I took only Rory and Lily to dinner at the home of one of their friends recently. New friends, a family I didn’t know, along with another family we were already acquainted with (the boys were home on the sick side with Rob). The new friends have two daughters, 2 and 4, and although I don’t have the impression their girls are peaceful and retired types, I’m not sure they were prepared for Rory–who took one look at their large, beautiful, newly renovated ground floor with its enormous quantities of uncluttered floor space and apparently thought “look! a runway!”
She ate her pizza with the others and immediately began doing laps. Back, forth, around, around. I stopped any climbing on the furniture, but didn’t say anything about the running, and the others quickly joined in. Soon their were six children tearing around the house like maniacs, all led by Rory, who, if anyone showed signs of stopping, would ask “don’t you wan’ chase me?” and start it all up again.
Probably I should have stopped it, especially after the mother (someone I’d like to be friends with) said mildly “I’ve never had this many kids in the house before.” But by our standards it was mellow. There were no antagonists, no snatching, no wrestling, and I really didn’t think much of it until now, when I discovered that the oldest other child in attendance has been punished for some alleged tripping and manhandling that apparently occurred. Then it dawned on me–they were loud, they were running and racing and zooming, and Rory–not the host children–started it. Maybe–just maybe–this was not welcome behavior. When I was but a young mum of two, I would probably have regarded it as a tad on the rowdy side, and possibly worried about my walls, and probably not have asked those children to return unless I really liked the parents (and I’m not sure I was really at my most charming).
I’ve never been the mother of the instigator before. Sam is a follower through and through, especially when it comes to physical activity, and Lily, while bossy, prefers pretend play. I wouldn’t say Rory was the ringleader, exactly–she’s not that verbal, and not bossy, just…inviting. And she very clearly started this one up. Thinking I’ll handle it differently another time–and noting us moving on to a new stage, in which we attempt to parent a perfectly normal, adjusted, loved 4-year-old who still holds plenty of surprises in store.