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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

457

Other People's Kids, Homes

A fun one from the advice bag:

Hi,

I suspect I might not be the only person in this situation, so I'm interested to put it out there and get feedback. I'm in my mid-30s and many of my good friends are having children. I'm not a big fan of children, and have chosen to have none myself. I don't HATE kids; they generally just make me really uncomfortable. Of couse, no matter how I frame this viewpoint, no matter how I carefully I contextualize this opinion, I am labeled as a "child hater" by most people. Especially parents. It's all part of the same tired old narrative that we 'child-free' people live with every day that includes "you'll change your mind some day," and "you never know," and "my kid is different." Many of my close friends have become parents, or want to be parents, and I like to think I have made a concerted effort to be interested, helpful and understanding, despite my feelings about kids. I value my friendships, so I have tried to work on being more open-minded about kids.

That being said, my question is part moral dilemma and part etiquette. My husband and I live in his hometown. My hometown is a few states away. I'm elated to have visitors, but the last two home-slice visits have not gone well. These friends of mine can't afford hotels, and we have a big house with extra bedrooms and bathrooms. The last two families to visit us (both wives: friends of mine for 10+ years) — each brought their one kid.

Now. We keep a clean house, have some very decent vintage furniture, and a couple old cats. It's no museum of delicate china, but it's a nice place. To both families that visited, I made it clear during the planning, "our house isn't very kid-friendly or kid-proofed, just so you know ... you're more than welcome & I want you to stay here, but little So-And-So is going to have to mind their manners. No climbing on stuff or harassing the cats, and ask first if they want to touch/handle something." Just like that. I didn't make a big deal, I wasn't passive-aggressive, and didn't unfurl a list of rules a mile long when they arrived. Both kids I'd met before, on their own turf, when they were younger.

Both visits were a NIGHTMARE. Both sets of parents (one a five-year-old girl; one a nine-year-old boy) basically let their kids run crazy wild in our house. I was appalled. My husband, who has been a schoolteacher (elementary & high school) for 15 years, was also shocked. The five-year-old girl ran around, chasing the cats, making the whole house shake, grabbing onto the walls and doorways, leaving huge dirty smudges and hand prints. She never wore shoes or socks, inside or out, and the carpet was filthy by the time they left. She talked, begged, whined & yelled, monopolizing and interrupting every adult conversation, and always got what she wanted. At the dinner table she made disgusting food messes and threw things at her mother. Her parents either praised her or ignored her. After four days of this, we were exhausted and our house a mess. My husband said after they left, "she isn't learning good social cues at a time when it's crucial to her development." He is so nice. We spent $100 to have one of our vintage brocade chairs steam cleaned after she covered it in black foot prints, orange juice, and glitter lip gloss.

The nine-year-old boy hid all our remotes, hid our phones, would "hide" whenever we were all ready to head out the door, re-programmed our DVR (erasing a bunch of shows), pulled the mattress off the bed and onto the floor to sleep (breaking a lamp in the process), ate a box of expensive chocolate truffles in our fridge without asking, and stormed out in a rage when he found out we didn't drink milk or have any in the house, calling us "stupid" and telling his mom he wanted to go to hotel, right in front of us. Again — his parents praised, coddled, or ignored him. They acted afraid of him, using bribes and begging to try and calm him down. That was only a two-day visit, but again, it was so tense it was bewildering. When he "hid" the cats' dishes (in the oven), I did ask his mom to please ask him not to do that, and she snapped at me "he's just having fun, let him be a child!"

Neither sets of parents ever apologized, acknowledged, or showed any accountability or even awareness of their kids' bad behaviors. Neither of these kids are "special needs," in case you're wondering. And we didn't say a WORD; when you have the spectre of being "child-free by choice" hanging over you, it's too scary to say anything to anyone about their kids. They'll just yell CHILD HATER at you. Both visits, we smiled through gritted teeth and kept saying "nooo! It's cool. No worries!" Plus: these are dear old friends of mine. I'm struggling to accept how much parenthood has changed them. I'm struggling to accept the idea that we are expected to embrace, tolerate, and welcome their children in our home no matter WHAT their behavior. I'm struggling with what to say if they ask to visit again. So many parents seem to get HYPER DEFENSIVE about EVERYTHING! I'm scared.

Is anyone else out there fed UP with parents and their kids expecting non-parents to adapt to/accommodate their needs/wants (no matter how inappropriate)? And parents seeming to have completely lost their ability to adapt to/accommodate non-parents' needs/wants? Has societal child worship created this imbalance? Is anyone else seeing children & parents behaving like this, with seemingly no discipline, rules or manners? Or am I just a big poop-head who is too inflexible and clean to have kids in her house? What do I say to my parent friends then? I don't want to lose friendships. How do I handle this?

Oh my god. Well, I'm definitely not the right person to answer this, not least because everything I own is also covered in footprints, orange juice, and lip gloss, but maybe other people have ideas. Parenting continues to sound like a trip!

Or maybe the children were from the underworld.

Yes, the children were from the underworld. I feel confident in this answer.

Anyone else?



457 Comments / Post A Comment

PatatasBravas

Oh. Wow. Thinking.

PatatasBravas

I wrote out a stupid long comment, but it all boils down to "I think you're well within your rights to tell your friends the next time they're planning a visit I'm so sorry, we'd love to see you, but we're fumigating the guest rooms and they're not fit for human life. We've even banished the cats to another room! So we can't host you, but how about we [spend a lot of time at non-home location] instead, and treat you to dinner at [restaurant that isn't very fancy]?"

robotosaur

@PatatasBravas I agree with this, although I don't think one necessarily has to lie. Just "kids and our house don't seem to mix--Little Maxibelle won't be happy around our grouchy cats and head-denting furniture!" or something along those lines. You never HAVE to host people.

I also think keeping kids out of the letter-writer's house will keep him/her from judging their friends too harshly. Because thaaaaaat is not a solid foundation for enduring friendship.

irieagogo

@PatatasBravas

It's pretty simple:

1) NEVER invite them again
2) If they try to invite themselves, tell them, "It's just not a good idea." Repeat several times.
3) If they ask, "Why?" TELL THEM.

barnhouse

The children here are entirely beside the point. It's the adults who have failed to communicate in your situation. These people aren't your friends, and you are their friend, either; if you were, you'd be able to say: Look, it's NOT acceptable to me for your kid to dirty my furniture. Keep her/him in line. ANY sane adult guest whose fault it is that there is damage to your house or property, whether that damage is occasioned directly by them or by their kids (for whom they are responsible) should offer to repair or have cleaned anything that is soiled or damaged. It's their fault! Grownup friends can and do work clear, obvious problems like these out without any kind of hand-wringing or weirdness whatsoever.

Until children are trained to behave appropriately in other people's houses, they shouldn't be taken anywhere. However, most people who were not raised by wolves begin training children before they can walk to understand that certain behaviors are expected, or else. Most parents I have known do not care to live in a noisy or disorderly environment! If children are not careful with fragile things or if they scream or act out then you have to punish them, which is not fun, but doesn't require spanking either. Time out at first, and when they get to be too old for that you take away things they're attached to or looking forward to like sleepovers and toys. But if you are doing your danged job what they will really fear most is your disapproval, because they love you just like you love them and with practice you get to where one steely gaze from you will bring home the bacon.

(p.s. I have one of my own and two stepkids.)

LydiaBennett

@barnhouse "If children are not careful with fragile things or if they scream or act out then you have to punish them, which is not fun, but doesn't require spanking either." -- my reaction to both of the children in this story was: SPANK THEM!!

Bittersweet

@barnhouse Wish I could give this comment more thumbs up. Real friends can talk to each other about their kids, and what is and isn't acceptable in their houses, and real friends would abide by these agreements.

And real parents would discipline their children, for pete's sake. These kids are giant nightmares at ANYONE's house, and it's because they have no boundaries.

sinjin

@PatatasBravas Love the screen name. :)

vittoriama

This just made my day.@v

Josh is like Germany Ambitious and Misunderstood
cosmia

@Josh is like Germany Ambitious and Misunderstood Three kids will get sick from inhaling your ointment fumes, confiscate everything made of tin, and make sure nothing gets caught in the pencil sharpener.

mmmcheese

@Josh is like Germany Ambitious and Misunderstood Just poppin' in to say: I LOVE JASPER!

Living My Best Life Far Away from the Hairpin!

@mmmcheese ME TOO. "Sidewalk's for regular walkin' not for fancy walkin'!"

Emby

Get a Wii U/some other video game system, a handful of games, and a playpen. The children will disappear into this black hole until time comes to fetch them.

MilesofMountains

@Emby My boyfriend's nephew would pretty much be the same as the nine year old above, except that when we babysit we do the same thing his parents do and put him in front of the X Box with a violent video game. It is magic.

celeec4@twitter

@Emby Still works on me!

Nutellaface

@Emby I vehemently disagree with the notion that LW is responsible for making a (reasonably large) financial investment in order to keep these kids entertained. Coloring book? Yes. Entire video game console? Noooo.

celeec4@twitter

@Nutellaface Eeeh, good point. I didn't think anything of this at first since I own several game consoles and it wouldn't be a big deal to get some dumb games for little kids. But yeah, yikes, that's a big money sink if you didn't already have that set up.

parallel-lines

@Emby A HOLE IN THE GROUND

Sorry, that just went to a very dark place very quickly.

Josh is like Germany Ambitious and Misunderstood

@Nutellaface do kids just go outside and pretend sticks are swords anymore? bc i was doing that into my teens.....

Emby

@Nutellaface Oh, I know, I more meant it as, "If you already have one." Otherwise, I prefer @parallel-lines' suggestion of putting them in a hole. Or, I don't know, kickstarter? I'm sure people will kickstarter you a new Wii U. We're living in the future, after all.

Megasus

@Emby Those are expensive + those kids will just break them.

Nutellaface

@Emby Hoop + Stick + Hole = Infinite Playtime Possibilities

ETA: Reading it back...that sounds really really inappropriate.

CubeRootOfPi

@Nutellaface Or any investment, for that matter. It would be kind for the LW to do so, but it's still the parent's responsibility.

Mandalas

@Josh is like Germany Ambitious and Misunderstood Yes, though my nephews pretend their sticks are lightsabers. But, this would be because my brother's raising them right.

sinjin

@Emby I had 7 (or more, couldn't tell) Hungarian kids who lived across the street from my in my old neighborhood. I was horrified for the wildlife when I found lying dead on the mailbox what exactly these heathen feral kids did with sticks to a snake. :(

Mae
Mae

Long ago years of babysitting convinced me that underworld children are in fact real.

Jolie Kerr

Oh my God I have nothing to constructive to say because I made it to "glitter lip gloss" and then had to lie down on my floor.

Reply » 102
evil melis

just so we're clear even i think that shit is messed up

Nicole Cliffe

@Jolie Kerr I am so late to this thread, but clearly these children are monsters. Or, right, their parents are monsters and so have naturally given birth to monsters.

Nicole Cliffe

@Jolie Kerr MESS WITH MY DVR, I dare you.

Bebe

@Jolie Kerr the good news is, your floor is probably spotless so lying down on it is ok.

cosmia

Man, I don't even think the problem is with the OP being a "child hater" or having a non-kid-friendly house. There's certain shit you need to teach your kid to do or not to do, and wrecking somebody's house, child-proof or no, isn't cool. I mean, who the hell is okay with their nine year old kid opening an oven?

katerrific

@cosmia Totally. It's not about being a child hater. I am actively trying to conceive a child and I was still appalled recently when friends of my husband's let their kids run all over our house, repeatedly somersault over the back of our sofa and throw Goldfish everywhere.

Ellie

@cosmia Yeah, the OP's attitude to children, possession of children, and even whether or not she herself has children is 100% irrelevant to the behavior of these other children and parents within her home. It would be exactly the same even if she had kids herself.

Olivia2.0

@cosmia I totally agree with you. I REALLY want children and these stories are horrifying. I constantly see this type of behavior in restaurants, etc. and it frightens me, both b/c I want children very soon and b/c a lot of my friends have very young (babies) children, so I worry who is going to raise the devils exhibited above...

chnellociraptor

@cosmia I think it's a problem ONLY in that the OP feels like her kidless-ness will be the sticking point with her friends if she brings it up, i.e. "You don't know, you don't have kids, that's just what kids are like," which is not an uncommon attitude, I guess? But you're 100%, that behaviour is pretty unacceptable regardless.

rianne marie

@katerrific I pictured actual fish for a moment there. Made that story much more horrifying.

par_parenthese

@cosmia THIIIIIIIIS

@chnellociraptor I think Teacher-Husband is such a trump card here, though. He's got an ed degree, yeah? With attendant child development courses and lots of experience with kids of different ages? So I feel like there's that. "You don't know, you don't have kids, this is just how kids ARE" gets a, "You know, actually, I DO know despite the fact that I don't have kids, because I'm around them all day, and not every kid does this, but the point is, your child was a guest in our home and broke stuff/stained stuff/ruined stuff. That means we are going to have to make other arrangements next time, and that would be true of any houseguest regardless of age."

RebeccaKW

@cosmia Exactly. I love kids, but don't have kids, but I still know appropriate child behavior. Yes, kids are messy and loud. But parents are there to teach them when it's time to be quiet and not to throw things in the house. There is a huge difference between accidentally spilling orange juice and throwing your cup across the room, and the homeowner should be able to say something right then to the parent. If they are good friends, it shouldn't be a problem.

Titania

@katerrific Oh. Well. Nanny here. Your kid is probably going to do that, actually. The Goldfish and the Cheerios just kind of take over when there are young kids around, and the running is hard to stop. But as long as you discipline your kids when they do it, and they learn what acceptable behavior IS (even if they don't yet possess the impulse control to enact it) they won't progress into tracking mud into the house like goddamn raccoons, which is not normal behavior and shouldn't be tolerated by anyone.

nicolarz

@cosmia Absolutely. I'm a parent, but after a day of this nonsense I think I would have completely lost it with either of these kids.

redheaded&crazy

@par_parenthese Perfect response right here.

blueblazes

@cosmia I agree 100%. I must have had great parents because I don't remember being "disciplined" at other people's homes or having a sit-down talk about how to behave, but I would never have opened a closet, let alone an oven. My default setting as a child (and even now really) is to ask permission for EVERYTHING when I'm at someone else's house.

I just wish I could reverse engineer my personality and figure out how I got this way.

The lack of discipline in general may be normal now, but it isn't universal. I have one friend whose children are energetic, but also faultlessly polite. I have another who I will only meet with at playgrounds... for maybe the next 18 years or so.

Faintly Macabre

@chnellociraptor Yeah, I feel sorry for her, though I hope her friends aren't quite assholes enough to try that. This is definitely not a parent/not-parent thing--my mom was very strict about not being brats, and she still remembers how appalled she was when acquaintances with kids my age came over for dinner and let the kids run wild. They were never invited to our house again. Kids will be kids, to a degree--even I did stupid things that got me in trouble--but part of the key is disciplining them when they do stupid things, which these parents don't.

iceberg

Those ages are kiiind of out of my wheelhouse but I'm pretty sure I would be mortified if the Bergy Bits did stuff like that at someone else's house. They absolutely would, but they're only 2 years old. Then again because of that and because there's 3 and not 1, I would NEVER presume we could stay at someone's house - I'd be booking the cheapest closest hotel rather than inflicting my mob on my friends.

My advice would be for the next people that want to stay with you that have kids, just tell these stories to them and be like "I just can't do that again" - then give them the phone number of the nearest Red Roof Inn or similar.

iceberg

@iceberg oops I missed the part where it says they can't afford hotels. Hmm. You know it really kind of sounds like these kids weren't given enough to do, so maybe (a) ask potential parent-guests to make sure they bring shit-tons of toys/games/snacks, tell these stories so they understand what you can't cope with, and also (b) stock up on toys/games/snacks yourself.

ETA - and kids books for their age group - free from your local public library! I would have been in HEAVEN at 9 with a bunch of new books.

iceberg

@iceberg also Pixar DVDs

every tomorrow@twitter

@iceberg Alternately, Netflix? Because Netflix is basically an INFINITE FONT OF CARTOONS for $8/month, assuming you have something that is capable of transmitting Netflix to your television.

PistolPackinMama

@iceberg I feel like it's sad that they can't afford hotels... but it's also not her problem, in a way. It sucks, but if those particular friends with children of the underworld wanted to stay again, I'd say "I am sorry, but we can't host you, your Spouse, and little Lucifer, Beelzebub and Old Adam this time. And leave it there.

If the friends push it, I'd probably RCIP with "after your last visit, we ended up with an X-hundred dollar cleaning bill from Beelzebub's brimstone scattering. The stains from the pea soup ectoplasm spew are still in the carpet, and the cats who I thought were spawns of the devil are still in therapy. We aren't equipped to pay for another exorcism right now. But I will certainly be happy to help you find a place to stay."

Also, iceberg, I love that your babies are called bergy bits. Especially since apparently when pieces of an iceberg break off into the ocean they are called "calves." Which doesn't seem quite right for your offspring's nickname. Bergy bits= charming.

monstrosity

@iceberg I agree with @PistolPackinMama - it is not the LW's fault or problem that the friends can't afford hotels. I am a person who cannot afford hotels most of the time, and when I travel I almost always stay with friends, but I do my best to leave things at least as neat and tidy as I found them, and not make their lives any harder than I must, and to leave nice gifts.

I love kids, and think they are awesome, but I have firm firm boundaries with them. (I work as a nanny.) Shoes come off in the house. Shoes go on before we go outside the house. We eat at the table and we don't throw food. We are polite to other people and I will ask children to repeat their demands as requests and say please and thank you. We apologize when we hurt someone, intentionally or unintentionally, and we take turns. We are all allowed to express our feelings.

I might sound like a harridan writing this all out, but I promise you that I am extremely fun and creative and loving. I would never hit a child, I seldom have to grab them, and I almost never yell. I do raise my voice so that they'll hear me across the park.

Kids do a lot of boundary-testing, and the kids in this letter sound like they haven't reached their parents' boundaries yet. This causes tons of insecurity, because kids want to know where they have to stop and what the consequences will be. Once, a three-year-old punched me in the face because she was angry (didn't want to leave the drop-in), and the consequences were that I told her I needed to take a break from playing because I was sad that she hit me. We made up within ten minutes, and the next time I saw her she spontaneously apologized for hitting me. As far as I know, she hasn't punched anyone again.

I say all this because I consider myself very indulgent and loving towards children, and part of that love is being clear about my boundaries, and it has worked so well. I work with babies through to pre-teens, and I do well with kids who are anxious and also kids who are on the autism spectrum and that others find "challenging". Seriously, one of my kids told me that her daddy was probably stressed because he didn't get to hang out one-on-one with me much.

