A Shit Of A Kid

Years ago, in an undisclosed location, for reasons which will I hope become obvious in the next few paragraphs; we lived on a street with a little boy who I watched with a critical eye. And when I say critical I meant judgemental. I know, I’m not proud. My children were small and this little boy was older and bigger. He was what my parents probably would have called “a handful”. His voice loud, his nature gruff, his manner aggressive.

After I’d witnessed a bit of pushing and shoving I began to shield my children in the usual way that parents do. We didn’t actively seek him out to play. And when he came to our house there were times when I sent him home to “have a think about what just happened and why you chose to do that.” This was usually after he’d kicked a wall, or refused to share. He had an unusually deep voice for a little boy, it was like sandpaper on gravel and I struggled to make a connection with him. And one day when he was standing in my living room and called out “hey you in the black shirt” I realised he felt the same about me.

When I look back at those days I realise just how many conversations I not only got involved in but created about this little boy. When one of the neighbours told a group of us that she’d witnessed him kicking his mother we dissected every second of the event. I spent way too much time discussing why he was the way he was while watching for the next (in my small world) disaster. All of the above embarrasses me greatly. And if I had my time again I would do things very differently.

My moment of truth came while we were on a family holiday. We were visiting a wise old friend who was the parent of teens. A fabulous guy who G and I both hold much respect for. As I recited story after story about the “shit of a kid” who’d broken, destroyed and ruined…our friend jumped in.

“Well, you know what they say Kirsty. It takes a village. And he’s in your village”

My cheeks burned a little. He was right.

In this expat world of ours the village can often have some dysfunctional demographics. We don’t go and visit ageing relatives. Our school does not cater for children with special needs. Teens finish school and disappear to college or university rather than pick up a job at the local supermarket. The majority of people my children are surrounded by are people much the same as themselves, sure we may be different colours, religions and nationalities, but we’re all working and of working age.

Obviously as my children have got older they’ve had their ‘shit of a kid’ moments. Last year one of the little travellers took my breath away with the cruelty he displayed to another child. This year another little traveller was forced to admit that he’d excluded someone on purpose – he had his reasons but the hard fact to face (for G and I) was that he was on purposely nasty. I intercepted a note one of my girls had written, it wasn’t pretty. I think of these moments as parenting karma, for all the times I looked on being Mrs Judgey McJudgy about someone else’s child. The truth is that children are just bite sized adults with full sized emotions. With the beautiful will also come the ugly – that’s what makes them so wonderfully human.

It takes a village.

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