Not Company Men – Er, Boys

by Abby on December 14, 2011

The other morning the boys and I shuffled into the still-dark kitchen for breakfast. I began the usual preparations – getting their cereal, pouring their juice, making my coffee. I expected them to begin their usual squabbles over who’s sitting where and who gets which color cup. But they didn’t.

Big brother said nicely, “Riley, would you switch seats with me, please? I want to sit over there.”

Little brother replied, “OK, Miles,” and scooted over. No tears, no tantrums.

I ask you: where was this behavior a few days ago when my in-laws were here? WHERE?!

Max, from Where the Wild Things Are, chasing the dog with a forkI don’t know what it is, but for some reason my kids are often horribly behaved whenever we have company. On one level, I get it. Our regular routine is disrupted; there are new people to show off for, and to compete for attention from. They don’t get to see their grandparents that often, so they’re hyped up.

But it’s not like we don’t enforce manners normally, then try to put on a show whenever company comes. Stampeding through the house naked and screaming, or chasing your brother while wielding a mixing spoon over your head is never OK. (That’s not to say it doesn’t happen… just that I’m not OK with it.) At least 17 times a day I prompt the boys, “What do you say?” when they ask for milk or I give them a snack. We enforce sharing and taking turns. We talk about not interrupting and using inside voices. (Notice I said “talk about” not “enforce.” If anybody’s got any suggestions…)

So it’s disheartening – not to mention humiliating – when the grandparents come to visit and the kids run around like wild hyenas with opposable thumbs, throwing toys and slamming doors. I swear I spent the entire visit trying to calm them down and keep them in check. Fun.

This constant correction of behavior has led to another issue: we often catch our 5yo son telling the 2yo, “Eat two more carrots and you can have a cookie.” Or, “Riley, no jumping off the couch.” While I appreciate the backup, I do not appreciate co-parenting with a kindergartener. His dad and I frequently remind Miles, “You are not Riley’s parent.” So the other night, my husband was reprimanding the toddler for something or other and he pipes up, “Daddy! You are not my parent!” Ummm… somehow that message got mixed up.

This parenting thing’s exhausting, I tell you. And I have just enough time to rest up before the next batch of company arrives. I’m off to hide the mixing spoons.

LINK O’ THE DAY: Check out fellow writer, mom, and blogger Malia Jacobson on the news talking about “Raising moral kids.” Great job, Malia!

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathleen Basi December 14, 2011 at 8:56 am

LOL! Alex tries to “parent” his younger siblings, too, and I can’t convince him it’s not his place, either.


Rachel December 14, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Thanks for this post! My kids are always crazy when company is over and I feel embarrassed. I’m not sure how to curb the behaviors I don’t like, but I like to say out loud “i guess this is normal for a four year old” … I try to not let the kids get in the way of us having friends over, it just works out best when company comes with kids who are similar in age to our children. I appreciate being able to commiserate with you 🙂


Cari December 14, 2011 at 4:17 pm

My kids get more hyper when company comes over too. I think it’s healthy for kids to be excited about visitors! It definitely can be embarrassing though. My in-laws recently confronted my husband about my 3 yr old son being whiny, dependent, and mean to his little sister. Yes, those things are true, but…. what kind of behavior do you expect from a 3 year old? Every child is unique, but none of them are adults, and to expect children to act like adults doesn’t seem rational to me.


Adrienne Gomer December 14, 2011 at 7:39 pm

I watch my friend’s daughter and my own all day (both are almost 3) and they too repeat instructions to each other that I tell them in a bossy way. I always tell them, “you are not the boss, mommy and daddy are the boss, you don’t tell each other what to do, that’s my job” and it seems to work. Making it clear that only adults are the ultimate authority and they are in no way to boss each other around helps a little. I also don’t let them get away with bad behavior… ever! It seems extreme, but my philosophy is “never let them win”. Some days it feels like all I do is explain to them what they cannot do, but for the most part it works. They are girls too which makes things a little easier but they know they can never get away with breaking the rules.


Lou Mello December 15, 2011 at 8:10 am

Ah yes, memories of wonderful times with my daughter and the relatives….Yikes!!

Oh yeah, now I understand why I get banished to the upstairs FROG by the lovely Miss TK when we have company. I kinda thought indoor football was a great game to play with company….darn it all, anyway.


It's Not Like a Cat December 17, 2011 at 10:33 pm

Love the “co-parenting with a kindergartner” part. And the whole post. My older son seems to have been my father’s favorite from the start, but this past visit instead of being mannered-yet-spirited, brilliant-yet-childlike, funny-yet-polite…he was a silly, childish, wild little person who was acting out as much as possible. As if he were three-and-a-half or something. I could sense my father’s adoration fading just a hair as he realized that my golden boy was, in fact, a mere human child.

As for everyday stampeding-naked-naked-with-mixing-spoons, well, I just thought that was one of those battles you don’t choose to pick. 😉


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