As you may or may not know, my son Jack has been spending Thursday night with my inlaws since he was about 6 weeks old. There ritualistic input in Jacks life has played a large part in shaping him into the golden-hearted, confident little boy he is.
But last night, something odd happened. I called Jack in the late afternoon for a chat as I always do on a Thursday, and he asked if I would please come and fetch him because he didn’t want to spend the whole night at Granny and Grandad’s tonight.
I spoke to my mother-in-law and she said, “I hope you’re not worried about this little boy?”
Of course I wasn’t worried, he was with his granny, a woman both him and I love to bits, but I was still coming to fetch him.
I am a great believer in my children spending time with close friends and relatives, without me. It builds a special bond between my kids and the people I love which means the world to me, not to mention the time it frees up for my husband and I to spend time with just each other amongst other things. I also maintain that it is a great way to teach my children what is acceptable at home isn’t necessarily acceptable elsewhere and vice versa. I don’t think it’s fair to expect the rules that I have at home to be replicated elsewhere and expect Jack and Lucy to understand and accept that although you are allowed to have ice cream for breakfast on the couch at Granny’s house, it is not something you are allowed to do at home. This is all very well and good and wonderful but there is one rule that my husband and I have. If the children phone and ask to be picked up you NEVER ask them why over the phone. You get in your car and go and fetch them.
The best way for me to explain the reasoning is to paint a picture:
Your child is staying at your sister’s house for the umteenth time and you and your other half have planned a great evening out with friends. In the middle of everything your sister calls and it’s your child on the line saying that he would like it better if you came to fetch him and he wants to stay at home tonight. Your mind starts to race as to what the hell you’re meant to do now and so you ask why and he says that the sore that he had on his leg last week is very sore again. Your sister says you shouldn’t worry and that he really is absolutely fine and that you would drive all the way over there and he would probably have changed his mind and want to stay. She promises to distract him and get him to sleep in no time and insists that you just carry on having a good time. So you put the phone down and continue with your evening.
Each time this happens, your child gives the lamest of excuses and the friend or family they are staying with reassures you that he is fine.
A couple of years later, same scenario but this time he is having a sleep over at a friend from school. You have met the parents and they seem respectable and all is well. The parents looking after your boy get into a heated argument and a screaming match begins. Your child wants out but one of two things will happen. a) he won’t phone you because he knows you won’t come due the b) lame reason he has to conjure for being in the awkward position where the parents are listening to the conversation and he doesn’t want to offend them for obvious reasons.
My mum had a brilliant idea, she actually used to have a code phrase for us like, “mum, I have a sore tummy again.” Which would mean that we wanted her to come and fetch us. She would then say, “do you want me to come and fetch you darling? We would say yes, she would ask to speak to the parent, and that was that.
On the way home, I asked Jack why he wanted to come home, in the end, his reason was as lame as the sore leg of last week. My in-laws have a wooden statuette of a tokoloshe in their lounge that is quite scary looking, I suppose. He said that every time he turned his head, he felt the little monster was coming to bite his bum and he was especially concerned about going to bed, alone, with granny and grandad asleep because the tokoloshe would come and eat him.
Cool, whatever! I mean what is childhood without the fear of being eaten by a little monster in your bed!
My message to you in this post is… listen to your kids. If they want to come home, it doesn’t really matter what the reason is, the fact is they want to come home and they should know without any doubt that if they ask you, you will come and fetch them. By finding a reason not to go and fetch them you are breaking a code of trust your child has with you that has taken a long time to build and is more important than any night out with friends or any special plans.
Over and out good people!