peaceable person in general, and not prone to fits of violence. But I nearly pivoted on me heel and went ape-shit on those mofos. I wanted to find the snide woman who the voice belonged to and school her, Brooklyn-style: “Scary, huh? I’ll show you scary, you chickenshit sanctimommy be-yatch!”

I mean, don’t get me wrong, she was right, it was cuckoo for coco puffs and I certainly could have made that observation. Any of my friends or family, proven supporters of my babycakes, could have made the observation, and we’d have had a hearty chuckle. But these ladies aren’t my friends no way no how. I’ve been going to dance class for five weeks and no one’s said a word to me, during or after class, which could be counted as even nearing amiable. In that context, calling my kid “scary” is just fucking rude, the kind of rude that I simply cannot abide.

But since I don’t feel like spending my kids’ formative years in the clink, and because it’s just not great modeling to use the word "co*ksu#ker" in front of your children, I did abide it. Anger management, folks, at its best.

However, one of the many uses of the blog is to air the thoughts you can’t quite voice in the real world. So now I'll say what I would have liked to say to SnideMom at dance class. Imagine me, standing beside my two year-old in cheerful strangulation pose with another consenting two year-old, facing a mob of sanctimommies, delivering this monologue:

“Is it too much to ask that you have a heart? I mean, aren’t we all in this together? Doesn’t it take a village? Am I to believe that your little ones are so perfect that you don’t need to be spared the judgment yourself? Don’t TELL me this one never tried to strangle someone in a Mommy and Me class.[At this point, I point to a tiny little pipsqueak with hair in perfect pigtails, sporting a spotless red gingham sundress]. All I’m asking is that you give a girl a break. Give both us girls a break. And I’ll return the favor. And what will follow will be nothing less than peace love and understanding.”

First everyone will applaud. Then SnideMom will apologize and confess that she’s really just jealous of Seconda’s nonconformist leanings since it’s clearly a sign of super-high IQ. Then we’ll all hug and end the class with "Kumbaya" in harmony. While Seconda runs in circles and shouts the lyrics to “Bungalow Bill.”