Friday, January 2, 2009

More New Year's Adventures with Angela and Maggie

So the oven thing wasn't the only problem Angela had on New Year's Eve.

As a holiday present, Liz had given 5-year-old Maggie several bottles of nail polish (pre-approved by Angela). Maggie loves when Liz gives her "grownup" things like costume jewelry or miniature purses or souvenirs from when we travel.

(We like to give her stuff, too. She calls us "Uncle" and "Aunt." When Liz got pregnant, Maggie bragged at school that she was getting a little brother. The point: we're close.)

A little after the oven thing, Liz noticed Maggie putting nail polish on a grown-up (which was fine) at our kitchen table (which was fine) on top of the tablecloth.

"Hey guys?" Liz said to Angela and Maggie, "I bought that tablecloth in Paris on our honeymoon and it is sort of important to me- could we maybe do the nail polish somewhere else?"

"Oh, she's very careful," said Angela. "Don't worry."

5 minutes later, someone bumped the table and a wine glass looked like it might fall. Angela, attempting to stop it, over-corrected and knocked a beer bottle and a wine glass to the floor. In this commotion, some nail polish got on the tablecloth.

I came in from the living room (having no idea what happened or that Liz had asked them not to do it on her tablecloth) and cheerfully declared that no party is complete until drinks are spilled and glass must be wept up. I carefully cleaned up the glass and the spilled drinks. When I looked up, Angela and Maggie had gone into the living room and Liz was looking at the table cloth and pointed out the nail polish. Then she went to get her laptop to look up what might get it out. She looked annoyed (though not scowling or anything) as she quietly explained to me what had happened. Neither of us were flipping out. Nobody raised a voice.

I went back into the living room and saw Angela sitting on one side of the room looking irritated. Maggie was on the other side of the room, applying nail polish to the same person as in the kitchen, this time on the wide arm of a mission-style chair. Right over the brand-new area rug Angela had commented on as new and cool when she first arrived. I went over to Angela.

"Are you okay?" I asked her.

"I'm staying out of the kitchen," she answered. "Liz looks pissed."

"It's just a party foul, Angela." I was smiling. "Liz will be fine- she knows that accidents happen- she just wants to clean it up. But since there's a crowded room full of people drinking, perhaps we could put the nail polish away for the night? We'd love to hang out tomorrow- Liz and Maggie could do each other's nails."

I thought *nothing* of this at the time. It seemed to me a reasonable and polite request. It didn't occur to me that I had said something that could upset anyone. I didn't put it together until the next morning that I had offended Angela.

It was shortly after this that Angela was grabbing her coat (and Maggie's) and pulling Maggie out of the house by her arm. Maggie was now crying because she wanted to stay. I followed her out to their car. I waited until after the crying Maggie was belted into her car seat.

"Angela, what's up? What's wrong?"

"This is just the last straw," she said. "Maggie was *invited.*"

"Of course she was," I said. We love Maggie and always like having her over. You know that. What's going on?"

"Will you go tell Patrick that we're leaving? I don't want to go back inside."

"I will," I said. "Please know that I love you, I don't know what's going on exactly, and I'm sorry you're upset?"

"David, *everyone* in there is embarrassed by what happened."

"What happened? What did I miss?"

Angela made a non-committal noise and I went in to get her husband, who was just figuring out that his wife had stormed out. Patrick and I exchanged confused looks and said goodbye (I like Patrick a lot. He has a phobia of hospitals but still came to visit me *twice* when I was hospitalized last year), but he didn't seem overly concerned.

I went back inside to find that a couple who we had met through Angela and Patrick had retrieved their coats. They looked a little guilty as they explained that Angela, as she was leaving, had asked them to come over to Angela's and Patrick's.

This couple (we'll call them John and Jane) are really nice people and they were clearly very uncomfortable with the awkward postition they'd found themselves in.

Earlier in the evening, Jane had been telling me that they were going to start trying to have a baby in February and I invited her to please come over and borrow some books and play with Simon. I really hope they still will. They seemed as confused as I was about what had happened, but felt they had to go. Everyone else shrugged and the party went on. People started departing around 2:00 AM and the last couple of guests left at about 3:30.

So, I got about 2 hours of sleep last night because I couldn't stop thinking about all of this.

Patrick was raised by unpleasant, rigid people and finds discipline distasteful. Angela works two full time jobs (yes, really) and I think she tries to make up for the lack of time with Maggie by not saying "no" very often. Angela also has a pretty hefty anxiety disorder (about which Liz and I, both medicated, do not lack compassion).

I really think neither Liz nor I did anything wrong, mean, or rude. So why am I still so bothered? I'm not even mad at Angela- I'm just upset that she was so upset and at the prospect of losing friends over this incident.

Liz, on the other hand, is ready to write Angela off.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

On the Safety of Other People's Kids

So we had some friends over for New Year's Eve. Among them, Angela and Patrick with their 5-year-old daughter, Maggie (not their real names).

We love Angela, Patrick, and Maggie. We were thrilled that they came.

Midway through the evening, Angela decided to storm out because several things (which I didn't and still don't understand) had upset her. It wasn't until today that I found out that *I* had done one of the things that had upset her.

Shortly after they arrived, I was pulling miniature pizzas from a 500-degree oven when Maggie came into the kitchen and came very close to the open oven to see what I was doing.

"Maggie, sweetheart- could you please step back? The oven is very hot and I don't want you to get hurt."

Maggie leaned in closer and I'd much rather risk hurting her feelings than risk her getting burned, so I made my voice more stern and louder.

"Maggie, step back please."

Maggie continued to lean in and I got a little more frightened of the prospect of a burned 5-year-old. I stopped what I was doing, leaned closer to Maggie and looked directly in her eyes to make sure I had her attention as I spoke to her in a calm, clear, loud voice.

"Maggie, take three steps backwards *right now*. It isn't safe to stand where you are."

Finally, another adult noticed what was happening and gently pulled her back away from the oven.

Satisfied that Maggie was safe, I finished what I was doing and didn't think about it again.

Liz tells me much later that this upset Angela because she doesn't like it when someone says "no" to Maggie or does something contrary to what Maggie wants.

Here's the thing: If someone needed to hurt my son's feelings in order to keep him physically safe, I'd be furious if they *failed* to hurt his feelings.

I'm confused and concerned about this...and not entirely sure why. Any thoughts?