Okay, clearly this comment is now just all about making me feel good about my work. Feel free to ignore me. ;)

PistolPackinMama

@monstrosity One of the hardest things for me to learn as a grown up is, people do well with boundaries. Even when they think they don't like them or need them. High-risk youth, little kids, partners, self. Where are the limits and do I know you will do what you say you are going to do, when you say you are going to do it? Does what you say you will do result in my being safe? Can I predict what will happen if I do X-thing?

Little kids aren't much different from anyone else that way. Changing goal posts of acceptable behavior are so hard to cope with.

It's interesting to me how much living with an addict, for example, contravenes this. The boundaries are whatever feeds the addiction, and that can change. Same with abusive people. Is this person going to lose their shit and yell at me or hit me if I do X? And hot-and-cold boy/girlfriends. Will they text or won't they? Do they like me don't they? Will they say so or not? Same with police officers. If I am found doing x-thing will they cut me a break like they cut everyone a break? Will they hold the line like they hold the line like they do for everyone.

It's so hard to be a person who likes harmony and consensus and likes people to like them and isn't fond of conflict to be the person in charge and say "I don't care if you are pissed at me. You cannot do x-thing and get away with it. It sucks, but you know it and I know it." But really, in the long run, that's kind of what you have to do.

hallelujah

Man, I thought I was being high maintenance with "could you smoke weed on the porch so I can bring the baby?" when invited to child-free friends' places. I don't doubt that parenting made these people suck more, but goddamn. I think they were assholes deep down to begin with, because that shit is INEXCUSABLE.

leonstj

@hallelujah - omg is this why my parents friends were always 'hanging out outside to enjoy the weather' even when it was raining?

(nb: yep)

Slapfight

@leon s Auntie Slapfight smells like Otto's jacket.

parallel-lines

@hallelujah My husband and I have recently developed an interest in nudism. And Satanism. Our spare rooms are really full of goats right now, you might want to stay elsewhere.

missupright

@leon s Walking down a road recently I smelled a smell I couldn't place but instantly made me think of my grandparents' house. Eventually twigged it was grass- good, old-fashioned grass. Rock on, hippie grandparents. Rock on.

supernintendochalmers

I don't think you can host families with children anymore. Honestly, I feel like if you're old enough to have a kid, you're old enough to stay in a hotel when you visit friends. Just say that you realized your house is not equipped for kids.

What you described sounds like pretty normal kid behavior to me. If I was a kid, I'd be bored out of my mind in your nice adult house and would be bugging my parents or getting into trouble. Your friends should have run interference, though.

Ellie

@supernintendochalmers Dude, this isn't normal kid behavior, especially that of the nine-year-old. Most children can understand that they are expected to be on their best behavior when visiting others' homes, which includes not committing transgressive acts such as eating things out of the fridge without permission, putting a mattress on the floor, fucking with the animals, etc.

DullHypothesis

@Ellie The putting the mattress on the floor thing is what really bugged me. And hiding things. That nine year old should know the idea of personal property, that understanding typically comes about age four/five (hence the constant THIS IS MINE screaming at that age). His behavior is totally unacceptable in my eyes.

Mae
Mae

@supernintendochalmers No way is that normal kid behavior. Two year old behavior, sure, but not for a five or a nine (!) year old.

smidge

@supernintendochalmers Yeah--it's normal kid behavior to be active and maybe even fussy, but my parents would not have stood for that shit. I wasn't allowed to leap on the nice furniture in our own house, much less other people's.

celeec4@twitter

@Ellie Seconding that, I feel like the nine year old should have known better than to do a lot of the stuff he did.

apples and oranges

@supernintendochalmers If they were going to be bored (which the parents should have guessed), bring a game, some books, anything to keep them occupied. That is not normal kid behavior.

supernintendochalmers

@Ellie Haha, yeah, reading through other people's responses I'm realizing how out of touch I am with kids. My bad!

@supernintendochalmers I don't think this is about "normal kid behavior." It's about shitty parent behavior. Your kid is being an asshole? Okay, kids can be assholes. But you tell your kid "no" and set up some consequences, and tell him to get the remotes NOW or there will be no allowance, no movies, no friends over, no sleepovers, no XBox, no ice cream, and no special trip to kid-friendly-place until he gets his act together and stops behaving like a turd. And then you follow through.

MsLady

@DullHypothesis Yes. And the DVR thing? I have threatened my husband with divorce for messing with the DVR. Some kid visiting me does it, along with all that other crappy stuff? That family is never invited back to my house again. Also, I have a very...spirited 4 year old daughter, who would be grounded from everything fun FOREVER for pulling the kind of crap relayed in this letter. And I, as the parent, would at least have the sense to be mortified over my child's behavior in this situation.

Nat
Nat

@S. Elizabeth Completely agree with this. I remember doing stupid stuff when I was a kid, but that's why parents exist! To tell you that, no, you're not supposed to run around your neighbor's house with muddy feet or record something over your sister's mixtape. Without proper parenting EVERY kid is a potential underworld children.

baked bean

@supernintendochalmers Yeah for reals it's not the kids that drive me crazy as much as the parents. And I think my idea of child discipline is the same as yours. Goddamn mean what you say. Empty threats drive me nuts. Once you establish that your promises are real, then they will listen!
(FYI I worked at an after school program, and my fave punishment for 9-year-old boys was making them hold my hand HAHAHAHAHAHAA)

Maryaed

@S. Elizabeth Yeah, I have a not-normal kid who does age-inappropriate things, and still we sometimes have visits, but when stuff goes bad, you don't sit there looking faintly disturbed and helpless. You apologize to the hosts, you tell the kid it's been inappropriate and make it apologize and/or clean up, you offer to reimburse for the disasters, if necessary you camp out next to the kid and supervise kid life instead of socializing. This is a lame parent problem not a "kids are hooligans" problem.

every tomorrow@twitter

@supernintendochalmers I kind of WANT to sympathize with the kids because LW's house sounds kind of like my grandmother's house (fancy non-child-friendly furniture, lots of breakables, nothing for children to do) and I spent many a day there slowly dying of boredom and getting scolded for putting my (CLEAN! I took my shoes off inside and wore them outside!) feet on the furniture.

At the same time, though, it sounds like the parents were useless and the kids were out of control. So that sucks. Like I said elsewhere, if I had called an adult stupid to that adult's face at 9 years old, I would have been on time-out FOREVER. Also wtf, if the parents know their kid likes certain foods/drinks, maybe they should do a grocery run. I know when *I*, age 31, stay with people I ask them if we can go to a grocery store so I can buy the stuff I like for breakfast.

Really though it sounds like hosting people with kids at LW's home is a miserable time for LW AND the kids, and in the interest of not torturing herself OR her friends' kids she should maybe not do that anymore. I think the only reason the parents weren't miserable is that they sound terminally oblivious.

Little Miss Bossy

@Mae Agreed and seconded. My sis is an elementary school teacher and sometimes I volunteer at her school -- she runs a tight ship with 5 to 8 yrs old (K-2) and guess what, they meet her expectations (and LOVE her for it)! Inappropriate behaviour is not accepted in her classroom and it should not be accepted if/when kids of a similar age are visiting someone's home. Yes, some flexibility is required when hosting kids but they shouldn't be pandered to the entire time. People, it's called (a) PARENTING and (b) learning how to self-regulate.

formergr

I mean the 5-year old running around the house is going to be a little harder to control. 5 year old kids basically operate at full speed like 90% of the time. And not sure you can get them to not touch walls or doors. BUT, the rest of the behavior sounds deplorable. And worse, the parents reaction to it, as the letter writer's husband diplomatically pointed out.

And the nine year old! Nine! Nine years old is waaaay to old for most of the behavior described in this story!

mabellegueule

@formergr
I feel like yes, 5 year-olds have a little more slack in this area, but the parents should still have tried to instill some respect for other people's homes.

formergr

@mabellegueule Oh absolutely. I will forgive *a lot* from kids with re: to their behavior if their parents are at least making an effort to corral it/correct them/call them on their shit, whether effective or not.

celeec4@twitter

@formergr Reading through comments, yours really struck a note. The parents aren't even TRYING. I cheerfully despise being around tiny children but will accept a lot of crazy so long as the parents' are trying to reign in their kid.

Tiny child clambering into my booth at the diner? No worries, so long as that little spawn stays on the other side of the table and doesn't talk to me. XD

juksie

@celeec4@twitter yeah I was a destructive terror as a child, but my parents would SCOLD ME and make me clean up after myself and apologize if I ever did this in anyone elses home (sorry, aunt gretchen!) and remind me over and over again what was/wasn't acceptable behavior in the homes of strangers. These parents are not good parents, and if they continue to let their children to destroy things without consequence they will turn into terrifying adults.

RebeccaKW

@juksie Yes! Parents so often don't even try. I don't get it. A kid at the grocery store the other day (I'm not good at ages, but he could form full sentences clearly, so probably 6?) was in the child seat of the cart while the mom checked out. he wanted to hand everything to the cashier, including gallons of milk. He was able to climb out of the child seat so he could turn around and crouch in the seat to reach the milk in the cart. The mom's reaction "Name, please sit down." then back to texting. She'd look up again, "Name, please sit down." He never sat down.

My mom wouldn't have put up with the first time-it would have been a command, no please, and if I didn't do it that time, she'd have dragged me out of that cart and I would have been grounded. Like a real grounding, no t.v., no radio, no books.

hollysh

@RebeccaKW Oh god, not no books!!!! My mom always let us have the books even if everything else was off-limits.

RebeccaKW

@hollysh Yea, she didn't mess around. She knew I loved to read, so taking books away was the WORST punishment she could give me.

celeec4@twitter

Eeeh, don't open your home to the friends + kids anymore? Because that sounded like my worst nightmare. Children, wrecking my home. Ugh.

I want to lay the fault for all of this at the feet of the parents? If I had been a suicidal idiot and done half of that shit while staying at a family friends' home...my parents would not have stood for any of that poor behavior.

fondue with cheddar

@celeec4@twitter Agreed, they should not host families with kids anymore, or at least not THAT family. Maybe feel other ones out ahead of time in a different location and see if the kids are better-behaved?

Those parents are definitely terrible parents.

celeec4@twitter

@fondue with cheddar So glad there are other commentators who agree, admittedly, I dislike even opening my home to fellow grown-up friends, so my reactions are probably very biased even before I hit the, oh yeah, and the friends brought their kid, bits.

lora.bee

@celeec4@twitter I got in trouble for putting my elbows on the table at dinner! Our mum ran a pretty tight ship, looking back on it, but thank GOD for that.

celeec4@twitter

@lora.bee Ditto, my parents (and extended family), ran a tight ship of what is and isn't acceptable behavior when out and about. I mean, I guess they were pretty strict at home too, but it never felt that way compared to the LOCKDOWN when out/visiting family friends.

fondue with cheddar

@celeec4@twitter I have a hard enough time sharing my home with a significant other, let alone having visitors. Thank goodness my boyfriend's college-aged son is super respectful and conscientious when he stays over, because otherwise I could not deal.

I don't know about the rest of them because they won't spend more than a couple hours at our house because FAMILY DRAMA. Friendly advice: do not have four children with a psychopath.

celeec4@twitter

@fondue with cheddar Can't even imagine sharing my home with a significant other, because the visitors I have are few and far in between. They're great! But they also know me well enough to, at the end, be all, ok I'ma leave now before our friendship ends because we have been in the same space too much. Hahaha.

Family drama is the worst.

Ellie

This isn't normal behavior for children or parents. To my mind, from this precedent, you can certainly cease to invite or permit friends with children to visit with said children.
However, I would caution, difficult as it may be, not to draw from these two horrible occurrences the conclusion that all children and all parents are like this - they're not.

DullHypothesis

@Ellie Agreed. Not all children are like this. BUT, the OP should not let those families visit again.

RebeccaKW

@DullHypothesis @Ellie Agreed. The first 2 families should never be invited again, and if they ask, they should be told why. Politely, of course. If they are real friends, they will be fine with it. New families-offer this up as a cautionary tale. "The last time children were visiting, the parents let them run wild and we had to replace lamps and get furniture professionally cleaned. You are welcome, but I have to insist that your children be well-behaved inside." Something.

Nat
Nat

@Ellie Yeah. Not very well socialized, those parents.

PistolPackinMama

@Ellie Yeah, this seems to me to be less about "those kids- satanic or not? Those parents, incompetent or not?" It's more about "LW's house, or not?"

It's fine if she doesn't like kids or want to have them. People who are going to give her shit for a totally reasonable feeling can suck on it. It's also fine if she doesn't want those underworld children in her house, whatever the cause of their behavior. It's HER HOUSE. Her house, her rules. Friends who want to make it a sign that she is Cruella De Ville because kids aren't really welcome in her home are making their issues her problems and can suck on it.

Worrying about what people who are going to make it her problem that she doesn't really want kids in the house think about her is not really very productive.

I feel badly for her because she wants to be a good friend to people who aren't being considerate of where she is at in her life. Having kids is hard work, and one of the hard things about it to me seems that sometimes it limits your options when it comes to places to stay. If a friend of yours doesn't have kids and has a kid-forbidding home, you probably need to find another place to stay.

Ugh. It's okay LW and her friends are living different kinds of lives, and I feel bad that she feels the need to justify and rationalize and find affirmation that her choices are OK.

Anyway. Doesn't matter if often kids are lovely and sometimes other kids are not. She's totally fine not wanting children in her home for any reason, and she shouldn't fear judgment or losing her friends because of it.

Blah.

Also those parents sound like they are living way more stressful lives than I would wish on anyone.

For the record, I don't have kids but I really love them at all ages.

talaria

And this is why I know for sure that if something ever snaps in my hormone addled brain and I decide I must have children I will 100% be the authoritarian bad cop and I will have NO QUALMS ABOUT THIS.

DullHypothesis

The children's behavior is UNACCEPTABLE. My parents' house is much like OP described hers, and barring a handful (literally I can count the incidences on one hand) of times I fucked up my own house as a kid, the place remained in tact. And this was my house, you know? My house where I lived all the time! How can these kids behave this way in a house that ISN'T THEIRS. This blows my mind. My parents are total hippies who showered me with love but they placed very strict rules on how to act even in the "nice/visitor" areas of our own home. They tightened the rules on visits to friends/grandparents houses. HOW DO ALL PARENTS NOT DO THIS.

smidge

@DullHypothesis Samesies. I still ask for permission to touch anything when I go over to people's houses now that I'm an adult, because it's so deeply ingrained that you take extra care of other people's things.

@DullHypothesis Seriously. I grew up in a house that sounds a lot like yours (read: a shit ton of antiques and weird art and ceramic shit), and... nothing broke? And we were all fine? And that's just how stuff was.

Sometimes I really cringe at the whole "we have kids, so no nice things!" stuff. Yeah, I get it, kids are rambunctious. But the whole "omg she might get crayon on the couch and walls" thing? No. Don't let your kid bring markers into the living room, or play with playdough outside of the kitchen, or whatever. The kid will learn.

I know, I don't have kids, I shouldn't be talking about how to parent, blah blah blah. But seriously this shit is basic.

par_parenthese

@DullHypothesis For the reals. My parents were awesome and loving and encouraging people, but there were RULES about that shit. Hell, they had fragile, one-of-a-kind knick-knacks on a corner bookshelf and they never got broken because the rule was no running in the house, no wild playing in the living room, if you want to jump around and zoom your cars across the floor, you go to the family room. And at other people's houses I was supposed to sit still and not touch anything unless specifically invited to do so. The idea of not even having rules, much less enforcing them, about other people's homes, is absolutely mind-boggling to me.

iceberg

@S. Elizabeth "Don't let your kid bring markers into the living room, or play with playdough outside of the kitchen, or whatever."

*bitter laugh*

actually one of the Bergy Bits drew on the kitchen wall with purple crayon one time (when they were at home with a nanny type person) - when we saw it we were like "who did this naughty drawing on the wall with crayon?!" and then for weeks afterwards any time one of them saw it they'd say "naughty crayon!", until I got sick of hearing it and washed it off, but they've never drawn on the wall since.

ETA - no but your advice is actually perfectly reasonable for normal people who have one child at a time.

@iceberg The Bergy Bits are also wee. I think it's different for a 5 year old (if your kid is old enough for glitter lip gloss, she's probably old enough for "don't draw on the walls") or a 9 year old (omg I just cannot).

iceberg

@S. Elizabeth absolutely correct.

DullHypothesis

@evil melis I LOVE THIS SO MUCH. I'm gonna program a phone to do this when my hypothetical future children fuck up my hypothetical future house.

Bittersweet

@S. Elizabeth The 9-year-old's behavior makes my brain explode, especially the talking back to the adult. As Tina Fey in her infinite wisdom has said, "I will not have that shit, Lord, I will not have it."

PistolPackinMama

@iceberg My older brother at the age of 4 or so wrote his name on a wall in chapstick because he knew when the wall was repainted PISTOL PACKIN' BROTHER would show up clearly.

The military does not look kindly on that sort of thing in their housing.

He spent... quite a while 409-scrubbing that wall when my parents realized what had happened. Upside for me was, I couldn't be blamed for it. Well, I couldn't write at the time, so I wouldn't have anyway. But still.

odd number

Wow, my husband and I are both mid-thirties, and I've never felt any child-hater vibes. I mean, I've grown apart from some people. I've encountered the Martyr Moms. But this level of angst is completely foreign to me. I DO have some issues with how my workplace seems to view family-related (read:kids-related) leave as more important than other types of leave (to visit friends, for example, or take a trip with my husband). But absolutely nothing on this level.

Better to Eat You With

@odd number

Boy, I have. I have been dumped completely by friends who decided that I couldn't possibly understand their lives because I didn't have children. And I had other friends, at the same time, who would tell me that I was one of their only friends who was great about the limitations of having kids (i.e. attention/time/locations for getting together). So I'm pretty sure it wasn't me. But I've spent all of my 20s and 30s experiencing the very nastiness the LW describes, both from the former friends and from people who were barely acquaintances. (My husband and I have both been called selfish to our faces more than once b/c we said we didn't want kids.)

insouciantlover

@Better to Eat You With Oh I had a friend who would constantly talk to me about how childless friends couldn't understand her life... despite the fact that I was the one she called up to talk about her life most of the time. I was always like, hey, wait!

mabellegueule

I am watching this comment thread with concern about my niece and nephew and what is considered normal kid behaviour. Especially about the table manners. Seriously, my mom is one of the most easy-going people I know, and I would never have gotten away with what they do.

packedsuitcase

Some of it seems like the LW needs to be a little more flexible with having kids around - they're dirty, sometimes they don't wear shoes. A lot of it seems like the parents haven't taught their kids that there are different behaviours expected of them in different circumstances, and that's going to screw the kids over massively. Or, I dunno, maybe we're creating a whole society of people like that and eventually we're going to be left out in the cold and not even in nursing homes because we never taught them that other people have feelings and deserve to be treated well?

