I took the boys to Cork for the weekend. The train journey was horrific due to overcrowding but fellow passengers were kind and the boys reasonably good so it passed off peacefully enough. The weekend was largely uneventful which in itself is remarkable. The boys were saintly at mass with my parents (front pew – the anguish) and my father gave them a fiver afterwards for good behaviour. Enormous largesse which they promptly disposed of in the scout hall jumble sale across the car park.
In fact the only eventful thing that happened was in the park on Sunday afternoon when a small child (maybe aged 6/7) armed with a water pistol (machine gun sized, pump action – I have to say, letting your child bring such an object to the playground, is a poor decision) started spraying my children from the top of the slide. Reluctantly, I heaved myself up from the seat where I had been happily chatting to my mother and went to intervene. Although the boys were clearly enjoying themselves, I didn’t feel that water down the backs of their coats was going to make them or me happy in the longer term as the weather continues cool (alas). I went to the bottom of the slide and wagged my finger at the young man at the top and said “No matter how much they ask you to spray them with water, don’t do so because I will be displeased.” Suddenly, this woman approached me like a fury from where she had been sitting on the sidelines.
Her (livid): Did you hold your finger up to my son?
Me (surprised): Yes, I did, you see he is spraying my sons with his water cannon…
Her: (still livid) I’ve been watching those boys, they were running around underneath encouraging him to spray them.
Me: (placatingly) I’m sure they were and I’m sorry about that..but I don’t want him to spray them and…
Her: (still absolutely livid): Then keep them away from him and don’t you ever raise your finger at another woman’s child again. And you should chill, it’s only water.
I kept them away and shortly after departed as her son was very keen to play with my boys and his form of playing involved spitting mouthfuls of water all over them (which I admit, they enjoyed) and I was too scared to reprove him or approach his mother.
I was really upset. She was so unpleasant. I didn’t want to go to war over the water pistol and did everything I could to diffuse the situation but to absolutely no avail. On subsequently recounting this to a number of people, they said I was wrong not to approach the mother in the first instance. I didn’t see her but I suppose I didn’t particularly look for her. It didn’t occur to me for a moment that I couldn’t say to this child, stop soaking mine with your water pistol. My tone was jocular (though firm, like supernanny) and the child smiled mischievously at me – he didn’t look at all upset and I didn’t mean him to be upset, just to make less free with the water pistol.
If the boot had been on the other foot, I honestly think I would have rushed to apologise. My sister says that this is because of my constant desire to please. I really don’t think so or, at least, not entirely. My experience is that when there are grown-ups and small children around, the grown-ups are the ones who are rational and reasonable and, if they are reproving my children, then they are most likely to be right. I have never in seven years of intensive playground frequenting in various jurisdictions encountered anything like this woman. She scared the bejaysus out of me. I hate to come over all Daily Mail here but what is the world coming to when, in a playground, with your children, you cannot say to another child “stop that”? Actually, to be honest, I think you probably can. But I won’t be doing that again, I will be frantically looking around for parents and saying really apologetically, “Look, I’m sorry to interrupt you, but your child appears to be [soaking mine/strangling mine/thumping mine] and while I know it’s my child’s fault, I wonder whether you’d mind asking yours to stop before he exhausts his [trigger finger/delicate hands/little fist]?” And they will be apologetic and think I am insane, but at least I won’t be scared rigid.
In other news, the children are off school for the week and today I took them to Glendalough for the day. It was chilly and despite having seen the Secret of Kells as a prelude to exploring one of Ireland’s most famous monastic settlements they remained unmoved. The Princess was, however, in a position to toss words like scriptorium about with authority, if not with accuracy: “It’s the scriptorium.” “You know, I really think it’s a church.” “It’s not.” At the end of the day, both boys when questioned separately identified getting an ice cream cone as the highlight of the trip. In response to the same question, the Princess said that the picnic would have been had it not been so cold and had I remembered to bring the buns. Not a disaster then, but not exactly a success either. Tomorrow we’re staying at home.
Mr. Waffle is supposed to be back from his glamourous foreign location tomorrow night and M, the babysitter, is supposed to come back from France. They may both be foiled by the cloud of volcanic ash which is currently scheduled to sit on Ireland. In which case, the children and I will be spending more time together than we had planned. What do you reckon, Newgrange?