“Try flying any plane with a baby if you want a sense of what it must have been like to be a leper in the fourteenth centry. " Nora Ephron
You and Sharon used to party the night away, you went overseas on a camping trip together and if you ever wanted someone to go with you to the movies at short notice, she was as close as the nearest telephone.
Then she got married and had two babies in two years. Five years down the line you are struggling to keep the friendship going, as her two darling angels behave like whirling dervishes with a spot of dementia.
You find it impossible to watch impassively as Robert is busy yanking at the wires emanating from your new video machine and Rosie is on her way to your new CD collection after using your new couch as a jumping castle. Sharon and husband sit back calmly while you can feel your blood pressure hitting the roof. You are about to change your opinion on corporal punishment. Your friend’s vague “Don’t do that” has no effect whatsoever, as her children are obviously not used to being disciplined in any way. Your house is not child-proof at all, either because you have no children, or because you have well-disciplined ones.
There are several possibilities under the circumstances. Firstly, you can do nothing and secretly seethe, pay for the damages yourself and scrap Sharon and her family off your party list, at least until she starts suffering from ‘Empty Nest-syndrome.’ Secondly, you could let your temper reign supreme and give the brats a good slap. This will also, however, get rid of the parents.
There are other possibilities, though, says Cape Town psychologist Ilse Terblanche:
- Talk to the parents alone. Try to be honest about your feelings without offending the parents. Blame yourself partially and admit that your house is not child-proof.
- See your friends in a neutral venue such as a tearoom in botanical garden where there is space for them to roam.
- Visit your friends at their houses. Their children live there and the damage they do there is not your problem.
- When you invite them to a formal dinner, ask first whether it would be possible for them to find a babysitter for the evening. Mention that no-one else is bringing their children and that you have sent yours to your mother-in-law for the evening. If they want to be offended, it is their choice. Children are not always welcome everywhere
- Remember that it is your house and you have a right to demand a certain code of behaviour in it. If your children may not jump on the couches, it is unfair to them to let other people’s children do it. Say very clearly,”In this house no-one jumps on the couches.” If the parents react negatively, it is not your problem – they should have been stricter with their offspring in the first place.
- Bored children are naughty children. Plan ahead to provide activities such as a game or a video to entertain the children.
Lastly, if you do not have children, try and be patient with other people’s, unless they are really destroying your home. And if you do have children, keep in mind that not everyone finds them as cute as you do. Undisciplined children can do great damage to their parents’ social lives! (Susan Erasmus, Health24, July 2003)