SarcasticFringehead

@packedsuitcase I mean, there are some behaviors here that do just kind of read as "normal" kid behaviors - especially the five-year-old running around and touching stuff (the nine-year-old is being deliberately antagonistic, though, which would not fly with me, and the parents of both kids need to step up). So if the LW wants to have kids stay at her house, she might have to be a little more flexible about some things. On the other hand, it doesn't sound like she does want that, which is a totally valid reaction (I can barely handle having grownup guests at my place, so I would understand that reaction).

packedsuitcase

@SarcasticFringehead I totally agree - the 5 year old especially sounded pretty normal. I think that if you're not around kids a lot, you tend to forget how quickly they get bored and that they're generally not great at entertaining themselves in ways a child-free adult would consider reasonable. I think that if the LW wants to have her friends with kids come back to her house (which I wouldn't if I were her), she needs to loosen up a bit. But the fact that the parents weren't really great about redirecting/controlling their kids is also something I see on a somewhat regular basis and that makes me kind of wonder what kind of people will be making choices for me when I'm older.

Personally, if I were the LW, I would definitely just say, "Nope, sorry, we've turned the guest room into a gym/dance studio/dungeon and can't really fit an air mattress in there, but there's a great hotel down the road..."

themmases

@packedsuitcase Yeah, I had mixed reactions to the descriptions of the kids' behavior. I am 90% sure that at 9 years old I was obsessed with sleeping & making up my bed random places-- closets, under the bed, wherever. I hope I wouldn't have done it as a guest somewhere, though.

I'm not sure the LW is being realistic in saying that the parents "let" their kids run wild though. Both the parents and kids are away from whatever context they normally discipline/are disciplined in, and sometimes making consequences for kids can seriously disrupt your day in a way you might not want to do as a guest, e.g. being willing to leave a public place if they can't stop making a scene. Kids, especially young kids, can act out when they're stressed and they may not even be able to articulate why.

I am also a person without kids who works with kids (not a teacher, but I explain medical stuff to kids and assess whether they can agree/are agreeing), and I don't think it's really appropriate for the husband to say she isn't meeting developmental milestones based on a visit that is a total break in routine for her, that she probably could perceive wasn't going well.

@packedsuitcase How about "this person needs to not have kids in the house." No, the LW does not need to be more flexible. It's her house. She is a grown adult. If she doesn't like kids, she does not have to let them into her home. Seriously.

dj pomegranate

@packedsuitcase "We've turned the guest room into a replica of a medieval dungeon, but I'm sure the kids will just LOVE it. We keep the whips and handcuffs in there, too--kids are so creative, maybe they can play dress up or something! Feel free to bring them!"

packedsuitcase

@S. Elizabeth If you read my comments, I specify that this is only if she wants to have them back in her house. In her situation, I would not. But if she and her husband decide that the benefits outweigh the frustrations, then yes, I do think that loosening up on her expectations of them will help things go smoother.

Slapfight

@dj pomegranate I'm with you. Make the home sound as inhospitable as possible. "Well, I had all those insulin syringes around from the cat and I decided to...experiment...

packedsuitcase

@S. Elizabeth Ugh, I can't edit my post - I realize now I *didn't* specify that in my first post, but I did in my second. I totally agree that that LW shouldn't have kids in her house if she doesn't want to.

parallel-lines

@packedsuitcase Is it cool if she goes to their house and messes it up/breaks some stuff/acts like a jerk? Can she break grandma's china? Maybe drink that rare bottle of scotch? Mind if she erases all your Downton Abbey from Tivo and replaces it with Bad Girls Club? Then leaves, footing the family with a repair bill for the broken furniture without offering a dime? They said she could come over so obviously they should accomodate it and be understanding.

packedsuitcase

@parallel-lines Okay, so maybe I'm terrible at expressing myself today. This is what I meant:

IF LW and LW's partner decide that they want to invite friends with children over, THEN they need to be a little more flexible re: noise level, activity level, dirty limbs on the walls/carpets/furniture. BUT children still need to be told to behave, and some/most of the behaviour her friends exhibited was not acceptable and that is due to the parents not stepping in.

packedsuitcase

@packedsuitcase Gah. Her friends' kids exhibited** Well, honestly, her friends, too.

Ophelia

@parallel-lines She should come over and get rip-roaring drunk, and THEN break stuff.

antilamentation

@packedsuitcase LW also told the invited friends that their kids shouldn't harrass the pets or touch things without permission though. It seems to me that if the friends accepted the invitation knowing those were the house rules then they knew what they were bringing their kids into, and they knew (better than the LW, because presumably they know their kids better) what they were bringing into LW's house.

So the friends should have turned down the invite ("Sorry, LW. We'd love to stay but little DemonSpawn Jr might be too rambunctious for a sustained visit. Thanks for the invite anyway.") Or they should have been apologetic to LW, should have told the kids to stop it, and should have paid for any damaged furniture. Otherwise they were wrong to accept the invite, IMO.

I mean it would be like if I had a pet dog that I knew was incontinent. I wouldn't bring it for a visit to a friend's house, because I like my friends and wouldn't expect them to clean up the mess of my dog. If for some reason I did take it to their house, and the dog soiled the couch, or ruined the carpet, I would be very sorry and would offer to pay for the damage.

packedsuitcase

@antilamentation True. But I think, as has been me mentioned downthread, that the best way to approach it would have been for the LW to address this at the time instead of glossing it over. "Oh, it's fine," doesn't hint to your guests that you think that Little Suzy Devilspawn needs to be old to behave. I do agree that the parents fucked up here, not the LW, and I'm sorry I haven't been clearer about that. My only comment towards the LW is really that if you are going to invite kids to stay in your home, realize that they will not act the way you think thy should and be a little more flexible than it sounds like LW thought she'd have to be. Even well behaved children can be crazy and messy and loud.

Simple solution is just to never invite kids over (that's what I do - its very very rare for my friends' kids to come to my house). But if that can't happen for whatever reason, relaxed expectations and clear communication when things become problems give everybody a chance to enjoy themselves.

antilamentation

@packedsuitcase I agree that LW didn't do herself any favours by pretending to be fine about it when it clearly wasn't OK. You're right that her communication in that respect was mixed, and sending a mixed message won't help establish house rules with her adult guests either.

My ex has two little nephews, and we once had them over to stay for a weekend. We had pet rats and they were understandably a bit overexcited to see the rats - which was making the rats anxious, was making me anxious in case they stressed out the animals, and was also preventing the boys from getting to play with the rats as they would have liked to. We told them not to be rough or to make sudden movements or loud noises as that would scare the rats. We showed them how to be gentle with the rats and then allowed them to feed the rats some treats. The kids were engrossed. The rats became calm and happy to get treats. It was fine. No drama. If we'd let them stay overexcited and pretended that was fine, well, it wouldn't have been fine for anyone and no one would have gotten what they wanted.

So yes, a bit of understanding (kids may get overexcited or overstimulated by novel experiences) can help. And I'd definitely agree on clear communication.

km1312

@packedsuitcase I totally agree with everything you've expressed. I also think it's important to note that, yes, LW had expressed her expectations to the parents beforehand, but a 5-year-old will not be conscious of those expectations - or even be capable of following them - the same way an adult can. It sounds like the parents did a really poor job of communicating the expectations to their kids, laying down ground rules, dealing with the issues as they arose, etc. Like most people in this thread, I lay most of responsibility with them - when you choose to have kids, you choose to pay to steam-clean the shit that they "decorate" with glitter lipgloss. But while it's reasonable to be offended when your adult friend does the thing you expressly asked them not to do, it's not really reasonable to be upset when a young child does.

The Lady of Shalott

This is not All Parents. It's these specific parents, who sound awful. It is OK to tell kids in your home to act right. It is OK to ask people to leave your home if they're WRECKING IT, old friends or not!

This is not about Parents vs. Childfree and I hate reading articles that characterize all parents as hapless fools unwilling to do the right thing. Pretty sure that all my friends with kids would behave like humans.

Just because they're a good friend doesn't make them a good parent or mean you must let them walk all over you.

shantasybaby

@The Lady of Shalott That's true, that this is just an example of 2 sets of parents. But it's pretty hard to ignore the trend in parenting away from firmly saying no and towards talking everything out or just excusing all behevior as self expression or exploration, no matter how innapropriate this behavior is. I see it alot both in family and friends and I am just happy the friend I have who is raising her kids that way lives far away.

km1312

@shantasybaby I have definitely seen this in specific parents, and it's awful. They need to step up.
But I also think it's important to cut stressed, exhausted parents some slack. When you're taking care of all of your regular life shit, PLUS caring for one (or more!) other, mostly incompetent people's lives, you wind up just not caring every single time things are kind messy or loud or whatever. If you did, you'd go insane.

tinarina

The fact that you're not a parent is not the issue; you had some really unfortunate houseguests and have every right to avoid that in the future. I second the Red Roof rec.

Better to Eat You With

@tinarina

But it is. Because she feels that she can't say anything without having to listen to the "You don't have kids, you couldn't possibly understand, you're too selfish" tirade, which ties her hands when they're in her home. I've been subjected to this same tirade pretty much unprovoked on many occasions. It's not a imaginary/overly-sensitive thing. And trying to navigate that bitter, hostile conversation is way more likely to end a friendship than a soiled chair.

km1312

@Better to Eat You With Yeah, it does seem to me like her parent-friends are just really judgmental and uncool people generally!

Edie W

First, I do not have kids, and I have never had friends with kids stay at my house for any extended period of time, so take this with multiple grains of salt.

It seems to me like there are two issues here. One being whether your friends are crappy parents / their kids are hellions or not, and two being what you should do about having these friends at your house. As for part one, it definitely seems like there was some unreasonable behavior on the part of both parents and kids, although I think maybe in other cases your expectations were a bit high (for example, I think most kids are allowed to eat whatever from the fridge at home, and a 9 year old probably doesn't know enough to recognize the difference between a fancy box of truffles and a bag of Rolos). But ultimately whether these kids are unusually bad or all kids are this bad or whatever doesn't really matter--you're not going to be able to change them (either the kids or the parents), because a) these are not your kids, b) people are generally resistant to change, and c) as you mentioned, people tend to get especially defensive when their parenting is criticized.

So, as therapists would say, you have to figure out what YOU are going to do, not what you want other people to do or how you want them to change. I think the best solution is probably going to be that you don't invite people with kids to stay at your house. Given that you say your friends can't afford hotels, I think this means that if you want to see them, you go to where they are (and you stay in a hotel). Probably less stressful all around. When your friends' kids are older, you might reconsider this decision.

Yikes

@Edie W Re eating things out of the fridge. I certainly wasn't allowed to eat things out of the fridge without asking in my own home, but in someone else's, I would not even have *opened* the fridge without being told to! My dad is very sociable, we stayed at a lot of people's houses, and there is just no way I would ever have done that - and if I had, at 9 years old, I would definitely have been in huge trouble.

9 year olds definitely should know better - and about the hiding things/breaking things. At 9, if you've done something you think is funny, you know enough to put it right as soon as you realise you're annoying people.

Gulfie

@Edie W I can't imagine not immediately teaching children that they have to ask if they want anything in a home that isn't their own. For me the thought of going into a new person's fridge is horrifying and I'm sure that horror comes from learning as a child that you're not entitled to anything you want that happens to be around.

Verity

@Edie W I think maybe in other cases your expectations were a bit high (for example, I think most kids are allowed to eat whatever from the fridge at home, and a 9 year old probably doesn't know enough to recognize the difference between a fancy box of truffles and a bag of Rolos)
But in this case, they weren't at home - by the time you're nine, surely you know that it is incredibly rude just to take whatever you like out of someone else's fridge? My parents would be furious with me.

sheistolerable

@Edie W I definitely wasn't allowed to eat whatever I wanted until I was a teenager, and even then I would have known that something in a fancy box is probably not just around for snacksies. And he ate the entire thing! And he's 9! That's a lot of junk food for a kid that small. I say that's out of bounds/the ordinary.

Madeline Shoes

@Yikes yeah, I definitely wasn't allowed to eat willy-nilly out of my fridge growing up. I mean, we weren't forbidden from it, but my parents definitely made it clear that we couldn't just take whatever out of the fridge and eat it whenever we wanted. ESPECIALLY not junk food. In regards to eating out of someone else's fridge, that's just like... unheard of to me. Even now as an adult I feel mildly uncomfortable eating freely out of my boyfriend's fridge and he buys things especially for me!

Edie W

@Edie W Well, obviously different homes have different rules--some kids are going to be allowed free access to the fridge and others aren't (as I recall, when I was a kid we were allowed to eat anything unless specifically instructed not to). What I was trying to convey is that some things that seem like obvious rules to us (because of rules we have for our kids or our parents had for us) may not be obvious to others. It seems to me like the LW might have been communicating a "make yourself at home" vibe (which the kids took a little too literally because kids aren't great with social nuance) while a) assuming that certain rules were obvious and would be followed, when in fact not every family has such rules and b) not communicating to the parents that a lot of these things were bothering her and feeling resentful inside.

Yikes

@Edie W We weren't allowed to just eat anything we liked because of what that meant for cooking meals etc - so I might want a lovely piece of cheese, but that means that plans for dinner are out. If we were hungry, we could eat as much fruit as we liked - but regardless, surely what are rules in one's own house are different from when being a guest? I get that people are brought up differently, but it's completely normal to assume that people who come to your house won't go rummaging through your fridge/drawers/DVR/computer without asking/being invited first!

antilamentation

@Yikes When I was about 4 or 5, my brother and I were invited to a bonfire night dinner at the home of some of our friends. It was the first time we were going on a visit to a friend's house unsupervised by our parents (but supervised by the parents of our friends.) My parents told my brother (older than me by 4 years) to look out for me and my behaviour, and they gave us strict instructions about what to do, and what not to do.

We were so well behaved that when our friends parents offered us an extra helping of delicious treacle toffee after dinner, we both hesitated. I think my eyes were probably bulging out when I looked at the tray of toffee, because I wanted to eat more toffee soooooo much, but my parents had said not to take seconds. This was probably a cultural thing; you weren't supposed to be greedy and take more food than your share. However, in the culture of that other household, we were very welcome to have seconds.

Still, even when urged we didn't take more, until the host parents asked about why not, and learned the reason, and then explained it was really fine with them, they had made it to be shared with us, and there was plenty to go round. Then I had more - my brother still gave me a bit of stink eye about it though! He did tell my parents later, and they were fine with it when they heard what our hosts had said. Basically, he looked out for my behaviour as asked! And he would have been about 8 or 9 himself.

So it makes NO sense to me that a child of 5 or 9 should think that it's automatically OK to eat anything from a host family's fridge without asking. To me, that's about what the parents have tried to teach their kid or not. If the parents can't socialise their kids properly, then it's not OK to take them into a friend's house to stay, and they shouldn't be surprised when they don't get invited back.

hollysh

@Gulf of Finland I was just thinking the exact same thing. I even feel transgressive ASKING if I can open someone else's fridge without being invited to. I am so horrified by this terrible kid. Jesus.

km1312

@Edie W So well put! Everything you said in both comments rang 100% true for me.

BuffyBot

All I can think to say here is that my mother's best friend was childfree and lived a 6 hour drive away, so when they wanted to get together that meant my siblings and I were coming. I remember she would push us to play outside a lot (but shoes off when you came in) and she had a lot of antiques so there was no touching. But if we were inside there was generally an activity (making home made dog biscuits, coloring pictures of her dogs)... The house wasn't as spotless as the LW seems to have it, since she was a german shepherd breeder, but yeah this seems more like a problem with the kids. I grew up visiting her and the only time she said something to my mom was when I stayed over alone and overslept and had to run in the morning to go to a college visit, she thought that was rude to "treat her like a hotel" (to be fair my mom made me stay there so my boyfriend and I wouldn't be in a hotel, and it was her and her husband's anniversary so it was awkward for all parties)

polka dots vs stripes

@BuffyBot Love your icon.

That's all (well, except I have a similar experience with visiting my mother's child-free friends - especially the friends who collected ancient but still sharp samurai swords and kept them out!!! in the living room. They were only put away once THEY had kids. Definitely all about the kids/parents, definitely not about the child-free friend). So: yes all around to @BuffyBot.

Oopsensdasies!

I think it's really hard for most of us to accept that the people we were friends with, and with whom we want to maintain friendships, are no longer people that we would reasonably befriend now. Sometimes you have to accept how people have changed and decide whether it's worth walking on eggshells to avoid upsetting someone at the expense of your sanity and the desired cleanliness of your home.

If other friends with kids want to visit, I think you can reasonably say "our house isn't child-proof and we've had not-good experiences with kids here before" and figure out alternative arrangements. You can only control your own boundaries and reactions, and "no" on its own is a valid and complete answer. If your parent-friends can't respect that, then that's on them, I think. If you do have kids come again, you need to be more pro-active (after the "this place isn't really kid-friendly" warning) in letting them know what isn't acceptable. They can't just run rough-shod without you saying anything because some parents seem to just not notice what is and isn't acceptable somehow. If it starts a fight that you're saying you need to be reimbursed for the lamp Timmy broke or steam cleaning the chair, then again, that's on them.

themmases

If you want to still have friends with kids over, I'd really second Emby's advice to get video games or something. Or even board games. Having slightly different toys at my grandparents' house always kept me out of the way at that age. I'd also be inclined to treat impending child visitors much like impending drunk visitors: put any non-essential stuff that you like away, and don't get it out again until they leave.

Honestly though, if you truly feel that you're constantly at risk of being labeled a child-hater by your friends, either you or they have a serious problem with knowing how to be a friend. Either way, I'd recommend finding some new ones.

shantasybaby

@themmases I think the friends are the ones responsible for entertaining their own childred, not the person who's home they are staying in for free. Grandparents are different as they are related to the children and expect them to visit frequently.

Emby

I think the crucial information we're missing here is whether the parents practice attachment parenting.

[ducks]

smidge

@Emby BUT DID THEY BREASTFEED

dj pomegranate

@smidge CO-SLEEP?!

parallel-lines

@dj pomegranate they're using elimination communication in your kitchen sink right this minute.

Nutellaface

@Emby Robin Arryn??

EpWs

@Nutellaface Oh jesus, Robin Arryn would totally reprogram the DVR.

Nutellaface

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher Robin Arryn would definitely pull the cats' tails, too. And, you know, scare the shit out of you.

