18 February 2011
Making a Good Impression on the Neighbors, Part 2
Did I ever tell you the one about the new girl in the neighborhood who was trying to make friends with the other moms until her child swam under water and bit someone's toe? And then how they ran away in humiliation with their beach towels flapping in the wind? I don't think I did.
I find myself thinking about summer a lot lately. The snow is beautiful and the cold really isn't that bad but I'm suffering from an isolation that comes from being the new girl in winter.......... and from living in a house that sits at the end of a driveway that could be used for dogsled races. Far away from the road that has no sidewalk on which nobody walks. Does that even make sense? Whatever.......my point is that there are no people in New Hampshire. Just trees. Yes, they are pretty trees but I would prefer it if they could walk down my street and stop and chat with me for a while. So I find myself thinking of summertime when you might see an occasional person relinquishing their precious privacy and walking to the beach. Right past my house. Where I will be waiting at the end of my driveway.
And while I was thinking of summertime, and people walking down my street, and my need to accost them with my friendliness, I recalled the particularly humiliating and ill-timed scenario mentioned above. Shortly before school started, our neighbor invited us over to swim in their pool and meet some other families from Liam's new school. Lovely idea (should I worry about what to wear for the swimsuit portion of my audition??). While he was swimming with the other kids, my son, who was 7 years old and NOT teething at the time, felt strongly about a particular inner tube. He wanted it. And despite his best efforts, using all of the tools he learned in preschool, he was not able to persuade the inner tube occupant to share. So he swam underwater, grabbed her foot, and chomped her big toe.
I'm trying to make nice with the other moms and show them how normal I am when we're interrupted by a scream. We all race to the side of the pool clamoring for information. "What happened?! What happened?! Who's hurt?! Call an ambulance!" says the gaggle of mothers. The screaming girl calms down momentarily and cries "HE BIT MY TO-O-O-OE!!!" "WHAT??!!! Who?! Who?! Who bit your toe?!" says the gaggle of mothers, looking for the wild toddler who must have escaped from his harness and sneaked into our party.
"HIM!!" she says...........just as Liam's head ever so innocently bloops to the surface. Bloop. His face is very hum-de-dum-de-dum. Like "don't mind me, I'm just going for a swim." If he could whistle, he would've whistled, just to add an extra layer of "just-minding-my-own-business-here". Hum-de-dum-de-dum.
"GET OUT!" I say. "GET OUT! What is WRONG with you?" (I know you're not supposed to say that but, seriously, what was wrong with him?). I hitch him up by the elbow and drag him home, leaving a trail of disbelief and humiliation in our wake. I picture the other moms saying, "Do you think Minnesota children still bite when they're in 2nd grade? Maybe it's a regional thing."
I don't even know where to begin. So I go back to "What is WRONG with you???!!!" Here's his explanation:
He really wanted that inner tube. And he asked politely.......but she refused. He offered some alternative ways to share........but she ignored him. He had used up all of his tools and he was getting frustrated. He said he considered punching her in the face. But he knew that was wrong. So he tried to think of something that would be.........less wrong. And he came up with swimming underwater and biting her big toe.
And although he was actually quite proud of this reasonably deduced plan, he soon fell prey to embarrassment. When the kids from the pool knocked on the door and asked him to come back, he wouldn't come to the door. And he wouldn't go back. The new kid was a biter.
Flash forward to February, and Liam can now talk about the incident with no sign of embarrassment. "Was it Isabella you bit?" I ask. "No, it was Francesca," he says casually while choosing a gumball. He can sit next to Francesca's sister, who witnessed the crime, at morning circle time and chat with her completely free of baggage. She shows no fear of biting or other inappropriate behavior. It's completely behind them. And they can all be friends.
Which is pretty amazing. If one of you bit my toe, I don't think I could get over it.