I've been biting my tongue a lot lately. I should, really. It's the right thing to do because frankly, it's not any of my business.
But really, it's hard.
And it's starting to hurt. My tongue that is. All that biting you know.
It's simple. It is someone not quite related to me (but could, some day in the short term future, be engaged to be related to me...if you know what I mean.) She has a daughter. One older than either of mine - but a bit, not a lot. At least not a lot in the grand scheme of things.
Our parenting styles are polar opposites. Case in point, one night my relative, the girlfriend, my two kids and I had dinner together. Logan was being difficult about eating dinner. He didn't want what we were having (something he's had a many times before); he just wanted peanut butter. And I, being as stubborn as he is, wasn't about to get up and make him something different when I knew he'd eaten what was before him in the past - happily eaten it, I might had.
The protest started. A few well placed "humpfs", a generous "No fair!" and a big pouty lip. Having an audience always seems to heighten the drama for a young kid. I didn't say anything at the table. Instead I took Logan by the arm, led him down the hall and spoke firmly to him.
Looking him right in the eye I laid out his choices - eat this without a fight or there is no playing the game with girlfriend after dinner. We're leaving when I'm done eating and since it's nearly 7pm anyway, you're going right to the bathtub then right to bed - no stories. No fun.
Logan did not like his options but he settled on eating dinner quietly. As he took his seat and started to eat - quietly - my dear, slightly younger than me, relative nudged girlfriend with his elbow and then grinned at me with that sly shit-eating grin of his.
"So, what did you have to bribe him with?" he asked me.
I didn't even think. I confess to this fault. Sometimes my mouth just spits out words before my brain can register something coherent and controled. I was surprised by the question and responded with a bit of a haughty tone, "Bribe? We don't bribe our kids. I gave him his choices and he didn't like the other option."
Girlfriend paused in her chewing. She never looked up. My relative raised his eyebrows slightly and winked - giving me the "Thank you" message without saying it. Instead he tapped the girlfriend again and said, "See what I mean?"
I was mad at him for it. I don't agree with her methods (or, quite honestly, lack there of) but I didn't want to be used to embrass her or nag her. Instead of replying or admitting I noticed anything between them I busied myself the kids.
Then there was this past week. Another story. When we hear the story from girlfriend and relative, I simply smile polietly and nod at the right moments. It is later that I roll my eyes a little and whisper to my husband or a close friend, "Would you ever...?"
And then I feel guilty. Yet that feeling passes. I hear my husband clear his throat and measure his words. He's trying to find a nice way to say that he's not sure this pre-teen our family is bound to inherit one day is someone he ever wants to baby sit our kids. It sounds shocking to me the first time he says it and then I hear it for what's behind it - the same sentiment I'm feeling. The wonder of what this means for her. What she'll continue to grow into based on what she is like today. Wondering how the lack of any real displine is going to continue to play out. How a child just shy of double digit years can still throw a real temper tantrum and not be a bad influence on our kids in some way.
I nod quietly in the dark as we nestle into our respective pillows. And then I rub my poor tongue along the roof of my mouth.