OhMarie

I think it's normal to expect that something will happen--like, one of these things from the list (I, for one, remember eating a small box of pressed maple candies at my aunt's house without asking, which I now realize were probably some kind of decorative souvenir and not meant to be eaten, and then getting an insane sugar headache). But having all of these things happen in one visit without any interference from their parents is bonkers.

Lily Rowan

@OhMarie Yes! Kids are going to do some shit, but not ALL OF THE SHIT.

Also, it seems reasonable to me to directly ask a 5 year old to wash her dirty feet before she gets on the sofa.

par_parenthese

@OhMarie Yeah, I really like this answer. Some of those things individually were similar to stuff I did as a child, just out of ignorance. But my parents did not sit there and watch me do them, which is what it sounds like was going on here.

ghechr

@OhMarie Yes again! I remember doing a bad thing here or there when at an adult's house when I was a kid. But ONE not ALL. And my parents made sure to make it right with the adult, i.e. fix what I broke, clean what I destroyed, etc.. I was also a very easily guilt tripped kid so one stern look was usually all it took to get me in line.

karenb

and i just unsubscribed from /r/childfree! (it can be a great place, and i encourage all childfree people to go wander over to reddit to check it out, and get support from likeminded people, but i had to prune my frontpage to avoid massive procrastination)(also, occasional internet wankery)

makingtrouble

@karenb and also that a shitload of the people there forgot how to be reasonable humans and are downright hateful assholes about people who do choose to have kids. because anyone with kids is going out of their way to make your life a living hell. yeah that's a reasonable way to think and act. fuck.

latenac

Good lord, I have a kid and I wouldn't let these people into my home ever again. But then I sort of think it's the parents' job to provide guidelines in social situations for their kids and enforce them. And if the kid needs to blow off steam then it's the parents' job to talk to the host and figure out the best way of doing that so I don't know things don't get hidden or destroyed. All of that said, I did find that it is a 5 year old's job to monopolize as many conversations as possible which is why bedtimes and TV were invented.

mlle.gateau

@latenac Yeah, the 5 year old trying to monopolize seems pretty usual to me, but at the same time, that doesn't mean that parents shouldn't attempt to correct it. If I had pulled any of that stuff, I would be my parents' dead child. I also was not allowed to run in the house ever. Is this A Thing? Do people allow their children to run indoors nowadays?

Don'tcallmeJenny

So I have a kid and I deal with issues like this on a regular basis (when friends bring their kids over AND as a preschool teacher). Parents have different standards for acceptable behavior too! A couple of things I've learned:

You do have to pick your battles. Obviously bad behavior towards pets is a big no-no and you would be more than justified in talking directly to the child about that. Not yelling/screaming, but simply getting on their level and explaining what they did wrong and perhaps modelling the correct behavior i.e: "mr. wiggle bottom likes it if you sit quietly and rub his head like this".

The other stuff you and your SO would need to decide what the big deals are and what you can let go. For the things that are big deals you need to bring it up to the parents. Heck, I usually use the old "I'm trying to look out for your wonderful angel's safety" trick. So when Timmy pulls something out of the fridge and eats it without asking you let Mom and Dad know that he needs to ask first because you also keep your totally toxic but delicious smelling night cream in there too. And maybe some of your husband's science experiments. That makes you seem like the loving childless-by-choice-but-damn-your-kids-are-so-amazing friend while still letting you maintain your sanity.

Also, I put a lot of shit away when I know I'm having guests over. Even adult guests can be irresponsible, bad house guests (heck, it sounds like these dear friends are just that). Simply removing really breakable items, making certain rooms or areas of rooms off-limits might help prevent some of the worst damage.

Also, get better friends, because having a kid who acts out and having a kid who you let destroy a friend's home are two very different things and one of those is indicative of a very selfish person.

fondue with cheddar

Did anyone else read "Homes" in the title as in "homeboy/girl"?

fondue with cheddar

You down with OPK?

Emby

@fondue with cheddar "Yeah, but yours? No way!"*

*not actually yours, just making it fit the rhythm.

Lily Rowan

@fondue with cheddar Who DIDN'T read it like that??

Susanna

Just ... never invite them to say again. You can't win, whatever you say. Just save your furniture.

All I have to add is that I stumbled upon this the other day and had conniptions about the assumptions made: http://www.mumsnet.com/relationships/childless-friends

celeec4@twitter

@Susanna (ohmygod I just read that link and I should not have and I'm basically having a ragefit at work aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah)

iceberg

@Susanna oh my goddddd I would litrerally hug and kiss someone who invited me for a weekend away from my children. but then I am the worst, so grain of salt.

karenb

@Susanna wow, that site is really lucky there is no comment thread, because my brain!comments started off at "maybe don't assume your friends will have kids, ever" and just got more irritated. "maybe don't assume your friends are incapable of empathy" "maybe you're awful, the worst, etc etc".

fondue with cheddar

@celeec4@twitter So...we childfree people are selfish and stupid, then?

fondue with cheddar

@karenb "When you have children, you will understand..."

celeec4@twitter

@fondue with cheddar Apparently! And when we invite them out its totally for selfish reasons, and not, maybe you need an evening away from the kids, because giiiiiiirl, can I just say you aren't very happy lately/super stressed?

iceberg

@fondue with cheddar WHEN.

karenb

@fondue with cheddar "when" is the one that drives me crazy. i am trying to train people to go with "if", but even that implies that i am incapable of understanding that kids are hard, yo - when that is the exact reason i am not having them!

Jinxie

@Susanna Omg. OMG. Why did I read that? RAGE.

Jinxie

@fondue with cheddar Anyone else think it's funny that that commenter's username is "Caligula"?

Nutellaface

@celeec4@twitter I love my friends, baby-having and non-, but HOW is it my responsibility to EARN THEIR LOVE by caring for the children and cooking for them when they're sick?

Madeline 4evr

fondue with cheddar

@Nutellaface I have babysat my niece and nephew (5 and 4) no more than three times and my brother and sister-in-law still love me.

hallelujah

@iceberg You are not the worst. I only have one and would erect monuments to someone who gave me a weekend way.

ETA: THAT "WHEN" IS DRIVING ME FUCKING NUTS

iceberg

@hallelujah yeah but i'm not even a stay at home mom! weekends are like the main time i spend with them.

hallelujah

@iceberg Me neither, girl! *laughs bitterly*

celeec4@twitter

@Nutellaface IDK, all this is madness, and I should not have read that link while at work.

iceberg

@hallelujah LET'S GO AWAY TOGETHER.

Ophelia

@Susanna Good lord, I can never un-read that.

Lis
Lis

@Susanna Wow. When your female friend has a baby? Because of course only moms care about these things and of course all of their friends are female and will have babies someday. Of course.

That said... I have been known to say to a very good friend with three kids "You're sick, I'm craving casserole, I can't eat a whole casserole by myself. If I can use what's in your kitchen, I'll come over and cook." Because I do love those kids, and want to have my own someday, and believe in karma. And also she fed me ALL THE TIME (apparently cooking for 6 is not much different than cooking for 5.)

Susanna

@Susanna Folks! I tweeted something about that article, and the Mumsnet admin saw it, reviewed the piece and removed it pronto. I thought it sounded "off message" for a good advice site. Phew.

KJZ
KJZ

I think this is a shitty confluence of two factors.

These kids sound very badly behaved and their parents sound like pushovers. But the LW sounds like she's relishing her outrage a little bit, and seems eager to paint with a pretty broad brush. I doubt there is a chorus of voices shouting "child hater" at her, and maybe she should lay off on the rhetoric about parents raising shitty kids across the land. She's an adult -- she should try out some of that reasonable thinking that the parents/kids seem so appallingly unable to employ.

I hope to god my kids never act like this -- it's one of my worst nightmares. But neither would I benefit from being criticized with the same tone that a petulant teen would use.

karenb

@KJZ that does sort of happen in some places, though. i live in a big northern city, so not here, but friends in other places (say, the south? bible belt?) have definitely gotten that response when they mention they aren't planning on having children. people don't like to have their norms challenged, really.

elizabeast

@KJZ I'm not getting it from my friends, but I'm definitely hearing it from my family. On my dad's side, ALL of my cousins (some are younger than me!) are married with kids, or are about to get married and I'm the only one that doesn't appear to have any husband or child prospects on the horizon. I am 27 and the "You're running out of tiiiiiime!" song is pretty much running nonstop from them.

It's incredibly frustrating because I actually want kids, just not at this moment. I can't imagine how much more awful it would feel if I wanted to stay childfree.

Mira

@elizabeast ehhh, not awful because if you don't care, you aren't running out of time!

I don't like kids either, which is why I would never invite them to stay in my home. Just not my thing. I'm glad their parents like them, though! (P.S. LW's friends sound like pretty awful parents.)

Better to Eat You With

@karenb Yup. I've had to listen to this shit here in the Midwest for nearly 15 years.

ETA, @Mira: I find it really, really fucking awful, because THEY think you're running out of time, when really, they're just verbally denigrating all of your life choices at once.

leonstj

Until I read this article and decided I had to google "brocade" because it obviously was not what I thought, I just assumed it was a place dudes went to play video games without their girlfriends.

@leon s ...did you seriously not know what "brocade" is?

Emby

@S. Elizabeth ..I didn't know either. And I'm relatively wordy.* Familiar with seeing it, never bothered to look it up until now.

*As I assume @leon s is too! Don't mean to imply otherwise.

dj pomegranate

@leon s Bahahaha! I am now picturing a bunch of Italian Renassaince dudes playing video games and drinking pints in a well-appointed room with brocade wallpaper and draperies. A brocade BroCade.

iceberg

@S. Elizabeth my first boyfriend AND my now-husband BOTH thought "Terry Towelling" was a person.

leonstj

@S. Elizabeth - I mean, I knew it had something to do w/ fancy fabrics, and I was vaguely familiar with the verb form of the word as a "to make things fancy". But "mostly knowing what it is but not exactly enough to understand how it was used in this context" wasn't a good joke.

I mean - I'm a dude who was raised in a family where our furniture and curtains and whatnot were just whatever was on sale at Sears. I've only ever lived with one adult who was "fancier" than me, but she was a friends GF in a shared house, and had pretty minimalist tastes - so it just never came up. I'm not great at stuff like this....I feel like it's probably not that uncommon? I mean, I want where I live to be nice and clean and presentable, and I've got a pretty good eye for aesthetics (yay art school, boo art school debt) but I'm just not that into fabrics. Please never try to quiz me on twill v. tweed, cuz I will get it wrong. But I like learning stuff, so I googled it!

@Emby - I'm not. You should see me get my ass kicked in words with friends.

@dj P - That sounds awesome.

jackietgregory

@leon s I've never been more charmed.

ironhoneybee

@leon s I think you're thinking of Barcade. Which I find slightly intolerable, BUT. They have Arkanoid AND 1941, so, you know, sometimes.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

Those kids are horrible. The end.

fondue with cheddar

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose Correction: those parents are horrible.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@fondue with cheddar Everyone is horrible. The end.

fondue with cheddar

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose Haha, that is correct.

Except us, of course.

dj pomegranate

I know and babysit for plenty of children in the 5-9 range who do not behave like this. (And if I behaved like that as a child I would have gotten a no-joke paddling on my little derriere. Not necessarily advocating spaking, but it certainly worked on us...) So yeah, those parents are not doing themselves or their friends or their children any favors by not expecting good behavior from their little minions. There's no reason kids can't behave well at nine (!!) years old and I am angry on your behalf that the parents were so oblivious.

So I say you stick to your boundaries: "My house is not kid-friendly and so I can't really offer to host; however there is a nice Red Roof Inn close by" or something. Maybe propose an adults-only night ("I know someone who can babysit"?) in order to focus on the adult friendship and not the demon children?

And finally, as someone who is married but sans children, seriously, everyone, STOP ASKING US WHEN WE ARE HAVING KIDS. Seriously, get rid of your condescension, it's revolting.

parallel-lines

@dj pomegranate But You'll Understand When You're A Parent...

(remains perpetually confused, likes it)

smidge

@dj pomegranate This is definitely the worst part about being married. Just, shut the fuck up, you have a grandkid already.

fondue with cheddar

@dj pomegranate That is one of the best perks about getting divorced. People stopped asking me when I was having kids, and by the time I'm married again I'll be in my forties and people will (hopefully) be less likely to assume I'm having any.

OxfordComma

@dj pomegranate : Same here! My folks didn't spank often (to clarify: spanking in my family was a few paddles, only on our behinds, and only with a whacker made of flexible material. Hurt like hell, but only for a bit.), but when they did, it was for egregious behaviors.

That said, my GOD, would I have gotten a spanking for acting like those kids! More than that, my parents probably would have left their friends' home until I behaved.

Seriously, why haven't those parents taught their kids that you behave better in as a guest than you do at home?

smidge

@fondue with cheddar Someone asked my new stepmother-in-law if she and new husband were going to have kids. They are in their 50s. She just gave the asker a blank look and said "that ship has sailed."

fondue with cheddar

@OxfordComma Ditto for me, all of it. Only my dad used his hand because he felt that using an object was too detached. He wanted to feel the sting himself as a reminder of what exactly he was doing to us.

@smidge WHAT. If I ever get that question again I think I'll just try to make the people feel really uncomfortable. "I wanted to have kids, but after eleven miscarriages I just stopped trying."

dj pomegranate

@OxfordComma Yeah, same. I just cannot even imagine my mother putting up with anything even remotely like this behavior. My bottom is feeling sore just thinking about it and imagining her lips pursing and her eyebrows rising. *shudder*

Apocalypstick

@fondue with cheddar I like the answer "Oh, I can't have kids" -the reason being I don't want to, but the nosy question-asker doesn't have to know that's why.

fondue with cheddar

@Apocalypstick "Have you tried fertility treatments? Or there's always adoption!" :/

RebeccaKW

@OxfordComma My parents rarely spanked me or my brother, but we knew that if we did something, we would get one. I think I was maybe spanked once, one good swat on my behind by the hand, and that was it for me. Once a parent shows they will follow through with a punishment, often the threat of that punishment is enough. My brother to this day is freaked out by wooden spoons b/c my mom whacked it on the counter when he was acting up once and threatened to whack his bottom with it. He was NEVER whacked with it, but 25 years later, he doesn't own a wooden spoon and hides them when he visits my mom.

fondue with cheddar

@RebeccaKW Yes, The Look was usually more than enough to deter me.

entangled

@Apocalypstick I am of the firm opinion that an inappropriate question deserves an inappropriate answer. My favorite when people ask if we're having kids is "nah, I just had one for lunch." Granted, I stole that from my dad's response when people ask if his dogs like kids, but aside from the occasional new friend asking if we plan to have them eventually, we don't get asked anymore.

Hellcat

@fondue with cheddar I have been told that I was "selfish" for not wanting kids. To whom?

fondue with cheddar

@Hellcat Oh, and nobody has ever had kids for selfish reasons.

Hellcat

@fondue with cheddar Oh, of course not! Marriage falling to pieces because you really don't love each other that much after all? Assign a tiny new human the big job of "relationship glue"! It'll work and that kid will feel awesome!

RebeccaKW

@Hellcat @fondue with cheddar When I was a sophomore in high school, a friend of mine had a bf who had graduated and was joining the army. They wanted to get married but her mom wouldn't let them (b/c, hello, she was 16). The solution: let's get pregnant, then Mom will have to let us. It worked. Of course, they got divorced just a few short years later. My friend and her kid have problems now b/c the kid grew up being shuffled off to babysitters every night of the week and her mom not doing things with her b/c she was hung over from the club. B/c 'I had you when I was 17, so I never got to do all the fun things my friends did, so I am going to party now.' Yea, but it's 'selfish' to NOT have kids.

Hellcat

@RebeccaKW The guy who called me selfish never elaborated on it (but I feel I must add that his own GF, who was a complete maniac, basically impregnated herself via his half-passed-out-from-god-knows-what body... after telling him she was on the pill) but it was as if thought there was a "waiting room" of assigned hypothetical babies somewhere, waiting for the moment that their designated women decided it was time. Maybe I was being selfish by leaving my hypothetical baby to wait there for eternity? My BF at the time was this guy's best friend, and my BF didn't want kids so I have no idea...

RebeccaKW

@Hellcat Sometimes I wonder if they think it's 'selfish' b/c they have kids and are jealous of those who don't. Like, b/c they were irresponsible, everyone else should be, too. I'm 34 and people can't believe that I've never had kids (or been married). "How did you manage that?" Um, how do you think?

Hellcat

@RebeccaKW Yeah, I'm 42 and the BF is 41. Neither of us wants kids, and we actually did mention that to each other on our second date four years ago. Maybe that's kind of a heavy topic for Date 2, but we clearly were into each other and, at our ages, it's probably something you want to get out of the way before you become serious (I know a couple that broke up because of this, even though they didn't want to. But he wanted kids and she didn't, and neither wanted the other to make such a huge sacrifice. Sad). BUT... he tells me that if it comes up in conversation at his work (a restaurant full of guys), people say, "Oh, she'll change her mind now that you live together." This makes me so mad! They know me, but don't know me! How dare they! Not to mention that if this were the case, I am 42, you dumb dummies (not you guys!)--I'd better get going on this endeavor if it means so much to me. In my BF's credit, he has told them to shut it, and that he'd be more likely to change his stance than I would. He's correct.

RebeccaKW

@Hellcat And, sometimes, people have a reason for not having kids. And it's no one damn business. My friend (who wanted kids) had cysts on her ovaries and had to have them removed. Technically, she could give birth, but it would be someone else's egg, etc. So she tells people she doesn't want kids b/c who wants to relive something like this with every single person you meet? It's no one's business what anyone wants to do with his or her body, and it pisses me off that people presume to know you better than you know yourself.

Personally, I'm more ambivalent about having kids. If I meet someone and he does, then fine. But I'm single currently, and still people will ask. A friend had a baby recently, and as I'm holding it, the grandmother asks "doesn't that make you want one now?" I wanted to say "oh, yes, I would love to give birth with no one there to help me, while I can't afford day care and everything else that goes with being a parent. Thank goodness you were here to point out the error of my ways."

frigwiggin

My house isn't even clean or nice but kids still make me nervous. WHAT IF I RUIN THEM

angermonkey

@frigwiggin I gave up worrying about that. My best friend insists on putting me on speakerphone when her kid's in the car. Elliot knows a lot of new and inappropriate words now.

