We cannot ever really be totally objective observers. We bring to every event we observe all of our own experiences, hurts, successes, prejudices, our own world view. The observer may not be involved in the moment, but experiences it and applies her own perspective to her observations.
There was a gathering happening behind the observer, in the yard next door. She was casually reading a book, letting the sound wash over and around her, not really paying attention, but consciously acknowledging the random chatter every so often.
“So you guys are going to Disney again this year…”
“Hey, that was a hit” and the corresponding petulant “FINE. Now it is 2 to 2.”
“I’ll be right there I have to get the food…”
“Molly stay out of the sandbox. MOLLY GET OUT OF THE SANDBOX. I am counting to 3…Thank you Molly.”
Then, at a point when the chatter and laughter seems at its height, in the middle of it all, “MOLLY. Give that back to Jenna. Give it back right now or I am coming down there and giving you a time out.”
In that moment, with those few sentences, all sound ceases. All movement stops. Every parenting decision you have made up to this point is suddenly on the line, called into question as everyone, even the not so objective observer who has not turned around to see what it is Molly has taken from Jenna, has stopped her reading and is listening, waiting to see exactly what Molly will decide to do.
Every parent, at some time, secretly longs to let moments like this go a little Lord of the Flies, to let the kids involved find their own balance and to see who is alpha, who is decidedly NOT alpha. Who are the mediators, the peacemakers, and who will lay the smack down on the kid who just took whichever beloved toy of the moment. But Parenting Protocol of 2011 requires that we intervene, especially in these social moments with family and friends. So we say these things we swore we would never say as a parent. We issue the mandate, the edict, and then wait. Wait to see what choice the child will make, what kind of parent the child will color us to be with this choice.
With the faint click click click of the toy lawn mower being defiantly pushed across the yard by some chubby little legs in pink shorts, the child has called your bluff. Every parent within earshot smiles an internal smile, knowing that yes dear parent, we have all been there, done that. We don’t really judge you harshly, knowing it could happen to any one of us, even within the next 10 minutes.
And now the ball is in your court. The child waits, already knowing whether or not you will follow through on your threat, already aware that she is alpha.