This week I’ve been asked (along with Boyjangles) to watch a friend’s kids while they are out of town for the week. We are not quite 24 hours in and I am failing miserably.
Some backstory: These particular friends were mentors/employers that turned into friends, so they are about 20 years older than I am, and very accomplished in their careers. I’ve known them since their oldest kids were 4 and 6, and those two are now 16 and 18, and they have 2 more (9 and 11). They are some of the most successful people I’ve ever met, with really interesting lives (example: they are out of town to attend a very prestigious award ceremony), but a completely chaotic home life. Their kids are some of the most poorly behaved children I’ve ever encountered. Not all the time, but when things don’t go their way they can be really terrible. There is a constantly rotating cast of nannies, au pairs, tutors, etc. and I think this combined with busy (though extremely loving and possibly indulgent) parents and a lack of routine has led to some serious acting out to get attention. It’s pretty much just a constant shit show all the time, because there are so many moving parts and people going in different directions and someone is always having a crisis.
So, knowing this, we weren’t thrilled to take on this assignment, but they were in a bind when the current au pair’s mother got sick at the last minute and they’ve done a lot of really nice things for us over the years and so we said we would watch their kids. We were bracing for impact, but yesterday was fine. Everyone was pleasant and helpful. This morning I was supposed to wake the two younger boys for school, and I had been warned that the 11 year old was hard to get out of bed. He was fine, but the 9 year old started yelling “Go Away!”, and then crying and fighting me as I tried to sit on his bed and rub his back and talk to him and ask him what was wrong. I told him I was sorry he was having a bad day but he needed to get up and get dressed and eat breakfast and go to school, that we were going to be late, that he was going to make his siblings late. He just yelled no, go away and told me to go to hell repeatedly.
After 15 minutes of repeatedly trying to get him up, I decided to just make bed less pleasant by pulling the blankets off him and leaving the room with them. When I came back in a couple of minutes he had locked us out (who puts a lock on their kid’s door?). Boyjangles found a key, and went in there with me (he had been making breakfast for everyone and preparing to take the little buggers to school on his way to work while all this was going on). I tried to pick the kid up put him in the hallway with his clothes, figuring is he was out of bed he’d wake up more, and he just lost it. It was a tantrum you would expect to see in a 3 year old, and this kid is 9. He just completely lost control. He started kicking me and hitting me. I tried to just hold his arms to his body while telling him he wasn’t allowed to kick, and he head butted me in the lip and tried to bend my finger back and bite me.
And then Boyjangles got mad. He hasn’t spent much time with kids (we have none, and the chances of us ever having any just got a lot lower), and so he doesn’t know how to not take bad behavior from kids personally. He just saw this kid hurt me and he snapped. He grabbed him from me and slammed him down on the bed hard and pinned him there and said “Do not fucking hurt her or I will hurt you, do you understand?”. He was shaking with anger. And I was scared. I was scared he was going to hurt this little kid. All of a sudden I’m yelling at Boyjangles to stop, be careful, don’t hurt him, let him go. It really, really sucked. Things just escalated so quickly. Eventually the kid went limp (still with his eyes closed, I’m not sure he ever opened them), and stopped fighting back, and Boyjangles let him go. I think I saw hand prints on his arms where Bojangles held him. At that point I decided every one needed a break, and so I left the kid in his room and and had Boyjangles take the other one to school. Boyjangles was worried about leaving me with this maniac kid, but I said would just leave him in his room and then try and talk to the kid when he calmed down. He’s still upstairs in bed with the blanket over his head refusing to talk, though he has stopped yelling at me when I stick my head in, so, progress?
So now, here I am crying and with a fat bloody lip and at a complete loss of what to do. I’ve worked with a lot of kids, but never one so out of control. Usually I can get kids on my side, or I can dole out timeout and all sorts of inventive punishments with the best of them, but I just don’t know what to do here. I don’t even know what set him off, so I don’t know how to avoid it in the future. Apparently he is usually easy to get up in the morning. And I can’t believe that the other adult in the room, this person I know so well and trust completely, could also get so out of control. That’s a whole other issue I just don’t know how to deal with right now.
I just keep telling myself that as long as everyone is alive at the end of the week and the house is still standing it will be a success. But I would appreciate any suggestions from anyone with kids.