Buffy Summers

I like the idea of having board games, coloring supplies or whatever around the house.. but isn't that like the parents responsibility to bring? These parents just sound terrible and honestly I find it really appalling that as guests in someone's house they wouldn't be more respectful to you. I think this comes down to rudeness and being poor house guests more than anything kid-related. I wouldn't let them stay over again/ or feel guilty because they can't afford a hotel.

karenb

@Buffy Summers i agree - when we went anywhere as kids (grandparent's, vacation) we brought a massive amount of Stuff To Do. otherwise you get bored and insane children, no fun.

TheLetterL

@Buffy Summers I feel like this is a "Yes, but." YES, it should fall to the parents, BUT if some dollar store toys can save your furniture and make your little guest feel welcome, what's the harm?

themmases

@Buffy Summers Parents should definitely bring stuff, but I really think if you are hosting people with kids, then the kids are your guests too. I wouldn't have friends over without getting a movie and a bottle of wine or something, and my friends are adults who can deal with that.

Plus I just think having some kid stuff works. Kids who have traveled to you are very likely to have gotten bored with whatever they bought on the trip. (My parents used to take my sister and me on vacation with a new book/coloring book/whatever for the road trip, and a different one that Could Not Be Opened until arrival.) And the novelty of *your* stuff, that they'll have to leave behind when they go, can be a powerful motivator for them to play quietly in the yard.

City_Dater

@Buffy Summers

To some extent...but for the parents to assume these childless people would be fully stocked and prepared to entertain kids is way out of line. And not stopping the children from destroying the house! Nah, these people don't get a second chance in the guest room.

parallel-lines

HAHAHAHAHA, GIRL COME SIT NEXT TO ME.

Oh god, you guys. I'm sorry, I know parenting is hard: really and truly. That is why I am not a parent, because know thyself and whatever. But please do not insist that I am obligated to baby sit your kids, to feed your kids if you happen to be in the area. I'm not obligated to let your kids play with or break my stuff. Imma do me, and me has nice furniture and a quiet house full of white wine and sharp corners. Me leaves knives around EVERYWHERE because why not?

I'm married and I feel uncomfortable asking someone to host me and my husband. I cannot imagine asking this if I was rolling deep.

And part of me is scared to ever leave NYC because I know my percentage of friends without kids will go from 75% to....roughly zeroish.

In short: firm but polite NO followed by a listing of local hotels.

hallelujah

Also, anyone who shouts CHILD HATER at you any time you say something they're not into is not a good friend. DTMFsA and get some new ones.

hedgehogerie

@hallelujah Alternatively, she could call the person who says Child Hater a Child Abuser. Because let's. be. real. These people are abusing their children by neglecting to rear them with direction, rules, and boundaries. I'd pay to see their reaction.

Mira

@hedgehogerie Yeah, you're not doing your kid any favors by raising it to be a wild hellbeast with no sense of manners, empathy, or appropriate behavior. No favors. Everyone else in your child's life will think it's a juicebox. That's a terrible thing to do to a kid!

Megasus

I know lots of kids with actual special needs, and they would not do this. Don't have them over again. Nope, banned. It may be unkind, but they are not socialized enough to be guests at other people's houses who aren't family. You won't be able to actually TELL your friends this (not if you want to stay friends), but it will be true.
FWIW my ex has a little sister who was 9 when we first met, and she stayed at our place, and was a good house guest. We DID have to ban his mom's dog though, for NOT being a good house guest and peeing on everything.

laurel

@Megasus One Christmas my newly-adopted, priorly unsocialized dog marched up to my sister's elaborate Christmas tree, lifted a leg, and peed alll over a wrapped present. Fortunately, the present was for me and my sister, gasping, "OMG I PUT A TREE! IN THE HOUSE!" thought it was hilarious.

(I corrected the dog, apologized profusely, cleaned up the pee and walked the dog frequently thereafter. But still, it was funny. 'Cause Ned picked the tree, which is almost always found outside except on this one occasion when decked with lights and tinsel and ornaments, to pee on.)

Megasus

@laurel Oh, this was totally different. This was like, constant peeing all the time all over stuff. Like, I also have a dog, and he has escaped from his kennel and spite peed on my aunt's floor before cuz we left him, so I understand it happens, but this dog actually wrecked stuff.

laurel

@Megasus Spite pee! I get it though, some dogs react to new houses by marking everything. Not cool.

PistolPackinMama

@laurel That is... kind of hilarious, all things told. Poor dog was probably super confused. DELIGHT THEY HAVE INDOOR DOG-TOILETS NOW! IT IS MINE I WILL MARK IT AS MINE AND ALSO PEEEEEE... hey wait... what's the problem here?

Moral of the story: if your animal or child is going to break the house rules, make sure they are hilarious when they do so.

queenofbithynia

I hate young children and all[1] but I really feel that if you must have child houseguests as an unchilded person, these are the kind you want to have. They leave and you get to turn to your husband and say, thank god we don't have any of these little bastards, right? and then you feel really good about looking at your life and looking at your choices.

[1]I'll talk to anybody regardless of age, I do not discriminate, but you know that particular quality of silence you get when you ask someone what good books they've been reading, and they're all like, "none as yet, I am a toddler"? Awkward and, I think, frankly rude. there is a time and place for polite social lies. please, people, teach your infant to scan the NYTRB or something so that they can at least recycle other people's literary opinions at cocktail parties, because I cannot carry this whole conversation all by myself, ok? ok???

karenb

@queenofbithynia visiting my sister and her kids is total reaffirmation of my childfreeness. and they're well behaved!

Quinn A@twitter

@queenofbithynia Your footnote is magnificent.

queenofbithynia

@queenofbithynia but also, I really detest the last paragraph of that letter -- that whole expansive stand-up-comic-y 'heyyyy, am I right? Society, huh? huh? child-worship, that's a fun phrase, not at all eye-roll and cringe-inducing.'

it is not society alone -- not modern society, not American society, not modern American society -- that makes kids act like dicks. That is human nature and original sin (a real thing -- I am an atheist so you can trust me on this.) Kids are awful and I would no more invite one into my home than I would gestate one in my body, but the CF lingo and mannerisms ("fed UP") are tired and embarassing and they make you into an easy and borderline justifiable target. A little more "nobody disrespects my cat in her own home and gets out of here alive" and a little less "parents these days," maybe.

mrs psmith

@queenofbithynia Logging in to applaud that footnote. Your nonexistent hypothetical children can eat my fridge chocolates anytime, ma'am.

queenofbithynia

@Quinn A@twitter I mean every word of it!

Once I met a child I really liked at a garden party -- he brought a book with him and sat under the table reading for four hours and never said a word to or made eye contact with anyone, including his own parents. Terrific kid. Teenagers are nice too, because you can say "fuck" in front of them and they don't mind.

honey cowl

@queenofbithynia I LOLed at all of your pithy words of wisdom here. A+ effort.

km1312

@queenofbithynia god yes to everything.

PistolPackinMama

@queenofbithynia My mom's dissertation adviser would come to parties and when we were trotted out for the obligatory pre-bed meeting of the colleagues, he would shake our hands and ask us what we had been reading lately.

Found out later he was a Really Famous Linguist/Lit Critic and Jesuit theology guy. He was also an absolutely charming old man. I only wish I'd been wise to the idea of reading the NYTRB to recycle ideas. He has to have been pretty bored by "well, I am reading Dr. Seuss and Cinderella this week."

bluewindgirl

Recent studies have shown that middle-class American parents are basically the most permissive and indulgent parents in the world: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304450004577277482565674646.html#

I'm tempted to advance an academic argument here: the idea of childhood has always been imaginatively created and curated by adults, and the current Western conception of childhood as a privileged time of innocence, freedom, and exploration (rather than sinfulness, vulnerability to disease, and dependency/labor source) is only a couple of hundred years old, and really came into its own during the Victorian era/late modern period. "Childhood" emerges as a relative category, a foil to help us understand adulthood. We expect childhood to be the opposite of adulthood, a time to indulge in all the things we are subsequently expected to reject and leave behind. So basically, parents who themselves feel constrained by their choices, burdened with unfulfilling work, and constantly policed/judged by social expectations to be clean, orderly, and respectful will permit their children to do the opposite in order to vicariously live through them.

Also there's always the terrifying possibility that your child will grow up and write one of those tell-all memoirs describing the torturous way you made them pick up their own toys. Give them whatever they want!

SuperGogo

@bluewindgirl Recent studies...and any given episode of Supernanny.

polka dots vs stripes

@bluewindgirl My mother will sometimes BURST into tears about how she was a terrible mother because she lost her patience or raised her voice or what have you and DARED to discipline us....I regularly remind her that by doing so, she ended up with well adjusted, aware-of-social-norms adults and no, we do not have plans to write a tell all about the time she threw our shoes down the hall because we didn't put them away after the 6 millionth time she asked.

iceberg

@polka dots vs stripes omg I am your mom.

harebell

@bluewindgirl
omg yes yes yes yes.

My brother is very permissive, to the point that he & his wife were told very sternly by a social worker that they HAD to set and enforce limits on their younger one for his own good, and I always found it puzzling why they were the way they were given obvious bad results (even with very mild-tempered sweet kids). This explanation of the idealization of childhood combined with the crappines of adult working conditions makes SO MUCH SENSE. It's kind of skin-crawling the way my brother will say "but I want them to have a *happy childhood*" ! (and as his sister who grew up with him, I still have no idea what he means by that).

That said, if he were in someone else's house, even he would never put up with this kind of behavior from his kids, or at least would rectify things once they occurred, because he is empathetic and because he cares about his friends!! The LW's friends are not behaving like good friends.

PistolPackinMama

@bluewindgirl So what you are saying is, we should send our children to work in the coal mills and cotton mines because they can crawl through narrow passages and their little fingers will get inside the weaving machinery more easily, and we can all take short Fridays and have margaritas at work because of the extra time their labor will provide. Right?

Right?

No?

Damn it.

(j/k, but really, maybe not just kidding.)

bluewindgirl

@bluewindgirl Not *our* children, but someone else's children, probably :( Seriously, once a shirt I bought at Forever21 started to disintegrate, and my first aggrieved thought was 'goddamn shoddy child labor!' (My second thought was that I am a terrible person.)

In America, psychologically destroying our child actors acts as a kind of burnt offering, a sacrifice on the altar of our first-world guilt and self-loathing, a la The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas.

Oh, squiggles

You don't sound like a child-hater, but it sounds like your friends are inconsiderate assholes and they are raising their children to be the same. People are not allowed to get away with doing whatever they feel like, because we live in a society, and that requires respecting other people, especially if you are a guest in their home. If teaching that to their children is not a priority, then these people sound selfish and awful. I certainly wouldn't feel comfortable having them in my home again, seeing as how they showed such little care for how much damage their child was doing.

ETA: As guests who are getting to stay there for free, they should be extra considerate. I hated growing up and seeing my parents friends and family members use our house as a free hotel because we lived near a vacation spot, but at least they didn't wreak our home!

Oh, squiggles

@Absurd Bird I'm currently leaning towards wanting to have kids some day, and there is no way this behavior would be acceptable. No. Effing. Way.

MandyMcAwesome

It sounds like these people really arent your friends anymore. I sympathize with you. My husband and I decided not to have children (he even got fixed!) and now all of our friends have kids. There are a few that I stay close with and go visit, but most of them have fallen to the wayside. This is in part to the disagreement that happens when one says "jonny does xyz" and I say "have you tried abc" and then they do the "what do you know you dont have kids" thing. So now we no longer have anything in common, which makes me realize we never had much in common to begin with.

But there is good news! We joined the local (Houston) No Kidding organization which is just for adults who arent having kids. Now we know lots of people we have things in common with!

Bottom line - maybe it's time to make new, closer friends and just let these realtionships take their natural course (aka fade away).

StandardTuber

So yeah, the behavior was not cool. But what was going on with the families? The five year old just sounds like she had no direction, no activities or toys there to keep her occupied, or like one of the parents (I'm guessing it's a couple) wasn't willing to say "I'm going to take her to the park for a while."
The 9 year old boy though, that sounds like something else is up. He either really didn't want to come on this trip, or something is happening with his family that he has to be devious to get their attention. Are they getting a divorce? Did a friend of his move away? Basically he sounds like he was acting out of frustration and anger and was trying to get attention and the parents weren't giving him either a shoulder to cry on or a boundary to feel secure within - for whatever reasons THEY have.

Blushingflwr

So, basically, your friends are shitty parents and they're raising brats. Kids that age can and do behave appropriately.

In the future, maybe invest in some cheap but sturdy slipcovers for your good furniture? And also, yeah, if you're going to have them to stay again, maybe a polite "I loved having you guys visit, but it seemed like Junior was bored last time. Can you help me think of some ways we can channel his energy so that he has a better time? Also, any foods we should be sure to have in the house?" (I don't think it's unreasonable to buy milk for your guests, things like that)

Alternately, you go visit them and stay in a hotel, because that's the way to get around having them in your house.

Lily Rowan

@Blushingflwr Oh yeah! The milk thing was where I got skeptical of the LW. If you're going to have houseguests of any age, it's good hosting to ask if there are basics they'll want that you might not have on hand.

TheLetterL

@Lily Rowan Yep. I thought the 9 year old mostly sounded awful, personally, but in general if you want the kids to behave like good guests, there's a certain amount of treating them like good guests. Not that I know what the LW did or did not do for these kids, but...

Blushingflwr

@Lily Rowan I also think that unless these friends had been to visit you recently "our house isn't kid-friendly" isn't necessarily as explicit as you might think. To some people that means "we don't have child locks on the cabinet doors" and to some people that means "Our house is basically a set from a stylish living magazine and we would like to keep it that way".

But whenever you have houseguests, of any age, I think it's wise to stock up on some foods they like to have (e.g. I don't drink coffee, but when I used to have my parents stay in my apartment I had a little one-cup maker for my mom) and plan some activities. It's okay if you decide to just sit around chatting all day as adults, but it's a good idea to at least present options so you don't end up sitting around staring at each other or defaulting to a Netflix marathon. If you're going to have friends with kids over, check out what kid-friendly stuff is in your town. Science museums, zoos, parks, parades, etc. Many of those things are fun for everyone. And maybe get a bunch of family friendly movies from Netflix or the local library so you've got a nice low-key activity for the kids. You can also get coloring books and crayons at the dollar store, as well as bubble solution and a number of other toys. It's not your job to constantly entertain the kids, but having things around for them to do will keep them from destroying your house AND make people think you're a thoughtful hostess!

I also wish there were a socially acceptable way to tell people you think their kids are brats, because I have encountered this and I'm not sure it's in the kid's best interest to ignore it, but the drama can make it something you want to avoid.

Lily Rowan

@Blushingflwr I don't have kids of my own, but like kids and have been a childcare worker, so maybe I feel more free to correct kids, but I feel VERY FREE to correct kids! "Hey, would you do that more quietly - your mom and I are trying to talk." "Oh! Why don't you wash the mud off your feet before you get up on the sofa."

BUT ALSO "Ooh, is that your dollie's purse? What does she have there? I like it!" "Do you need a hand with that puzzle? I love puzzles." Etc, etc.

Lily Rowan

@Lily Rowan (Also, and I feel like this comes up on more of these advice columns than it should, but I really only spend time with people I like and think are awesome. Which I guess makes me lucky? So even if their kids are being bratty, they aren't going to have a problem with me trying to redirect.)

Blushingflwr

@Lily Rowan I am definitely a "it takes a village" person; if I'm with children I'm keeping an eye out that they don't touch things they shouldn't touch, don't hit their heads on sharp things, etc. And yes, engage them. (I was a tour guide, and occasionally my tours would run over b/c little kids would start asking me all kinds of unrelated questions; I'm convinced it's because some of them had never met an adult who could/would stand there and take all their questions seriously and try to answer them)

It's okay to redirect, to say "hey, why don't we do that outside/in the kitchen" or "please ask before you eat things from our fridge, we keep some pretty icky stuff in there" or "Mr. Whiskers really likes it when you pet him *this way*, see?". The LW says that kids make her uncomfortable, so I think she's one of those people who just doesn't know how to talk to kids, but kids and adults have more in common than most people think (want to be treated with respect, want to be heard, get cranky when they're tired/hungry, etc).

hedgehogerie

Okay I also just wrote out a huge reply but instead I will say: be honest with your friends. Don't make them feel guilty, and instead tell them that you feel awkward that you have to bring it up but you want to make sure everyone (use kids as the scapegoat--say you didn't think they had a good time) feels comfortable and has fun.

Invite them over again so that they really feel like you mean what you are saying. But tell them that the kids MUST abide by the house rules. And perhaps offer to help with planning activities: set up a table and chairs in your yard/porch so that they do fingerpainting/crafts. Borrow a neighbor's portable hoop and basketball. Set up a volleyball net in the backyard. Plan a hike/bike ride (do you see where I'm going here?). Get these kids EXHAUSTED so they will take a nap and go to bed early so they quit their damn whining.

AND, AND! Talk to the kids. Don't talk to the parents about the kids in front of them. When they look restless, say "Susie, would you like to show me your cartwheels outside?" or "I saw a yawn! How about you take a nap and after you wake up I'll have fresh cookies for you!" You don't have to do the parenting, nor should you be expected to, but if you treat the kids like adults they will behave like adults.

Josh is like Germany Ambitious and Misunderstood

@hedgehogerie i was gonna say, my brother is 9 and special needs and sounds A LOT like the 9 y/o in this letter, but is a sweet angel if you just engage him a little (idk if this kid is the same, but it seems like not even a little engagement was attempted by either LW or the parents)

RNL
RNL

@hedgehogerie It does indeed sound like the kids had a bad time.

The LW is fully entitled to not like kids and not want them in her house. But I bet anything the kids, an in particular, the 9 year old, felt that acutely, and some of the behaviour came from anxiety arising from being in a different place where he was not welcome. I was a sensitive, anxious kid, and found visiting to be quite difficult when I felt unwanted or unsure of my place. I assume I wasn't horrible, but who knows?

Lily Rowan

Also, for what it's worth, I am HUGELY skeptical that the LW tries and tries and is still labeled a child hater by most people. It's fine to be a child-hater! But maybe own that and don't let kids stay in your house. These kids sound like nightmares, but I can't imagine the kid who you would be OK with.

leonstj

@Lily Rowan - I thought at first reading that maybe LW is actually nowhere near as much of a "trier" at putting up with kids as she thinks she is. I assumed in those first paragraphs that she actually was a child-hater, and just didn't want to admit it.

But then, reading on at the damage those kids did - it seems like her friends (who I'm sure are good people! this is not an overall character judgement!) are just really over-indulgent with their children at home, and maybe the niceness of LW made the parents extend their overindulgences to LW's home as well.

In my experience, the kinds of parents who are so "Oh, let them be, they are just kids!" that they don't force their children to behave are very often the same kind of parents who think those with higher expectations of childrens' ability to behave tend to be the kind of people who think those who do believe kids are competent to not be little assholes are "child haters".

