I was with my kids having a go at their bicycles after dinner. We live in a guarded neighbourhood so riding their bicycles after 9PM is a common occurrence. Hey, we get them out of the house whenever possible, right?
This time though, a 3 year old from next door saw us and rode his push-scooter over to play. He was chubby, a little sunburned, chatty and frankly a little bossy. His grandmother (turns out she was his great-grandmother, 85, small statured but still limber) came over to watch him not fall and hurt himself, like all mothers do instinctively.
Fifteen minutes into play, the boy manages to get my son unseated from his bike. The boy tries to ride it. Fails. Grandma reminds him repeatedly to not play in the middle of the road. He tries again. Still haven’t quite figured out the bike. Gives up. Goes back to his push scooter.
Another ten minutes into play, while playing cops and robbers, the accidentally grabbed my son’s arm too hard. My son grimaced in pain though by his lack of tears, I figured it wasn’t intolerable. After making sure he was okay, they continued playing.
Five minutes later, Grandma starts scolding the boy really loudly, then goes to retrieve a cane(!) I must have blacked out before this because at no point was the boy misbehaving so badly that Mr Cane needed to make an appearance.
Grandma starts the ritual: threaten, threaten, raises cane, boy holds his ear, stays in submissive position. Grandma lowers cane, boy runs off to continue playing. Grandma waves her cane around some more, then asks us to ignore him. “Go play. Ignore him.” Then to her great-grandson, “Why can’t you just play by yourself? Why do you need to talk so much? Why order people around so much? Why… Why… Why…” The questions kept coming, to no listener in particular.
She comes to me, apologetic. For what, I’m still not sure. I smile to her, gesture positively. “It’s okay. He’s just being a kid.” Perhaps she was afraid her kiddo had upset my kiddo with the arm thing. But that’s 10 minutes ago, by now – all but forgotten.
Then she starts her gripes. “His mother has canes all over the house. We go swimming, he goes and bother other families. He refuses to come out of the swimming pool even after swimming for an hour. I’m 85. I can’t control him without the cane. He doesn’t listen to me. His parents work late nights. See, until now, they are not back yet. I’m 85. How can I manage him without the cane?”
“CAR!” We usher the children into the parking spots, away from the road.
The boy waves at the driver and its passenger. Mommy and daddy are home. They walk over while the boy tries to squeeze in 3 more minutes of playtime. “Say goodnight to aunty and your friends.”