“Sometimes in the morning I get pushed into the sprinkler.” Tommy said this casually, as he ate his breakfast. (Dry cereal, no milk as he detests milk.)
My Mommy radar went up. Well, partially up. It was early and I was still half asleep.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
Tommy munched on some cereal like it was no big deal. Chew, chew, chew. Get on with it, son.
“Well, the people who live in front of the bus stop have their sprinkler on. And sometimes the other kids push me into it,” Tommy finally admitted.
“Those little shits,” I said without thinking.
Tommy’s eyes went wide. “Mommy. You said a bad word.”
“What I meant to say,” I corrected. “Is that you shouldn’t be pushed into a sprinkler. It’s rude.”
“I don’t get that wet,” Tommy said. “Just a little.”
“Still. It’s rude. Have these kids learned no manners? I’m going over there and talking to them.”
Tommy looked stricken.
“I’m not going to embarrass you, I’m just going to remind them that it’s impolite to push other children in the sprinkler. That’s all,” I promised.
(And I feel I ought to point out that I used to walk to the bus stop with Tommy until he hit second grade and thought it wasn’t cool anymore. I was the only parent there.)
When it came time to head to the bus stop, I walked over with Tommy. I could hear whispers amongst the other kids.
Why is Tommy’s Mom here? Is he in trouble? How long is she staying?
“Right, you monsters,” I began. “There will be no more pushing my son into the sprinkler and if you do it again, I’m writing to Santa and telling him not to stop by your house. Am I understood?” And then I grabbed them by their ears, marched them to their homes and demanded to speak to who was responsible for raising such a brat.
That’s just what I imagined happening.
(And for a brief time, I played around with giving them a moving speech like they do in those sports movies where the team sucks in the beginning but then becomes champions in the end. I was going to say while pacing back and forth in front of them, “Listen up, children. You are being granted a privilege of being here without an adult. It’s because we trust you all to do the right thing. I know you all have it in you,” and then I’d pause meaningfully, “to do the right thing. So will I hear anymore stories of kids being pushed in the sprinkler?” [the kids would be so moved that they’d all chant at once, “Nooooooo!] And then I’d say, “I knew you all had it in you to behave. Rudy, Rudy, Rudy!” Um, oops. Was getting my sports movies mixed up with my rousing speech. Which is why I decided NOT go to with a rousing speech.)
What really happened was this:
I said, “Are people being pushed into the sprinkler?” I purposely used the word people so as not to single out Tommy.
No one would look at me. They were treating me like I was a scary mom with unbrushed hair and mismatched clothes on.
I sort of did look like that. I hadn’t brushed my hair yet and I had green sweats on with an orange t-shirt.
But still. Have they not learned to respect their elders even if they aren’t coordinating?
This meant that I had to turn scary.
“No one will be pushed into the sprinkler again, okay?”
No reaction. Well, there was a bit of reaction due to Natalie, who had to come with me. She started racing through the sprinkler.
She wasn’t supposed to make it look FUN! She was supposed to stand beside me and glare at the kids.
And why did someone have their sprinkler on at 8 in the morning?
“If I hear that someone has been pushed into the sprinkler again I’m—” I started. I’m what? I’m WHAT? Think, Amber, think. But my brain was still snoozing away. What is scary to kids?
Then it hit me.
“I’m going to grab my lawn chair and sit with you all. Every day. Even when it starts to snow.” (Oh God, please let them not push another kid in the sprinkler again. I didn’t WANT to sit there in the snow. It’s too COLD.)
Now came the reaction. Eyes went wide, mouths fell open, and a little girl said solemnly, “No one will be pushed again.”
So bottom line?
Want to scare kids?
Threaten to sit with them.
(But don’t worry, I’m going to totally spy on them from the window.)