Lily Rowan

@leon s Those kids and parents do sound like nightmares. But, for example, I'd love to have a five-year-old visitor running around! That means the adults can talk and the kid is self-entertaining.

The older kid in the letter REALLY sounds like trouble, but again -- a kid eating something in the fridge is pretty normal, and you probably should pick up some milk before having a kid stay over.

Titania

@Lily Rowan Yeah, I felt the same way. These kids were exhibiting behavior that was a bit beyond the pale, but as an adult, saying you're made "really uncomfortable" by a small, sticky human just sounded kind of...off? Like sure, you don't like kids, that's fine. But plenty of people who don't want kids of their own are still capable of interacting normally with them.

My experience as a nanny has proved to me over and over that small children share the ability of dogs, horses, and other less-cerebral mammals to sense fear and discomfort in the adults around them. This can be nice--when you're lying on the sofa, feeling sick or sad, and a little one comes up to you and gives you a hug and says "it otay, it otay," it's pretty awesome. This can also be not nice--say a 9 year old boy repeatedly fucking with your stuff because he can tell that you don't like him.

This woman just seems to me like she WANTS to be okay with kids, but deeply, fundamentally isn't. So she should probably not have kids over, ever, regardless of her friends' relative parenting skills.

Lily Rowan

@Titania Yes! You said what I meant.

Ophelia

@Titania @Lily Rowan It's interesting, because we're having a kid, and Hamlet and I are constantly talking about stuff like this. I know, straight-up, that my perspective will change, but the kids we're closest to are my niece and nephew (6 and 2.5). He's pretty typical of a two-year-old, but at 6, she refuses to sit at the dinner table, still regularly (daily, sometimes hourly) throws tantrums (and gets what she wants), etc. I am SURE she is very well-behaved at school, but she has very few effective boundaries at home.

I get that kids can be thrown off by changes in routine, and I agree with comments above that the 5-year-old seems pretty typical of a 5-year-old. But I just can't help but judge these parents! It almost read like they thought they were on vacation from parenting because they were at someone else's house, and LW was going to handle it all for them? I don't know. I would be mortified if I were them.

Elsajeni

@Titania I don't know, I think it's reasonable for a person who generally doesn't interact with kids to feel uncomfortable around them. Interacting with a 4-year-old is different from interacting with a 10-year-old is different from interacting with an adult, and each one of those takes some practice to learn. (Admitting my bias, I am a person who doesn't have kids, doesn't have friends or close relatives who have kids, and is uncomfortable and awkward around kids younger than, say, 8 or 9.)

I agree with everyone in this thread generally, though, that it seems like this situation is a combination of some actual bad behavior from the kids, some actual bad behavior from the parents, and some unreasonable expectations from the LW. (The idea of being offended that a five-year-old interrupts and monopolizes conversations particularly stands out to me -- like, of course she does, she's five.)

Better to Eat You With

@Elsajeni I am deeply uncomfortable around children. I thought I liked and wanted kids when I was younger, but the more time I spent around other people's children, the more I realized that I feel about them the way people who are afraid of dogs feel around dogs. I am full-blown anxious at all times around children, for a number of reasons I can figure out (such as: If you're not watching your kid and it gets hurt, is is my fault nobody saw it coming? or: If I don't want to answer "why?" 400 times an hour, am I obligated to do so? or: How much do I have to adapt my language choices around your kid?) and some that I can't.

This is a basic variety of social anxiety, and it really pisses me off when people just expect me to know automatically how to deal with it. I often want to tell people that I am maybe not equipped to adapt easily to the presence of their children. But the LW is right: the result is condescension, at best, and really rude treatment, since us non-child-havers are clearly deficient human beings, at worst.

muggles

Ahhhh I don't even invite clean, childless people to come stay with me, so this is pretty terrifying.

However... maybe don't continually say, "Oh no, it's fine!" if it ISN'T fine? If the problematic behaviors in the kids are indeed coming from a lack of clear discipline from the parents, then an unwillingness to confront the parents about it is, well... kind of the same issue.

So I guess what I'm saying is my advice is to just start blaring "Confrontation" from Les Mis until the bad behaviors resolve themselves.

par_parenthese

@muggles Yes. "Oh no it's fine" is a terrible way to make your views known. "Hey, Madison, slow it down. No running indoors, please, it's a house rule," or "Whoops, looks like you left a smudge on the wall there! I'll wipe it up while you go wash your hands," or "Cooper, taking things that don't belong to you is called stealing and that's not tolerated in this house," are better.

My house, my rules.

Nutellaface

@par_parenthese I feel like it would be SO uncomfortable to parent someone else's kids in front of their actual parents. Especially as a non-kid-haver.

par_parenthese

@Nutellaface Maybe, but I'd sure as hell rather endure a moment of discomfort than foot a hundred-dollar cleaning bill for my favorite chair or spend the next week cursing the brat under my breath as I scrubbed the walls.

Also, I don't think it's parenting someone else's kids so much as giving age-appropriate Realtalk to clueless (and in this case diminutive) houseguests.

Mae
Mae

@muggles I also think it wouldn't at all be amiss to say something to the kid directly. Like, "hey, please don't do that, it's against our house rules." Of course, it's the parents' responsibility to deal with their kid's behavior, but if the kid is in your house and is doing something you object to, then you should be able to ask them to stop.

lemonadefish

@par_parenthese @ muggles

yes, this! do not ever say it's fine if it isn't fine. how will anyone know they're being an intolerable jackass if you tell them it's fine?

TheclaAndTheSeals

@par_parenthese Yeah, "parenting" to me sounds more like, "You need to have a bite of everything before leaving the table."

Your examples sound like making the house rules known to your guests. My in-laws have everybody take their shoes off when they come in. They'll tell you that when you walk in. Similarly, saying to kids, "Hey, in this house we don't stand on the couch, please sit down," is a house rules statement.

Maybe there are some super sensitive parents who would hear that as "Why are you a terrible child with terrible parents," but those people shouldn't be your friends anyway.

Nutellaface

@Nutellaface You're totally right. I just have a weird phobia when it comes to over-stepping. Oversteppaphobia.

smidge

You guys realize, right, that this comment thread indicates that we are all now required to have children because we would be awesome parents.

PatatasBravas

i know it's a joke but it's too scary to joke about

TheLetterL

Anything wrong with the homeowner saying "Dearest child, in this house we do not [unacceptable behavior]?"

Not for the stuff that is normal (if annoying) for kids, necessarily, but I feel like there's a time where the homeowner gets to set some rules.

And, as others have said, pick your battles, put away things, have a way to distract the kid, and be ready to redirect. "Oh my, you little darling, that lip gloss looks sticky. Let's play with it in the bathroom so we can wipe it up."

Jinxie

@TheLetterL There'd be nothing wrong with the homeowner saying that BUT in her defense I'll say that if you've got no experience with children, it can be difficult to know how to act or what to say. Until my nephew was born, I had almost no interactions with kids. (In my adult life, at least. I babysat as a teen, but that was many many years ago.) I'm much more comfortable with rugrats now, and I have no problem telling my nephew to knock it off when he's being a pill - but being an authority figure to kids did not come naturally to me. Also, my bro and his wife let it be known that if you are family, family friend, or other Adult Type Person Known to and Trusted by Them - then you are a person of authority as far as the kids are concerned and the kids know it.

par_parenthese

@TheLetterL Just said this above. Your house, your rules. I don't let houseguests put their muddy feet up on the furniture regardless of how old they are.

packedsuitcase

@Jinxie "There'd be nothing wrong with the homeowner saying that BUT in her defense I'll say that if you've got no experience with children, it can be difficult to know how to act or what to say. Until my nephew was born, I had almost no interactions with kids."

Oh, yeah. When my first friend had a baby, I basically made puppy noises at her. I told my friend she was lucky I didn't whistle! But now that I've got a ton of friends with kids I'm a whole lot more comfortable, and once I get a sense of my friends' parenting styles I'm much more comfortable correcting them, too.

MilesofMountains

@Jinxie And it's doubly hard to take on the role of authority figure if you don't know how the parents will react. I have one set of friends who are pretty insistent that their kids will not annoy people, so if they hear me say "hey David, maybe don't touch that?" their reaction is "DAVID WHAT ARE YOU DOING??!!" but another friend isn't allowed to criticize her sister-in-law's kids directly. She has to ask her sister-in-law to ask her kids not to do something or the sister-in-law will storm out in a huff. If LW hasn't seen their parenting style before, it can be a minefield to start taking on that role.

TheLetterL

@MilesofMountains Oh, no doubt that it can be a minefield, and that can make it very hard to decide if you should step up. In this case, I think the key is making it a home turf issue and doing it with a polite but firm smile. Keep it along the lines of setting expectations and hopefully let the parents deal with any real discipline, you know? But even then, yes, there's definite potential for drama!

Plant Fire

Oh my god this is NOT normal child behavior. And it isn't even acceptable parenting behavior. Had my sister or I behaved like this when we were kids my mother would have been furious with us, and mortified and apologetic had we done anything close to this in someone else's house. I don't have kids but I spend a lot of time with relatives who have kids (variety of age ranges, from babies to middle schoolers) and even at their very worse none of them have ever come close to behaving this way. I've also babysat a lot of kids (including one who was special needs) and none of them behaved at all like this.

I think these are just extremely poorly behaved children, who act that way because their parents don't set boundaries and don't ever bother to teach them acceptable behavior because they assume that everyone will just bend their lives around them. I think it's perfectly acceptable for you to just say that you can't take visitors right now and that your house is not child friendly.

ETA: oh my god one of the kids was NINE?!?!?!? Yeah, no, I thought these were both toddlers. There is something seriously wrong with a nine year old who behaves like that.

Plant Fire

@Sea Ermine Also, I think it's a lot easier to forgive rude behaviour from a child if it seems like the parents are working to stop it or making it their responsibility to keep an eye on the kid. So basically the opposite of what these parents were doing.

evil melis

"Witches of England...You are a disgrace! Miserable witches! You are good-for-nothing worms! Everywhere I look, I see the repulsive sight of hundreds, thousands of revolting little children... I ask you! Why? One child a week is no good to me!

"We will do better! We will do much better!"

"Better is no good either! I demand maximum results!

Emby

@evil melis For real, witches need to do their part in keeping the bratty children population to controllable levels. It might be high time for a cull. In Alaska, witches scoop them up into cauldrons from a helicopter!

evil melis

Now, the most important thing you should know about real witches is this - now listen very carefully! Real witches dress in ordinary clothes, and look very much like ordinary women.

They live in ordinary houses, and they work in ordinary jobs.

Witches spend their time plotting to kill children, stalking the wretched child like a hunter stalks a bird in the forest.

Real witches are very cruel, and they have a highly developed sense of smell. A real witch could smell you across the street on a pitch-black night.

parallel-lines

@evil melis It's so unfortunate that the gingerbread house market was badly affected by housing crash of 2008. Just so many half eaten houses hanging around with their witches evicted, living in high rise condos. You know how long you have to sit around and wait for a child to just wander into your condo?

Hellcat

@Emby My friend threatens to "call the witches"...on her own children.

Plant Fire

Also, since when is it wrong for a homeowner to set rules for how people behave in their house? When I was a kid if someone told me that I wasn't allowed to track my dirty feet inside I would wear shoes or wash my feet (and my mom would make sure this happened) because it's not my house and it's not up to me. Part of being a kid is learning that you can't do anything you want to do whenever you want to do it, and that sometimes you have to respect other people's homes.

Plant Fire

@Sea Ermine Also the parents should really have taken responsibility for cleaning up that chair.

RebeccaKW

@Sea Ermine My parents have that rule now. Anyone who comes to their house, adult or otherwise, is expected to take their shoes off at the door so they don't track dirt and grass and whatever all onto their carpet. Absolutely nothing wrong with this.

evil melis

Hello, young man. What a magnificent tree-house. Did you build it yourself?

melis

My dad and I did.

evil melis

I've got something for you here. Something I think you'll like. Jump down, and I'll show you.

melis

No, thank you very much.

evil melis

It's worth a lot of money...

melis

This - this is private property.

evil melis

There's nothing to be frightened of. I just wanted to give you this. I find him on my walks, he's quite harmless. See? Little boys love snakes. Here, he's yours.

melis

Grandma! Grandma!

evil melis

Look, I'll leave him here if you like, then you can come down on your own and get him. They wriggle away quite quickly...unless you tell them not to.

chrysopoeia

@evil melis @melis Don't ever leave.

BoozinSusan

@evil melis So much nostalgia on this thread. It's all suddenly coming back!

Jaya

No coherent thoughts are just happening in my head. It's just a mash of "MANNERS...LIP GLOSS...BEHAVIORAL STUDIES...ANTIQUES...OH MY GOD THE CATS..."

RoyRogersMcFreely

My cheeks are flaming, I am so appalled at the behavior of these parents. The kids sound like they were hellish to be around, but the truth is that kids act out sometimes. What I really can't believe is how permissive the parents were to their children, or the lack of courtesy they displayed to you in your home.

I don't think this is a child-free vs. parent dilemma at all. It sounds like your friends were just acting self-involved and disrespectful. You really need two things: to enforce boundaries on your personal space and property (don't say something's okay if it isn't, for instance), and to get better friends who won't abuse your hospitality.

The next time someone wants to come to town, just tell them that you've learned that you aren't equipped to have children staying in your home, and recommend somewhere else they can stay.

par_parenthese

@RoyRogersMcFreely I don't think this is a child-free vs. parent dilemma at all. It sounds like your friends were just acting self-involved and disrespectful. YEP.

siniichulok

@RoyRogersMcFreely I agree with all of this! I think the problem is solely the parents. Maybe my boundaries are too strong after not being strong enough for decades, but this kind of behavior in my home (on the part of the parents) would be a deal-breaker for me friendship-wise. People who don't teach their kids boundaries and let the kids destroy someone else's home--and who get all angry at you for attempting to defend your home or set boundaries with their kids--are really saying that they don't give a sh!t about you and your boundaries. Those are never good friends to have. G-d willing, I'm going to have a kid very soon, and I love kids, and NOTHING could ever induce me to think that this kid behavior--which was the responsibility of the dismal parents--is OK. These "friends" just sound like empathy-free users who latched onto this current scary perverted neo-Victorian parenting trend because it benefits them.

I also sympathize with the LW for not being up front with her reactions to her guests. I had this awful (childless but acting like a 43-year-old child) former friend houseguest for nearly a month last July and quite a bit of that was spent in a sort of "huh? Is this really happening? Who is this person and what does it mean for our friendship that she's acting like an unhygienic, manipulative bulldozer?" It can be hard to react immediately when confronted with evidence in your safety zone that your "friend" is a pod person.

CubeRootOfPi

Did the LW ask the parents to reimburse them for cleaning up that chair? Did the parents offer?

The kids may be terrible, but they're kids. Personally, I wouldn't invite the parents back again (with or without kids) because they clearly have no respect for the LW's property or cats. If the parents ask, say exactly why - that the last time they came, they let their kid harass the cats and make havoc in the house.

(The parents also sound like terrible people, even if they weren't parents.)

Katie Walsh

Hell, don't invite them back, and tell them why. They and their kids sound like assholes so who cares if they take offense-- ON TO THA NEXT (friends).

hallelujah

@Katie Walsh TO THE LEFT TO THE LEFT, (all your shitty friends with badly-behaved children) IN A BOX TO THE LEFT

Katie Walsh

@hallelujah PREACH (apt for your username)

angelinha

The issue isn't that the friends are terrible parents - it's that the LW told them it was no big deal! Be honest with your friends. If you tell them it's OK for their kids to act like this in your house, they are going to believe you.

maxine of arc

@angelinha Nah, man. If the parents are okay with their kid calling their hosts stupid and hiding things in the oven, the issue is that they're shitty parents! (Or they're incredibly good at checking to make sure no one's left anything flammable in the oven before they preheat it?) It's one thing to be like, "oh, she's cool with my kid running around screaming" and another to be all "she's cool with my kid being a rude, potentially dangerous little asshole and I'm fine with that too!"

magwella

i think there has to be a happy medium here, because while some of these behaviors are truly unacceptable (standing on furniture, abusing your pets etc), some of your complaints (i.e. that your friends daughter was "talking" -for shame!) seem a little thin-skinned and really do come with the territory of having/being a kid. If you choose to have them again, be clear and set ground rules, not with the parent, but with the kid. This is your space. You are also a grown up and someone who should command respect. Get on the kids level and tell him or her straight up what kind of behavior you expect in their house. And make sure you make it clear what your kid visitors ARE encouraged to do - where they can hang out, ways they can have fun etc. And if that doesn't work out or your friends flip, I say too bad.

Brunhilde

Send them this comment thread. I want to hear their sides of the stories.

harrumph

As a person without children who's young enough (twenty-eight) to dimly remember actually being a child, I have to wonder what on earth the LW and the majority of commenters are talking about. The five-year-old sounds pretty gross, which, hey, five-year-olds are gross, don't invite them over. The nine-year-old sounds like a pretty normal nine-year-old boy (and this despite the LW's strained, transparently hyperbolic attempt to make everything sound more dreadful and dramatic than it was). He broke a lamp, okay. His parents probably paid for it—if not, they're barbarians, but don't put that on their kid. Kids are clumsy and stupid, they break stuff. What do you want? He ate a bunch of "expensive" chocolates? Oh shit, better call the cops! What else did he do? Nothing? Oh right, name-calling. A small child called the LW "stupid," and she is OUTRAGED.

Grow up, LW.

Blushingflwr

@harrumph He also deliberately hid things from them and refused to cooperate when it was time to leave the house. I'm not saying the kid's straight out of a horror movie, but he sounds like a brat.

formergr

@harrumph He PULLED a mattress off a bed. What 9-yr old does that just at someone else's house??

Libby Bells@twitter

@harrumph The main issue is that the parents refused to step in. The parents apparently didn't say anything to the child about the mattress and lamp or the chocolate or the cat bowls -- even when expressly asked to stop this behavior by the hostess. You're right, it is the parents that are completely barbarian but they are raising those children to be barbarians as well.

par_parenthese

@harrumph You know, I'm going to take you at face value here: individually, some of those things sound pretty normal, as a few of us have said upthread. But the point is, they happened a) all in one visit, and b) without the intervention of the parents. It's one thing for kids to be little shits; they're kids! What are you gonna do! They're going to do stupid, insensitive things! But for those things to continue unchecked for an entire visit? That is going to set anyone off. And LW is under absolutely no obligation to invite ANY houseguest back, especially not one who broke shit, stole shit, hid shit, and threw temper tantrums when he didn't get his way.

harrumph

@par_parenthese et al I'll be frank: all that shit is exactly the sort of thing I would've done at the age at nine if I were stuck alone in a house with a bunch of boring adults for two days. Pulling a mattress off the bed? Why the fuck not, maybe there's pirate treasure hidden under there. Reprogram the TV? Probably trying to figure out how to make it play video games. As a nine year old, I had a very vague understanding of personal property and personal boundaries, etc., but I also had pretty much no foresight, never thought about consequences, and lived in a world of total fantasy half the time. Nine years old sounds like a lot (it's almost ten!) but it's not. It's third grade, maybe fourth. A nine-year-old is a little tiny child.

