We went to a birthday party today for a classmate of Bambina's. This is the girl I recently blogged about, the one who hits her mom and other kids and says mean things that sound way above the nastiness level of the average 4 year-old.
So. Can you guess how the party went? Walk with me:
We walk up to a McMansion, which is fully decked out in princess regalia. Inside, the home is exquisite. We are greeted at the door by a person who takes our coats and relieves us of the present. We are then ferried downstairs to a totally tricked-out playroom area, complete with subzero minifridge for juice boxes and chocolate milk. The place is jammed full of kids and parents, numbering probably 50, and the air quality is shall we say "close." My germ-o-meter immediately comes to life. And with good reason. At least 5 people are constantly sneezing. I am starting to sweat. I ask one of the dads I know if it's just me, and he assures me he is beyond roasting. Turns out they have closed the door to the upstairs to keep everyone out of their palatial living quarters! A Disney princess impersonator arrives. There is face painting. Bambina gets a balloon animal thingy. We leave to get to Chinese class.
Oh, wait. I left out a couple of parts:
The part where the birthday girl is wearing a full-on, no-kidding, not out of a box princess outfit. Fair enough. She greets us and another kid with, "This is MY party! This is MY day!" Okaaay. Face painting. She shoves herself in front of Bambina and says, "This is MY party and I'm going before you!" Her mom comes over and does the totally lame, "Honey, you already had your face painted; it's time to give other kids a chance." Veruca answers, "No! This is MY party and I'm the princess and it's MY day!" She freaks out crying and starts flailing around so her mom finds another person to paint her face again. Bambina looks at me like, "WTF, Mama?" Then to the balloons. Veruca comes over already carrying three balloon figures and demands another from the Princess Impersonator. All the parents are looking, wondering how this is going to go, her ineffectual mom rides in again to say, "Honey, you've already got three; it's time to give the other kids a chance." Veruca yells again, "This is MY party! I want the balloons!" So she asks the lady if she wouldn't mind doing "just one more for the birthday girl." I could keep on going, but you get the picture. Just one completely unacceptable show of behavior and attitude after another--and the most impotent response from the mother. Apparently her dad was also at the party, but none of us met him.
So here's my decision. I do not want Bambina to play with this kid again. They are in the same class, so I can't stop that. But I will NEVER assent to a playdate again. Why? Oh, besides the fact that I had to answer Bambina's question about why her friend gets to freak out and get what she wants, when our rule is precisely the opposite: tantrums get you less than nothing. And the fact that Bambina turned into an effing MONSTER for the rest of the day, completely off the charts and out of character, as if she was trying out a little Veruca at home to see if she could get the same result. How do I know this is out of control? Bambina wanted gum. Bambina had barely eaten dinner. Bambina was told she was out of luck. Bambina's response? She screamed loudly and then HIT ME. Yeah, I said it. My kid hit me.
I was so shocked and so angry that I don't really recall what I said. I do know that she found herself in her room with the door closed in about 6 seconds flat. The BBDD tells me my remarks started with, "What did you just do?!! Because I *KNOW* you did not just hit me! Oh my god! I KNOW you did not just hit me! Because you know that you will NEVER hit me, right?! Do you understand me?!! You will NEVER hit me again!!!!!" Apparently this was the amount of time it took for her door to be slammed shut on her. By me.
Cue the wailing, the drama, the tears, the drama, the wailing. The sad realization that my name ain't Henrietta Salt and what plays in Veruca's house don't play here. On the one hand, I can't blame her for trying; it's natural to see if you can do what your friends can do. On the other, the blame is mine if I keep exposing her to a lifestyle and behavior that I not only don't support, but see as corrosive and immoral on a multitude of levels. So Veruca is out. And, once again, thank god we don't spank our kid. Because you know how she got the point? When I walked in and sat down on her bed with her as she wailed, and I asked, "Have I EVER hit you? Would Mama EVER hit you?" And she stopped crying long enough to say sadly, "No." "So you don't ever hit me. What is our family rule? No hitting anyone EVER. Is that still our rule?" Bambina: "Blubber, blubber, Yes Mama. Will you read me a book?"
So we lay down on her bed and read books for about 75 minutes. It was long, but it was worth it, because she snuggled up to me the whole time, back to the kid I knew before the party at the chocolate factory.
*PS--The BBDD tells me the phenomenon is called "vicarious learning," wherein when a child (or an adult for that matter) sees someone exhibiting a behavior that is rewarded, that behavior is emulated in order to receive that same reward. A bettter explanation provided at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Observational_learning This is actually right on point:
There are 4 key processes of observational learning.
1.) Attention: To learn through observation, you must pay attention to another person's behavior and its consequences.
2.) Retention: Store a mental representation of what you have witnessed in your memory.
3.) Reproduction: Enacting a modeled response depends on your ability to reproduce the response by converting your stored mental images into overt behavior.
4.) Motivation: Finally, you are unlikely to reproduce an observed response unless you are motivated to do so. Your motivation depends on whether you get benefits from responding to that action.
So at least I've handled numbers 1 (no more Veruca playdates) and 4 (So, how did that hitting-your-mom-to-get-your-way thing work out for you, Bambina?).
And what concerns me most about Veruca herself, is the question of where all the aggression is coming from. For more on learning aggression, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bobo_doll_experiment
And, for perhaps even wiser words, I give you the Oompa Loompas: