Om picked up my four year old’s shoes from by the door and told him to put them on so they could play. Instead, my darling son slapped the shoes out of Om’s hands and laughed in his face. I immediately turned the heat off the stove and went outside to have a talk with him.
We all know kids push boundaries. No, you may not climb the walls. Use gentle hands with the dog. Where is your inside voice? Yes, you have to brush your teeth. Yes, you have to sing twinkle twinkle little star while you wash your hands, make them really bubbly. Say please. Say thank you. Look at my eyes and listen. It seems to never end, but eventually it does sink in and my kiddo realises the boundary line isn’t going to budge. No matter how many times you ask, Mom will not buy all the snacks at the checkout counter. It’s just not going to happen.
Or at least it shouldn’t happen.
What if the shop owner sees you begging and that mom isn't buying so reaches in the candy pot and hands you treats? What if after you slap the shoes out of Om’s hands he doesn’t say anything? What if you throw a public temper tantrum and while your mom is trying her hardest to ignore you, a stranger comes up making pity noises and hands you juice box? What if you order grownups around and they do what you say?
A friend once told me the story of her toddler daughter crying loudly because she didn’t want to take a nap. A neighbour actually came to the gate and told her the child is crying and she should tend to her. My quick witted friend replied with a smile, “Oh no. It’s healthy for her to cry. It’ll make her lungs strong.”
“How do you handle it?” I ask expat friends, and their responses are just as diverse as our children are.
So I give the candy back to the shop owner. I have a stern talk with my son in front of Om about how he is expected to behave. I tell the juice box stranger that my son is angry, not sad, and that he needs to listen to his mom. I try to stop worrying that somehow I am offending people here by how I discipline and what I expect of my son.
Often people back home remark how living overseas is such a great opportunity for a child. I totally agree, but on the really rough days I think, Oh boy, I’d better watch out. This living overseas thing is a great opportunity to turn my sweet, smart boy into a spoiled, bossy brat.