Let me reiterate that the LW actually complained about a little kid calling her "stupid." It's embarrassing. Yeah, her friends might be rude, uncivilized ingrates, but she's like a caricature of out-of-touch uptightness. And they're her shitty friends, anyway! The company you keep, right?

RoyRogersMcFreely

@harrumph It seems to me that most of the commenters here were much more disturbed by the behavior of the parents than the behavior of the children. As par_parenthese said, all of these incidents happened in a very short period of time, and if the letter writer is a reliable witness, the parents didn't step in at all. In fact, one mother, ostensibly her friend, actively told the letter writer to step off when she voiced her concerns about the child's behavior in her home. That's ugly, coming from a friend.

Lily Rowan

@harrumph But a nine-year-old is old enough to be learning manners -- and kids only learn things when they are taught them. So if the kid called the person he was staying with "stupid," it is on the kid's parents to correct him.

par_parenthese

@harrumph I mean, as a person who spent most of her childhood living inside her head, I feel you about all that, but again, it went unchecked. It seems like these parents were completely clueless about why it would even be a problem that their precious little snowflake was doing all the stuff he did. I'm a teacher, and I know for a fact that nine-year-olds can be little hellions, but they shouldn't get away with it, you know? There's a big, important difference between "Oh, let him be, he's just being a kid (as he steals LW's phone and calls her stupid and pitches fits)" and "I'm sorry Axl is being difficult; I didn't realize how disruptive this trip was going to be to his schedule. We're really going to have to keep working with him on not touching other people's stuff."

And FWIW, I would complain about a kid calling me stupid too, not because it would huwt my widdle feewings (which I feel like is what you're saying about the LW) but because that is disrespectful as hell and a nine-year-old is plenty old enough to know that -- hell, half my students at that age still think "stupid" is a bad word. It's symbolic of the lack of respect for other people the parents have clearly tolerated. They're making a little tyrant and, again, LW is under zero obligation to put up with that shit.

every tomorrow@twitter

@Lily Rowan I have to say that if at 9 years old I had called an adult stupid to that adult's face, I would have been on time-out until I was 10 years old. Shit, if I'd done that at 4-5 years old I would have been very, very sorry in an age-appropriate-punishment manner probably involving sincere apologies to whoever I called the name and lengthy time-outs and loss of something I liked a lot.

I did, however, have fairly strict parents? I guess? idk.

dj pomegranate

@harrumph There is no way on god's green earth that I would have been able to call someone "stupid" at nine years old and not be punished immediately by my mother, who would have been mortified. Nine years old is absolutely old enough to know not to call an adult, your parents' friends, names. (Even if you think that they are, in fact, stupid.)

par_parenthese

@dj pomegranate Me too, oh my goodness. If I had ever shouted at an adult or called him/her stupid I would have been carried from the room, spanked, and put in a chair in the corner before I could even get to my second exclamation point.

harrumph

No, it's true, my parents wouldn't have stood for much (if any) of this. I certainly would've been yelled at about the chocolates, and if I'd actually called somebody "stupid," yikes, I may not have seen the light of day for years. I may be projecting here, though, but I don't think the kid actually said, to the LW, "you're stupid." My best guess is that he found out there was no milk in the house and said something to the effect of "this is stupid!"

I visited friends in the Czech Republic when I was about that age (ten). Went with another friend, one year older, but without parental supervision. So obviously I was a pretty decent kid, or maybe my parents were insane, who knows. In any event, when I was served breakfast cereal with room temperature milk one morning, I may have said something uncouth about it, and I definitely refused to eat it. It's one of my most mortifying memories!

Why am I telling this story? I'm not sure. I sympathize with the kid, I guess. And I don't trust the accuracy of the LW's version of these stories AT ALL.

RoxxieRae

@dj pomegranate THIS, A MILLION TIMES THIS. I can't even imagine. I am actually thinking of how mortified 9-year-old me would have been if i had seen one of my peers behaving this way. I would have felt shame on that bad kid's behalf. I would have hoped my parents didn't notice his behavior because to hear them talk about it would have been too embarassing and terrible and sad.

RNL
RNL

@harrumph And maaaaaaybe the parents knew acutely how miserable and uncomfortable their 9 year old was in a house where he was patently unwelcome. I could feel the antipathy pulsing off this women through my screen, and I'm not an overly sensitive 9 year old. Maybe they just couldn't bring themselves to pile on.

Look, that is terrible behaviour on the part of the child, for sure, and I would like to think that I would not, as a parent, tolerate it. But I would really like to hear the other side of the story here.

Jaya

@harrumph I think the difference is also what you do in your own house and what you do at another person's house. I probably destroyed my own room when I was 9, but I was old enough to realize you do not pull that shit at someone else's house. But yeah, I think it's more about the parents making excuses and letting the behavior continue rather than reprimanding their kids for breaking shit, stealing shit, terrorizing animals, etc.

Bittersweet

@dj pomegranate If my 10-year-old had called ANY adult stupid at age 9, especially one whose house we were visiting, she'd still be in time out now, a year later. That disrespect is unacceptable, even if you're bored and uncomfortable.

PistolPackinMama

@par_parenthese Yeah, we weren't allowed to call anyone stupid, or tell them to shut up. You finally stopped getting side-eye from my mom and dad about that and about saying ohmygod! when you got to high school.

The fallout from calling a grownup stupid to their face would not have been pleasant. Yikes.

Libby Bells@twitter

This happened to us recently. Friends who have been to visit us every year for a decade came this last time bearing their two children (this time, ages 4 and 6). Their behavior was so awful that my husband and I decided to tell them that we would love to see them for dinner the next time they come to town but that we won't be able to have them stay with us again. She didn't ask any questions but in fairness, I kind of wanted her to. I wanted to tell her that her kids are terrors, her parenting style does them no favors, and coming to someone's house and checking out on your basic manners (such as helping to cook and/or clean up from dinner that I've made for your family of 4) isn't cool.

fabel

I don't really think this LW needed to have a whole apologetic "I'm not a child hater, really!" expository paragraph to this situation.

fabel

Also, Get Rid of Your Friends.

fabel

It's not even that they're shitty parents, or that the kids have shitty manners...they are SHITTY FRIENDS. Only bad friends would allow this to happen & then be all, "no bigs, when can we return?"

If you want to keep seeing them, definitely recommend a hotel.

Equestrienne

I don't have kids myself, but I'm thinking this might be a case of "Idle hands are the devils playground". The harsh reality is that these children are houseguests too, so meet them half way. Make sure the agenda includes some kid-friendly activities, and be sure that they have appropriate outlets for play as opposed to destruction. Things I have found successful in hosting my friends' children: nail painting, temporary tattoos, pillow/blanket forts, sidewalk chalk, making special "mocktails" for them. (Kids are drawn to lavender lemonade like bees to honey).

For the record, I'm an antiques geek with white upholstered furniture. If I can host kids successfully, anyone can.

packedsuitcase

@Equestrienne YES! "The harsh reality is that these children are houseguests too, so meet them half way." So, so true.

Ophelia

@Equestrienne Yes, BUT I think it's also up to the parents to step up and say something/ask for ideas of things to do/etc. It would be different if she was hosting the kids without their parents (in which case, I agree that it's on her to provide entertainment).

Equestrienne

@Ophelia Ahh, here we go, the missing piece of the puzzle: "Both visits, we smiled through gritted teeth and kept saying "nooo! It's cool. No worries!".

I get the feeling these subjects were not broached with the families DURING their visits. That's unfortunate, because it seems that sixty seconds of honesty here could have negated a lot of the drama.

Ophelia

@Equestrienne Good point. It seems like LW isn't very good at dealing with people, regardless of their age (and same goes for her friends, frankly).

Onymous

So right? I mean yeah those kids sound a like dicks and all.

...but like "you're more than welcome & I want you to stay here" but don't expect me to "adapt to/accommodate their needs/wants"

Choose one.

And I'm with Blushingflwr on "not kid-friendly/proof" not being the same as "you need to take your shoes off when you come inside and don't touch the doorways or walls unless you've washed your hands"

I don't know I feel a bit like the anti kitten burning coalition here. We've been given an awful picture of a couple kids and been asked to confirm that, yes, they do sound awful.

katymg

@Onymous yes...i agree...ANY house guest can be unbearable...and ANY houseguest can be expected to eat your fancy truffles. Probably others won't break things, but you have to make some allowances for kid-ness.

lue
lue

Oh my goodness. Just jumping down here to say: I work with preschool kids all day. The way these kids acted is totally unacceptable.
I have seen a huge trend toward parents trying to be friends with their kid, or parents who seem to think avoiding freak-outs is good parenting.
The thing I wish all parents knew is that it is MUCH more important, and will make all of your lives MUCH easier in the long run, to teach your kid to be to be a kind, thoughtful person, with all of the sadness and frustration that comes along with that, than it is to try to keep them happy all of the time and turn them into a monster who has no coping skills.

smidge

@lue I am going to stitch that last sentence on a pillow and display it on my couch.

lue
lue

Oh my goodness. Just jumping down here to say: I work with preschool kids all day. The way these kids acted is totally unacceptable.
I have seen a huge trend toward parents trying to be friends with their kid, or parents who seem to think avoiding freak-outs is good parenting.
The thing I wish all parents knew is that it is MUCH more important, and will make all of your lives MUCH easier in the long run, to teach your kid to be to be a kind, thoughtful person, with all of the sadness and frustration that comes along with that, than it is to try to keep them happy all of the time and turn them into a monster who has no coping skills.

shannanigans

Maybe we (especially as women) should get over this fear of being called a "Child-Hater" as if that's some terrible thing. I mean, "Hater" is hyperbolic but obviously people who choose to be child-free *don't like kids* to some extent. What's so wrong with not liking children? Why should we have to pretend that we do?

parallel-lines

@shannanigans YOU, MADAME, HAVE NO APPRECIATION FOR JOY AND WHIMSY

Your soul is black and dead inside. You wince when a child screams and pounds his fists against you instead of thanking god for his miraculous works.

You are selfish and stink of fine wines. You are overly prideful in the immaculate, fingerprintless appearance of your clothing. Your fine home furnishings will never love you back. Just try to get your couch to draw a picture of you in the body of a 1000 pound man.

You will not have anyone to abadon you in a nursing home, only to visit you once a year (during which they scream at the staff and leave a box of Russell Stover chocolate covered cherries so you can remember they were there), and for that I feel quite sorry for you.

par_parenthese

@shannanigans "What's so wrong with not liking children?"

Well... nothing per se, I guess. But I'm frustrated by all generalizations. It's like saying "I don't like urbanites/suburbanites" or "I don't like anyone over age 50" or "I don't like rich people" or whatever. So the reason the broad, sweeping generalization "I hate/dislike kids" rubs me the wrong way is basically that children are human beings and I think shouldn't be despised as a class of human beings.

But on the other hand, I also hate the kind of child-tokenism that's so rampant in our culture, as though all people, and all women especially, have some moral obligation to love the idea of children in the abstract. It turns children, who, again, are human beings, into accessories to the ideal middle-class lifestyle, into receptacles for our own American-dream fantasies rather than humans in their own right.

I feel like the right answer is somewhere in the tension between child-disdain and child-worship. I think it's awesome and healthy to acknowledge it if you don't jive with kids when they're kids. And I think it's good to call people out for the sort of creepy tokenism that surrounds parenting right now. But I feel like there has to be a better way than appropriating the concept of hatred.

/over-serious

angermonkey

@parallel-lines ::whispers:: i think i have a crush on you now.

So, who wants to come to my house and be selfish and fine-wine-stinky with me? I have expensive cheeses and a couch that loves me.

Living My Best Life Far Away from the Hairpin!

@par_parenthese Well said. I'm glad you brought up that generalization aspect of it. I've never felt a desire to have kids and I resent being told that (as a woman, especially) I should feel this desire. But saying you don't like kids feels...weirdly discriminatory? Kids are people, and if you live in the world you have to deal with people and some of those people may be kids. I mean, if the LW wants to disallow kids in her home, she's within her rights (and if she wants to ban these kids and their parents based on the experiences she described, I don't think many people would blame her), but she has to accept that telling her friends who have kids that the kids aren't welcome at her house will have repercussions (presumably, that those friends with kids will be insulted, and with good reason).

khh1138

@par_parenthese I don't think I've ever read this clear-headed of a description of this phenomenon before. The fetishising of children as a group, thinking of them like pets or playthings has creeped me out for some time - it's a given that you are supposed to (as a "normal" person, as a woman especially) say "I love children" all the time. It's so odd and de-personalising - like saying "I love old people" or "I love short people." People are all different and there is no earthly reason why I should love *all* children. And I am sick to death of people suggesting I should.

Kikimora

Saying that I relate to this would be the understatement of the year. My brother and sister's respective kids (and their parents) behavior when they stay with me is a huge source of drama. They used to visit me about once or twice a year, and it was always hell. I've had outright fights with my brother many times about things (like giving his kids BREAKABLE things that I've set up on shelves so they couldn't get to them, which they have then BROKEN. Or, or! When his eldest kid tried to steal from me! Okay, I'm stopping!). My sister and I have tried to be more productive in our disagreements, but it's still always come down to, "I can't relax when I'm at your place because of your restrictions on my kids." So basically...they haven't visited in a while.

superfluous consonants

I work with elementary-aged kids (5-10 or so) and grew up with a brother fifteen years my junior, so I'm pretty familiar with this age-rage both in and out of their own homes. And this is nonsense. It seems like the parents wanted a vacation/break from parenting and forgot that your kids actually have to be somewhere else if you don't want to parent them. Bringing them to someone else's home does not = dropping them off at camp. It definitely sounds like they weren't given enough to do AND that their parents failed to step in when discipline was called for. Your nice teacher husband was right! They ARE losing valuable instruction in empathy and carefulness, which is a bummer.

However, I think he's also your best tool here: I imagine he knows how to make corrections without displaying anger or issuing a punishment, yes? The idea that you're somehow judging them or their child is most likely to create defensiveness in the parents. But (should you choose to host badly behaved children in the future), he could step in cheerfully and say, "Oh no, look! You've got some dirt on your shoes and it's making these footprints. Can I help you clean them up?" Then the two of them CLEAN UP TOGETHER in a friendly fashion. This tells everyone that you have boundaries and expectations, but that you're not angry or judgey about it. PLUS, it shows a good faith effort in case you have to go to the parents later about a bigger problem.

wallsdonotfall

@superfluous consonants For the record, this technique is also EXACTLY how I deal with faculty. Works like a charm.

TenyaLuna

I'm more with harrumph over here, yep, all of these things are naughty child things and would totally have gotten me punished as a kid. But I did things like that and similar. Probably at guest's houses, making them upset and embarrassing my mom. I remember lots of times having kids over that chased the cats/threw them in the bathtub/put them outside and they were indoor-only etc. I remember being the kid as the guest that ruined the good towels with fingerpaints and shutting a dog in a room which caused the dog to freak out and scratch the shit out of the door so it had to be replaced. Knocked over pictures (whee broken glass!) and spilled things and got cheetos into the carpet and handprints on the walls/doors.
Which is not to say I'm not on the side of the LW never having these kids in her house again, or any other ones, oh well if you have extra bedrooms/bathrooms - tough, obviously not worth your sanity.
However, this whole "omigod I don't have kids but I would never have acted this way and these kids will grow up horribly" freakout is just unwarranted. Pretty sure the rate of horrible adults is not completely contingent upon hellion vs. perfect children and their relative lack of discipline.
Plus, I think that when one is a guest with a child you get kind of thrown off in the "how to discipline" - do you scream obscenities at them? Spank them? What if the time out corner has nice things in it? Do you threaten to take them home, which they'd probably like? Yeah yeah, that they ignored it is bad and all, but I have a mild amount of sympathy if they don't normally go anywhere to be a little thrown by how to discipline their kid around someone who doesn't have kids and goes on and on about the breakdown of society due to lack of discipline and how SENSITIVE parents are these days.

Better to Eat You With

@TenyaLuna Any of us might have done all those things, but we weren't in our rights to expect our hosts to be happy about it, and our parents wouldn't have been, either.

.abbey

You know honestly, i know this has been said a million times, but let me add my own voice to the chorus here (narcissism!): these kids sound like nightmares but it really is their parent's fault not theirs. Maybe take a long hard look at the people who are your friends. I have many younger brothers and sisters and we ran absolute riot around our own house, doing all kinds of various terrible things, but had we put a foot out of line in someone else's home my dad would be furious. I remember crying at a friend's house once because my dad said no to me and to this day I can remember the look on his face. He was super into being respectful of other people's space and boundaries, regardless of what our lives were like at home, and I am forever thankful for that, especially reading something like this. My dad loved dinner parties, and we were absolutely not allowed to interfere with the ones he threw, never mind dragging us to someone else's. I think this ties into an idea of having an awareness both of adult boundaries and that of children's- my dad neither wanted to force our presence on others, nor force theirs on us. He lnew we were all mad in our own wats and while at home he encouraged it, in pther people's homes he was strict but fair about how we treated each other and our hosts. To this day when I ring home, I'm surprised at how incredibly polite and well trained my siblings are when hey answer the phone, which was part off dad's emphasis on manners.

Also relevant: when I was about nine, I had a French exchange stay with me who stole EVERYTHING that wasn't glued down. Money, my little glass animals that I looked after like precious jewels, my mother's actual jewellery, items from friends houses that I took him to, which was obviously mortifying for me. And he kept saying oh you have to visit us we live in a chateau in Paris. My parents hated him, this little ten year old, and told everyone what a sneak he was (he also rejected all our food - my dad is a chef - as "too disgusting for words" and ate only salad) . One night, stranded in France, we ended up staying in his home, which was actually a barn at the foot of the hill near someone else's chateau. There were spiders everywhere, and his parents made my mum and dad stay up until six am listening to their avant garde music, which was essentially just pure screaming. In the morning, breakfast was tricky as they didn't use cutlery so we had to drink our cereal. As we drove away the next day all my dad could say was, that poor boy- he never stood a chance.

