‘He’s so good!’
‘He’s the sweetest boy!’
‘He’s so well behaved!’
‘He is welcome here anytime! He was no trouble at all!’
In the last week, I’ve heard all the above statements from other moms (and one teacher) about my now five-year-old son, Holt. I had two immediate responses to these statements. The first? ‘Thank you. That’s so nice to hear.’ My second response (which I kept to myself): ‘Who’s f**king kid are you talking about? Because you cannot possibly be talking about mine.’
But, apparently, at playdates, at school, and at birthday parties—meaning pretty much anywhere not in my home—my son puts on an Academy Award winning performance of the ‘good, sweet and well-behaved kid.’ Bravo, kiddo! You’ve got them all fooled! Honestly, Stephen Spielberg or M.Night Shyamalan should be casting my son in a movie, he’s that good at getting into ‘character’ when he’s not at home. The son I get at home, the one I get to see, is the most stubborn kid. The son I see at home cries and whines and refuses to share and grabs his sister’s hair to the point she’s screaming in pain.
The kid I get at home has tantrums over the smallest of injustices, refuses to say he’s ‘sorry,’ for at least ten minutes, and his talk around the dinner table always includes at least five references to ‘butts’, ‘poo,’ ‘farts’ or ‘pee-pee heads.’ Oh, and my son burps, numerous times, on purpose. We’re working on him. But who exactly are these people who think my son is so sweet and well-behaved?
I actually found myself annoyed at all these statements, mostly because I would like to have the ‘good,’ and, ‘sweet,’ and ‘well behaved’ little boy everyone keeps professing I have pay a visit to my home. Of course, there are bursts of his sweet nature, but the Holt I want is the kid that everyone else gets to see—the one that people welcome to their homes ‘anytime!’
How many mothers out there have dropped their kids off for sleepovers, either at a grandparents house or, as they get older, at sleepover parties, only to pick them up the next day to hear from the hosts how wonderful their kid has been. I can’t tell you the number of times my son has slept at his Nana’s house only to hear from her the following day, ‘He was perfect!’
Perfect? My son was ‘perfect?’ (I often want to respond, ‘If he was so perfect, can he sleep there tonight too? In fact, let me pack you a suitcase for him!’) Does he not cry at Nana’s when he’s asked to pick up his toys? Does he not whine at Nana’s when he hears, ‘No toy store today?” (Well, probably not, considering Nana spoils him rotten.)
Still, what amazes me is that when I respond to people, telling them that my son does not act ‘perfectly’ and is not all that ‘well behaved’ at home, it’s almost like they don’t believe me. Mothers will respond, ‘No, he can’t be like that! He’s so sweet!’ To which I respond, ‘You don’t know my son.’ Or, ‘Your definition of sweet is very different than mine!’
At the very least, other adults see some side of my kid that I would really like to see, too. I think it’s deeper than the fact that I need glasses. I want that kid that others tell me about! Not the one who throws his Hot Wheels cars across the room if he doesn’t get what he wants. I want the kid who is ‘the sweetest boy,’ not the one who has a freaking fit if the battery is low on his iPad or who whispers conspiratorially with his sisters, so I know they are up to no good.
I often say mothers are either liars or saints. I get it, though. I have lied to other mother’s about the behaviour of their kids, after hanging out at my place or after sleepovers. I remember one such time, after an unforgettable sleepover at my house with one of my daughter’s friends, who woke me up a number of times, telling me she had a cough and that she couldn’t sleep, and pretty much moaning about everything until her mother picked her up the next day. Yes, I’m a liar (or a saint), too. When this mother picked my daughter’s friend up the next morning and asked how she was, I told her that her daughter was ‘Perfect!’ (I left out, ‘But this is never happening again.’)
Another kid who came over actually killed a pet fish and put so much crap down my daughter’s washroom sink, it literally burst the pipes. But when her mother picked her up, of course, I said, ‘She was great! Really! She was wonderful!”
So, either mothers are not telling each other the truth about what our kids are like when we’re not around (‘He was perfect!’) or our kids are way more comfortable at home, where they think they can get away with acting like an asshole or being their true five-year-old self, which includes a lot of whining and tantrums. The third option is that my kid is really much more well behaved when I’m not around, which (I hope) is probably the case. I don’t really want other mothers to know the real Holt, anyway, the one I have to deal with at the witching hour when he’s exhausted yet refuses to go to bed until he finds a particular action figure in a box of 300. Sigh.
One thing is for certain. I don’t think any mother hosting a five-year-old for a playdate, or drop-off birthday party, will ever say to another mother’s face, ‘What the heck is wrong with your kid? For three hours he acted like he was on some sort of acid trip and was running around my house naked and barking like a dog. I will never invite him back!’ I mean, could you imagine ever saying that to another mother (even though it may be true)?
Mothers aren’t always honest when it comes to other people’s children and how they behave (I’m not!) I’ll tell my kid’s friends’ moms that their kids were great, because I’m not going to be the one to tell them the truth, that’s for sure. So now, even though I don’t truly believe it, I’m going with the statements from others that my five-year-old is sweet and kind and well behaved. Because sometimes, as a mother, ignorance really is bliss.
But that’s not to say I don’t already have a weekend bag packed for my son, for all you mothers who think he’s perfect…