Friday, June 11, 2010

Be Nice

I do not have “nice children.” My children are often kind, and sweet: they are affectionate and loving and they are funny as hell. They are – and lets be honest here – stunningly beautiful and also smart. But they are not very nice.

I am thinking of this because of two incidents that happened recently, neither particularly notable (rest assured, though, I will detail them both for you).

Yesterday I was waiting for some copies at Staples and while I consulted with the man doing the copy job, I let Sec explore a bunch of little bins filled with tiny erasers, rubber band balls and mini markers, keeping an eye on her from a few feet away. When I was done, I walked over to her and a man working at Staples, noting that I was the mother who belonged to this kid, smiled and said, “She is very rude.”

He didn’t say it in a mean or critical way, just as though it was a matter of fact. And strangely, I wasn’t at all offended. It is true, she is rude. So I simply asked, “What did she go to you?”

“I told her not to make a mess and she told me to go away.”

Yep, that sounded just about right.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I replied, and then turning to Sec. I said, “That was very rude. You shouldn’t say such unkind words to people. Now let’s pick up this mess and get out of here.”

And that was that.

Today, I was dropping Seconda off at school. We were running late and I was trying to move drop-off onto the fast track. Except Sec did not want to get out of her stroller. She was too tired.

“But you don’t have to walk ANYWHERE,” I said, “We’re already here. We are at your school. You just have to walk into the classroom/”

“I am too TIRED,” she whined.

“Maybe you shouldn’t have woken up at 5:30 in the morning!” I pointed out, not terribly nicely myself.

Then one of the dads of her classmates saw us and, trying to be helpful, said to Sec: “Hey, will you do me a favor? I forgot to give Max his cup. Do you want to bring it to him, in the classroom?”

“No,” she said immediately.

He looked at me, and started, “I thought – “

“I know,” I replied, “And it would work with many children. But my daughter is not enticed by the idea of helping anyone or handling responsibility well. She has zero interest in doing people favors. Thanks anyway.”

So I picked up my three year-old and carried her into the elevator which takes us to her classroom.

In the elevator was another little girl and boy, just Sec’s age. I stood there, carrying my enormous preschooler because she was too tired to ride in the elevator on her own legs and the little girl riding with us said to her friend,

“I love you, Jack.”

And little Jack said to her, “I love you too Layla.”

“I love Jack and I love my sister. My sister is my friend. She always plays with me. I love her!”

And the moms oohed and aahed.

Then the elevator doors opened and Layla said, “I want to hold the door for my friend, Jack,”

And when Jack had gotten off, too, they held hands and walked to the classroom together.

“Is this shit for real?” I thought. I got a Twilight-Zone feeling but it was clear that I was the only one experiencing the creepiness, all the other moms acted like it was no big deal, and perfectly normal for their children to say they loved their friends and that they loved their sisters and to speak in appropriate tones in an enclosed area like the elevator and to walk to their classroom rather than be carried there.

Are children really this nice? And why are mine missing the nice gene? Aren’t I nice? Don’t I say “thank you” to my kids and remind them to do the same? Don’t I smile at strangers and hold doors for the people behind me and give up my seat for the elderly? What gives?