Little angels when away from home
Do all children behave at other people’s houses?
IF YOU had to choose, would you rather your child was generally better behaved at home or at other people’s houses?
I’ve been asking various parents this deceptively vexing question recently and the answer’s been almost unanimous: at other people’s houses. My informal poll was sparked by the phenomenon of kids acting differently at home and away.
An example: on arriving to pick up your offspring from a playdate, you thank the host and add the mandatory hope that your kid was no trouble.
“Oh, no, she was an ANGEL!” the other parent exclaims.
“I didn’t hear a peep out of them all afternoon! And she ate all her chicken curry for dinner and helped tidy up afterwards. What lovely manners – lucky you.”
What? You stand agog – is this your child the other parent is talking about?
The very same squirt who refuses to eat any food more exotic than fried rice, wipes their mouth on the tablecloth and needs satnav to find the kitchen sink?
“Er, thanks – good to hear,” you stammer, while your confused brain screams, why doesn’t this happen at our house?
On the way home, you congratulate your model child on their exemplary behaviour, shortly before normal service is resumed and they begin kicking your car seat.
Of course, other times it’s gone the other way, and you’ve arrived for playdate pick-up to find a frazzled host adult looking in need of a little lie-down. You feel terrible about it all but this outcome can lack the element of surprise.
Other examples of paradoxical conduct include:
* Teenagers being mono- syllabic with their own parents but charming to their friends’ families;
* Babies screaming in their mother’s arms but calming down when they’re held by their mother-in-law;
* Toddlers who get up multiple times in the night at their houses but sleep an uninterrupted 12 hours at someone else’s.
The logical answer to my question is: better behaved at home – after all, they’re there for the most time.
But our complicated psyches get in the way and we still all reply “away”. And before you get smart and answer “both”, that box does not exist on the survey form.