Monday, August 17, 2009

Laziest Housewife I might be, but ...

When we take our kid out, we make sure he behaves himself.

I remember my sister-in-law saying of her children (now grown up), "Rather they behave badly at home than they behave badly in public."

Us Chinese have this notion called jiajiao (literally "education by/in your family" which can be translated roughly as "parenting" or as I prefer "family honour"). So if a child behaves badly, a grandparent is likely to mutter, "Don't do that. No jiajiao."

Those words alone were often enough to stop most young children from misbehaving.

So when we go out with son to an event we make sure he is polite. We also help him with his food when he was much younger, and wipe up any spills, etc. to ensure that we do not trouble the hosts too much.

Last Friday was a very emotional day for me. I was in tears a lot in the morning. I was finding it hard to get over how our neighbours' eldest son had died so suddenly, and it was his funeral. This death also brought to the fore the sudden death of my father-in-law almost exactly ten years ago.

N and I were married in September 1998. In May 1999 I was in Singapore when I lost my mum. When I came back to London, my in-laws were quick to visit and greeted me with, "We are your only parents now."

August 11th was the total eclipse of the sun in Cornwall and Devon. We discovered with great joy only the day before that I was pregnant. But because it was early days we had not told anyone about the pregnancy.

On the evening of 11th August, I got a call from M, who's now our son's godfather. M had gone down to stay with my in-laws in order to watch the eclipse. M said that P had collapsed while ordering drinks at a pub, and it didn't look good. Could we come to Devon immediately?

I was at a loss. Husband had gone to church to help with moving a piano, and had left his mobile phone at home.

A few minutes later M rang again to say, sorry, P had died.

I managed to get in touch with the church secretary who drove to church to locate my husband who was already on his way home. Paul followed him home in the car and stood at the door to make sure we were OK as I delivered the news to husband.

So within three months I had lost my mum and my father-in-law, both very, very dear to me.

The next couple of weeks were a blur. What was most difficult was that we had such good news, a baby was on the way, but we didn't dare celebrate. We had to give mum-in-law and everyone else -- all in a desperate state of shock -- time to grieve and mourn the totally unexpected passing of a man who was so, so dear to us.

So the death of John-next-door was tough on me. Their family runs a business from an office in their back garden. John was next door every day. He knocked on our door often to ask to park in our drive. I also go to them for help sometimes when I needed, eg. photocopying for my research projects and they were always kind to me.

I could not bring myself to go to the funeral service because I would make a fool of myself, I know. Besides, the house needed cleaning as we were having this open house thing for the church. I was suffering from mouth ulcers (probably as a result of all that stress) and was in some pain.

Then round about 6.45pm I found myself suddenly surrounded by eight and then ten little children. Only one of these was being carefully watched by his parents.

Then they were going, "I want this [pointing to food]" or "I want that [pointing to drinks] or "I need the toilet", and there was I, one woman who was coping with both physical and emotional pain, trying to tend to several young children (not her own) all at once.

Then someone decided it was funny to spill his brother's food. Someone accidentally dropped food on the floor. (These things happen.) Another spilled half a cup of sweet red juice. (These things happen.) As I was clearing and mopping up I thought, "Hang on a minute. Where are their parents?"

And gave up.

Got the husband to bring out the picnic mat and sent the children out to eat. Ah! Why didn't I think of that earlier? There they could mess as much as they like and I didn't need to mop up (to prevent others from slipping on a hard floor). The foxes will be happy tonight.

After exhausting himself in the garden first with playing and then with tidying up, our son decided he was going to bed. He had had a very long day, doing sports at holiday club, and he was required at someone's birthday party early the following day. He went upstairs and got himself ready for bed.

Then someone decided to fill a water pistol with apple juice. All the water pistols were confiscated (they weren't meant to be used at all) and someone else was not happy.

The children continued to play in the dark in the garden. Whoever said children should be seen and not heard?

Our garden lights had stopped working for some time and we were happy that they were out of our hair. We could hear them playing outside although we could not see what they were up to ...

Until the following morning when we realized that they had wrenched the swing ball stake out of the ground, leaving a very ugly hole right in the middle of the lawn.

Husband had hammered this into the ground as deep as a washing line. One or more of these children must have used a considerable amount of force to dislodge it.

Thankfully nobody was hurt in the course of removing this quite substantial stake and they hadn't tried to break anything else with the stake that now lies in the garden.

At breakfast I was furious. Why did they have to do this? This is vandalism, criminal damage, I fumed.

Then I turned to my son, "Do you think Mum is being petty or do I have the right to be angry?"

"Well, " he said very calmly and in as diplomatic a tone as he could muster, "At this moment, I personally think you are being petty."

It is great to learn that son has learned he does not need to appease his mum all the time.

Still, maybe it is a cultural difference, maybe it is an age thing, maybe I am being a parent at a different age from these other parents.

I may be a lazy housewife but personally (such a redundant word) I think children should learn to respect other people's property. There is a difference being having fun and doing something they had been told (by our son, earlier, as he later told me) not to do.

I may be a lazy housewife but I do not abandon completely my duties as a parent when I visit other families.

I may be a lazy housewife but I did spend two days cleaning up the house so that, uhm, there was room for people to enjoy their food and chat.

So maybe I was, as my son thought, being petty. Or maybe my excuse is it is just that time of month. That time of the decade. That I am in between two hospital visits and feeling the stress. Whatever.

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1 comment:

Geo said...

no you are not a lazy mom

you are simply trying you rbest to be a good parent, hard as it may be...

press on... just do your best

cheers