I love my kids more than bacon. I, for one, think they are marvelous boys.
But the thing is, not everyone considers them “Gifts from Jesus” (GFJs) like I do. Kids can be annoying. They fight. They break stuff.
And they eat everything not nailed down.
I was never much of a playdate person because I understand my limits. I am basically not cut out for managing other people’s GFJs. As a staunch disciplinarian, the law prohibits me from threatening kids not of my loins with trips to the orphanage when they get lippy. The few times I have had to physically separate kids from fighting, I was completely stressed over the possibility of getting sued. To some parents of GFJs, my stepping between a kid’s flying fist before it connects with another kid’s jaw is tantamount to child abuse. I am not allowing Junior to “express his anger.”
GFJs you see.
This summer has been the first time I relinquished my long-held helicopter reign. I opened the front door and allowed my boys unfettered access to neighborhood buddies.
It has been the most beautiful summer of my life.
I am no longer the responsible party scheduled for the care and feeding of other people’s GFJs. My need for pharmaceutical assistance is practically nil. I still occasionally stalk the front window and when a child acts up, you might hear me yelling:
“Time for everyone to go home to people who actually love them!”
There is no waiting around for parents. No watching the clock until the pre-determined playdate’s end time. Children hop on their bikes and disappear like thieves in the night.
Usually with a couple Capri Suns stashed in their pants.
It has been life-altering. I am even thinking of letting my Xanax script lapse. And on the flip side, I have no issue with any parent who kicks my kids off their front lawn. There is a general consensus that now is the time kids better demonstrate proper upbringing or face getting chased off with broomsticks. It is a critical and important life lesson on civility and what is expected of them. I also tell them if they ever embarrass the family name, they will immediately be signed up for daily Latin lessons through high school.
After all, embarrassing the family name is my area of expertise.
Despite my newfound GFJ liberation, I started having flashbacks when I read a post from a friend this week:
“I’m done with playdates! One of the girls was supposed to go to a friend’s house for the first time. We have hosted this friend many times. Yesterday the dad calls and says he forgot about an appointment. He talks me into having it at our house and feeding her dinner as well. He then calls at 2:30 today and says ‘Something came up… can she stay until 7:30?’ Well it’s now 8:41 and he hasn’t gotten here to pick her up. Nice, huh?”
When dad did actually arrive, he spent five minutes in my friend’s driveway talking on his cellphone.
A classic example of GFJ Complex.
There was no apology. No explanation. No guilt.
My friend was simply blessed to have extra time with his most special and miraculous of children.
Completely beside herself with anger and indignation, my pal received a suggestion I consider genius:
“Present him with an invoice.”
I wish I would have thought of that years ago.
Those times I hosted chess club in my home and certain parents consistently showed up hours late?
The time a kid refused to stop jumping on my couch and broke the only crystal frame I have ever owned?
The time I wound up with a kid for three extra hours so I was forced to bring him to a pre-planned family dinner?
It seems that no matter how delicate or assertive one is in trying to convey to parents that their GFJ is actually an SOB and having him/her around is real WORK, it falls on deaf ears.
I know I have occasionally suffered from GFJ Complex. There was that time I dropped my middle son at a friend’s house and told the mom to call me when she was sick of him. Mom is one of those uber-sweet Mother Earth types who isn’t comfortable making the call to “Come get your brat, lady.” I should have known to set a timeframe in advance.
It wasn’t until bedtime that I realized Jack, my quietest of children, still wasn’t home. I tried to remember where I last put him.
As I raced to collect him, I started formulating lies and a cover story to hide my own stupidity.
But then I opted for the truth.
I apologized profusely, thanked the mom for keeping my child alive, and offered to make it up to her whenever she needed.
We are not always privy to other parents’ stress tolerances, schedules, illnesses, and limitations. To assume that hosting an additional kid is anything other than work is ridiculous.
So to all the parents I may have GFJ’ed over the years, I am truly sorry.
And if you want to present me with an invoice, I will gladly pay you back in Capri Suns.
I buy in bulk.