In the Neighbourhood – Red Flags Part 3

Insisting on the removal of sugar seemed to work at first. Although it was replaced with something much sweeter and more powerful. I began to hear the conversational tones to that of tweens, the kind of back and forth that 15 year olds use, only the tone was between an adult woman and a 6 year old. I would overhear the two of them converse like giggly besties and instead of asking for my permission on important matters, Maria was asking my daughter as though she was the one with the authority to approve or disapprove. 

Clever move, really. If you can’t win ’em over with lollipops and fruit loops, whip out some equal status and any child will follow blindly. The problem with this method of manipulation is that as soon as the real adult pulls rank, it destabilizes the stability you’ve tricked the kid into feeling, and ultimately it confuses them about how the world works. Maria’s son is constantly given the reigns of power because he’s her ‘little man’ and then the rug is yanked out from under him when she decides that she is boss. His ability to make and maintain friends at school is challenged to say the least, and finding a babysitter is nightmarish. His relationship to the school yard and his protest to her leaving him with a sitter seems logical to me. She cries on my couch and wonders why he gets into such trouble at school and why she hasn’t been able to go out in 3 years. 

 

Once I noticed the bestie behaviour, I had some good talks with my daughter about why it’s important that she check with me before she makes any decisions that she knows an adult should consult her on. Ironically my daughter has a more instinctual sense of responsibility than Maria does and she has proven on more than one occasion that she can sense when she’s presented with a situation beyond her 6 years. 

So. Sugar: check. Equal status: check. 

 

The next red flag was when Maria came over to inform my husband and I that she had gotten mad at our daughter. In 4 years, she had never come to announce that she had disciplined or been frustrated with my toddler turned pre-schooler turned kid. And in 4 years there is no way my daughter wouldn’t have required discipline or induced frustration, so Maria’s proclamation of her strong words directed at our child was shrouded in red, shaped like a flag. 

It happened about a week after my son was born. My daughter had been playing over at her apartment and when the conversation turned to the new baby, Maria declared that the new baby was also her new baby, as well as her son’s new baby brother. When my daughter corrected her with logical facts and told her that was impossible, Maria unloaded on her. She unleashed emotional baggage on the 6 year old about how the two of them are friends, and they share everything, including the baby, and if she doesn’t like that than she can go home and stop coming over. I sat in my living room, holding my newborn and listened to a woman try to rationalize crazy. She polished her argument with words like ‘family’ and and gave it shine by explaining that she saw us as such. My husband and I listened and nodded and exhaustedly thanked her for telling us. It was as she turned on her heel to leave that she informed us that this had made our daughter cry, but not to worry, ‘she’s eating popcorn now and feels much better. ‘

The fact that my daughter had cried upon being reprimanded by Maria, about such an insane conversation made my skin crawl. My daughter cries for an endless amount of reasons. Bumps and bruises, fatigue and frustration, and when being disciplined, usually she cries because she feels as though she’s been caught doing something she’s not supposed to it. Or because she feels so confused about the situation that she weeps from a place of surrender, promising she won’t do it again. 

Either of these reactions, to an absurd non-truth, brought on by her own rightful, confident correction to a false statement, made me furious. While tucking her into bed that night, my husband had a long quiet conversation with her about how she had done nothing wrong, and that sometimes adults react to things that they feel strongly about, even if it means they react poorly. 

What comes after a red flag? Cannon fire?

2 thoughts on “In the Neighbourhood – Red Flags Part 3

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