Faintly Macabre

@.abbey Did your dad ever do the "come into the other room with me for a minute" thing? That was my mom's last step if we ignored multiple warnings to stop being obnoxious in front of other people. And when we came back, we were very good.

.abbey

@Faintly Macabre yes same idea- my dad is from a non English speaking country and so he would speak in his native language to us so no one else could understand and it put the fear of god into you. Like you knew the drive home was going to involve lots of shouting if you kept going down the path you were going down (followed, always, by your favourite dessert being made if you were really sorry)

katymg

I think there are two issues. 1 - you have a house with expensive brocade chairs and cats and expensive truffles (ie...one in which children will need to exercise some caution) and you have the right not to have it trashed. 2 - you only get to see your nearest and dearest friends on extended visits and maybe feel like since they are now parents and you are not, you don't have a lot in common with them anymore and you both question each others life choices behind each others back? Saying this as someone in my mid-30s with 2 kids and lots of friends in other cities (and lots of general broke-ness): when we travel we either stay with family or in crappy motels. And I prefer to visit my "child-free" friends without my own children in tow. A weekend without my children is awesome for all involved.

katie, a princess

"Neither sets of parents ever apologized, acknowledged, or showed any accountability or even awareness of their kids' bad behaviors... we smiled through gritted teeth and kept saying 'nooo! It's cool. No worries!'"

It sounds like at some point the kids' behavior WAS acknowledged, and as hard as it is in those exact moments to say "It's cool," it could be more helpful (though just as hard) to say "not cool" to the parents.

I think it was ultra-smart for the homeowners to give the parents the lay of the land and some ground rules. The parents -- via their kids -- allowed those rules to be broken. Unfortunately, some parents still need to learn the lesson that that there's consequences to their actions, even if their kids have not.

Allowing a momentary glimpse into your own hurt feelings may help for the parents to realize they may have also harmed your friendship. Which it sounds like it already has.

There should be no "next time (we host kids)" if you're going to come out on the other side again feeling pushed-over, just like those parents are pushed over by their kids.

vunder

Am I the only one who thinks it's at least partly a vicious cycle?

The LW is not accustomed to having children in her house - and maybe, let's be fair, doesn't respond to them in a good way, ie, "doesn't like them"? - and her small houseguests sense the tension and act out even more out of boredom, response to stress and change in routine, etc, The parents don't want to yell at their kids in front of you, the kids then find this lack of boundaries confounding and overstimulating... This doesn't generate and answer to the dilemma, but

a) I don't think every child is going to act out all the time
b) I sort of think there's some positive interventions that can be created to head off some problems, ie, learning to talk to and respond to kids on their level and taking some minor precautions (put a cover on the furniture if a small person is going to be around?). Not to mention just letting some stuff slide...

But I don't know. It's maybe not worth it for the LW to have kids in her home any further. It's not going to help with the "child hater" label though - maybe you don't really get both.

sheistolerable

@vunder "The parents don't want to yell at their kids in front of you." That's the problem. Why not? The parent's don't magically lose authority just because they're under LW's roof.

vunder

@sheistolerable I think because the parents don't want to yell all the time, and are afraid that raising the tension level is only going to make it worse if that's essentially what the kids are responding to?

I mean, I think we can jump on the bandwagon and say the parents are bad parents, but I'm not 100% convinced.

blueblazes

This is very late to the conversation, but as a non-parent I'm wondering.

Is it OK for me to discipline your kids if they do something in my home that you maybe didn't notice? Like you are busy with kid A, and kid B takes the opportunity to pull the dog's ears... can I jump in with a "kid B, please don't pull the dog's ears"? Does it make a difference if we are at your house, my house, or a third friend's house?

vunder

@blueblazes I completely feel within my rights to set limits on other peoples' kids, particularly in my own environment or in a 3rd party environment. That said, I've known parents who felt other adults were "mean to" or "yelled at" their kids.

MT
MT

@blueblazes I play this situation by ear in 3rd party locations, but hell YEAH I get to set boundaries in my own home. Teeny tiny kids all learn and understand that there are different rules in different houses -- they can't take the toys home from Elizabeth's house, they can watch TV at home but not at daycare, they can touch their own dog but not the dog at the park, etcetera. So unless you're talking about a literal, non-talking, mushy-food-eating baby, every child will understand that they have to behave a certain way in your house, even if they don't know what those expectations are yet. So enforce away! In order to (A) establish a house rule, and (B) redirect the kid's attention, I use a formula along the lines of "Kid B, we don't pull the dog's ears in this house. Here, wanna look at my phone?" or whatever activity is nearby.

Ophelia

@blueblazes I would be totally OK with that. I think, particularly if it's someone you're close to, and you know that the rule in their house is "no pulling the dog's ears" then by all means! If it's something a little more subjective (ie. eat the crusts on your sandwich!), then maybe hold off? But I'd also say, especially if it's something that may cause injury to the kid or to someone/something else, then it's fine to jump in.

harebell

@blueblazes
oh yes, for sure, especially if someone/some creature may get injured. But do just try not to show anger, because often the kid didn't mean to, and anyway anger usually dilutes the effect/your authority.

I'm a little more careful about this outside the home because parents will yell sometimes, (including once when I asked a kid not to lean his body on me!!), but if it's a situation where the principle at stake is one I am happy to defend if challenged (like, get your 9yr-old boy OFF me), I go right ahead in public places too. It does help to be matter-of-fact and not angry if at all possible though.

par_parenthese

@blueblazes HELL YES. And you don't need permission from the parents either. It's your house, the people in it have to deal with the way you run your house. (N.B. this does not mean you should be a dick about it; you just ask kids to quit doing whatever in the same tone you'd use if any clueless dudebro friend did whatever and you wanted him/her to quit.) I wouldn't call it "discipline" -- you're not disciplining their kids if you say, "Hey, small human, Princess Buttercup loves when you pet her like this but she gets freaked out when people pull on her ears." You're just letting them know what's up. And if your friends don't like that, maybe get some different friends, because those assholes are DEFENSIVE.

I seriously have just been reflecting with satisfaction and gratitude on the fact that my friends with kids are super conscientious about what their kids do in my house, or even around me. God bless them, every one.

Lis
Lis

@blueblazes I am also a non-parent, but if it's pulling on the dog's ears? Hells yes tell that kid to knock it off. I think what most of the other commenters said is stuff that I agree with. House rules, safety stuff. Minor stuff like eating breadcrusts? Let that shit slide.

I know when I was a kid (probably about 6?) I was incredibly whiny. Super whiny. My mom ignored it or would listen to it unless it was for something necessary (i.e. yes, pulling this bandaid off is going to hurt, but then it will be done. You can whine when it's done.) This one time, my sister and I both got really bad sunburns while on a family reunion. My mom was not there, and my aunt had a strict "no whining" rule... and slathered aloe on my sisters' back and my back while we criiiiied about how much it hurt, she said we were exaggerating and needed to just stop whining. Turns out... we are both allergic to aloe. It really DOES hurt and burn and sting to have it applied to a burn. Our crying? Totally legit.

Verity

This is my worst nightmare. My parents would have been so furious if I'd acted like that at someone else's house as a child. (Nine is old enough to sit quietly with a book, right?)

khh1138

@Verity when I was 9, that was all I wanted to do - be left alone with "Harriet The Spy" in a quiet corner. My parents probably would have fell over dead from shock if I so much as raised my voice in someone else's house, let alone any of the other horrid shenanigans this LW had to put up with. But then I was properly civilized, starting from such a young age that I don't clearly remember it happening.

stinkblossom

Thanks for asking that question, LW, because I, too, have been wondering about this issue. I also struggle with being considered a child-hater, and maybe there's some truth to that. I mean, I don't *hate* kids, of course, but do I like them? Not really. They make me nervous with their unpredictability and inability to communicate. But, in these people's minds, I might as well hate them, then!

I think you're in an impossible situation. Regardless of how terrible those kids behaved or how irresponsible those parents/friends are, anything you say will come off as child-hating to them. Even if you say it in a completely calm and polite manner, they'll just hear HATEHATEHATE in their minds because they don't believe we understand what it's like to have kids and the struggles they have...and yes, we don't understand. But furthermore, we never will, because we don't like things like our furniture stained and our pets' food being placed in the oven (and other bigger things, of course). And that's really the point, if anything. You're in my house and I don't like these things, so don't do them or get out.

I'm probably more child-hating than you, because I have this issue with my own nieces and nephews. And they don't really get any slack from me because we're related, either. Maybe I have more of a "right" to chastise them because I'm their aunt, but I just don't want to have to do that in the first place.

Better to Eat You With

@deedee But you know, a whole lot of us DO understand, because we're human, and have empathy and the ability to exercise it, and I swear, the next person who questions my ability to do so by assuming I have no idea whatsoever what it might be like to do a thing that every species surviving on the planet has to do, i.e. reproduce, might be like, is getting an earful. Because it's an insult to our intelligence to say that we have no idea what it's like to be a parent. Many/most of us actually do, and that knowledge has a whole lot to do with our choosing not to do it.

par_parenthese

@deedee That is a whoooole lot of "they" in that comment.

Honest question: why is it ok to hate any group of humans?

Apocalypstick

@par_parenthese But I honestly DO hate the group of humans that are sticky and cannot communicate. Including the adults in that group. I have antipathy towards interacting with them.

par_parenthese

@Apocalypstick Eh, I mean I'm obviously not any kind of arbiter here, but FWIW, I don't feel uncomfortable with people saying they have an aversion to kids who are sticky and uncommunicative. I just feel really uncomfortable with the language of hate being applied to something we all used to be, and many of us will have, and all of us will have to be around at one point or another. I recognize that this is an emotional issue and that a lot of kids and parents are assholes, but I still think it's just somehow not ok to say "I hate (group x)" whether that group is wheelchair-bound adults who can't feed themselves or children who can't feed themselves, or whatever.

Nobody is obligated to be pumped about being around kids, or profoundly disabled adults, or people with dementia, or any other group that has intrusive inconveniences associated with or attached to it. But I guess I'd encourage everybody to examine why they feel antipathy or revulsion or hatred toward any of those groups.

Apocalypstick

@par_parenthese Sorry, you're right, I'm just flippant. Hate does seem too strong a word -perhaps people talk about it this way in reaction to social expectations? This thread aside, it is generally expected that most people find kids adorable, so someone who doesn't is going against the grain, which can be frustrating, and since it's not socially acceptable to gripe about kids the discomfort builds up and is vented using emotive language like "hate".

par_parenthese

@Apocalypstick I basically totally agree with you. Yay!

(But man, who are all these people you hang out around who don't complain about kids?? I feel like I'm constantly bombarded with people saying or implying that kids are terrible and a huge lifestyle inconvenience and to be avoided at all costs until you hit 35 at which point you spend your entire savings to have one, or maybe two max, so you can fill out your perfect life and spend the rest of it bitching about your kids, and God help the parents who have more than two or have them before age twenty-five or who don't complain endlessly about the Terrible Twos and the Even More Terrible Threes, those superior assholes... I mean, some of the comments my sister gets about her little brood would curl your hair. Or straighten your hair. I don't know your hair. But it would do a thing to your hair probably.)

Apocalypstick

@par_parenthese Oh god, I'm constantly bombarded with people showing me photos of kids that I must agree are completely adorable or I'm a monster, pointing out random strange kids that ditto, rambling about their plans for future kids, pressuring me to babysit current kids/friend's kids/neighbor's kids/any kids, turning every conversation into "but how does this affect BABIES?"... Can we swap? (Also, is it just me or is it crazy for people without SOs to choose where to live and work based on whether it'd be a good fit for their future kids? Yet three of my good friends have done so. Tad premature.)

par_parenthese

@Apocalypstick Nooooo you don't want those terrible people around you because most of them HAVE CHILDREN which is awful. I very nearly flipped my shit at Target a few weeks ago when a woman and her (? sister? friend? something?), with a very sad-sounding -- sniffling occasionally, as though crying -- but very quiet preschooler in the cart, spent ten minutes saying shit like, "God, you know, he just never shuts up, and he's such a whiny little baby. I swear, if I had it to do all over again, I wouldn't even HAVE a kid." It took everything in me not to go over to them and say, "Lady, I wouldn't entrust you with the care of a HAMSTER, much less a human being and if you don't want him I'd be HAPPY to take him off your hands for you." That is just not something you say to any human, child or adult, particularly not if that human depends on you for survival and can't escape because they're FOUR. *HULKSMASH*

And ugh I don't want the terrible people around you either, why is everyone so awful, let people have their own lives and choices, everyone around us.

Apocalypstick

@par_parenthese Urgh people are just appalling. What part of "don't make enormous life-changing decisions unless you are COMPLETELY PSYCHED about the consequences" is so hard to understand? That poor kid.

stinkblossom

@Better to Eat You With I'm not saying we cannot understand, I'm just trying to argue with a common theme I come across, which is that childless people are not allowed to make any judgments whatsoever about parenting because we "don't know what we're talking about," whether it's true or not.

stinkblossom

@par_parenthese I think I wrote my initial comment very poorly. I'm not saying that I actually hate kids; I'm saying that regardless of what I actually feel (hate or not hate), parents believe that I hate them. And if that's what they're going to believe, then I'm going to try to argue with them along that platform so I'm not immediately dismissed at that point.

sunbeam

I think there are a few issues here. I should start by mentioning that a) I do not have any children of my own and b) I would like to someday, but I don't think that makes my friends who never want children "child haters."

As Edith mentions in her response, when you have a child your house is chaos and things get ruined. The problem is that the guests are not respecting (nor teaching their children to respect) the fact that the house and the things are NOT theirs to take/ruin/insult. The person who wrote the question mentions: "Neither sets of parents ever apologized, acknowledged, or showed any accountability or even awareness of their kids' bad behaviors." I think this is KEY. Yes, kids can be crazy, but that doesn't mean they should be allowed to run rampant, or at least take responsibility/apologize for damage they do cause (especially at age nine!)

Hellcat

After reading the whole question, I am so tense! This is all crazy, and I apologize if anything I say has already been said in these comments but oh my god, holy hell! What in the fuck kind of shit is all this? I mean, I don't know why I am surprised; none of these horrors are things I've never heard of but, still, when I do hear them, I am shocked and angry! And for some reason, the milk part is really bugging me. When staying with someone, wouldn't anyone bring the food they know they will be using a lot of?

antilamentation

@Hellcat Yes, I would bring the food. I have brought the food. I stayed at a friend's house once with another group of friends. She asked in advance if I had dietary requirements/restrictions because she was going to cook for us. I told her what they were, and she took that into account. But also, I asked her what food I could bring to share, and she said breakfast foods would be welcome. So I brought breakfast foods for myself and others - and made sure I got some gluten free cereals because I knew she herself couldn't eat gluten.

So basically between her offering to cater, and my offering to bring food it worked out fine, and everything felt friendly and generous.

The parents who visited LW really could have either warned LW in advance that Little Chucky needed to have milk available, and/or also offered to bring some with them. A good way of putting it might have been: "Little Chucky needs to have milk everyday. I thought I'd let you know in advance, as we'll probably bring a carton with us and it'd be great if you can make sure there's space in the fridge for it. Thanks." No drama, no hassle in the friendship, and Chucky gets his milk.

Hellcat

@antilamentation Exactly. And most friends on the hosting end would probably say, "Don't worry about it; I will pick some up for you." It's the consideration that matters to me more, I think, than the infractions, which kind of goes along with what people have said above about being more tolerant of a kid's crazy behavior when they see a parent actively attempting to wrangle that kid. I get it, kids go nuts for no reason sometimes; I did (and still do here and there). It's much easier not to harshly judge or get pissed when you (A) can tell by a parent's own horror that this behavior is only sometimes, and (B) see that the parent is actually aware that there are other people in the world who can be affected by said kid's actions, and willing to do something about it. We all know your kid is the awesomest kid in the world to you, and rightfully so. We also know you don't love him or her less because you discipline him/her.

antilamentation

@Hellcat Yeah. I think if the parents were clearly trying to take responsibility for how their kids were behaving, it would be easier to feel sympathetic. It would be easier for everyone to find a middle way rather than everything becoming a massive drama.

Livia@twitter

Okay so I'm registering because I HAVE to respond to this. (It won't show up on my twitter, will it?)

Those of my friends who are parents now have lovely, adorable children, but good grief LW wasn't kidding about the sensitivity. I've always been respectful/helpful when they need accommodations or extra time, even if means three hours of sitting around before we can go for a walk. I never, ever offer parenting advice. I listen to ENDLESS wacky crunchy parenting theories on childraising and am always supportive and attentive even when it involves using puppy wee wee pads to potty train your infant or drinking butter.

Recently I dared to voice an opinion on vaccinations, pointing out that low rates of vaccinations leads to more outbreaks, and that non-vaxxers should at least acknowledge that they may be putting other people at risk. This was after I had watched a whole documentary recommended by two of my friends so that they would see that I was "considering both sides." When I disagreed with their side, and presented "my" side in a calm, respectful way, they lost their minds, insulted me, and basically told me to be quiet, and that when I had kids I could do whatever I wanted, which didn't make sense because the whole point was that some decisions affect society as a whole.

So yes, there is a crazy imbalance, if somehow being a parent entitles a person to never being disagreed with ever on anything. And just for the record, I was not telling her to vaccinate her child, just that in general there can consequences for not doing so, and it's something that should be taken into account.

Also, when I lived at home for six months after graduate school, I had to give up the room I was staying in every time my brother, his wife and my niece visited. Only once I protested and said I needed space to apply for jobs so that I could, ya know, move out. My whole family lost their minds and acted like I was planning to murder my niece and harrassed me about it for a whole week. Meanwhile, my brother is a lawyer who could have easily afforded a hotel.

Yeah I may be a bit bitter here and there, and I actually like kids and enjoy when they're around.

One tiny rule I've developed is that I don't go out of my way to accommodate non-friends' parenting schedules. So if my friend's cousin with a baby wants us to wait because she wants to tag along shopping after she finishes breastfeeding, I don't wait. Sorry. My (childless) friend gave me grief about that one. I'll go out of my way for my own friends' kids, but after that, well, who chose to reproduce? Not me. I have enough of my own worries without helping strangers parent.

Sometimes it really does seem like people with young kids have a huge sense of entitlement about how they get treated.

Maryaed

@Livia@twitter Do you not realize that airing your opinions of vaccinations among parents of young kids is like casually bringing up the Palestinian situation over the breakfast table? I'm not kidding, it's a pretty good equivalency.

Ellie

@Maryaed Yes, this is a totally perfect analogy! I think the anti-vaccination thing is insane and stupid, but I still wouldn't bring it up with people I knew supported the opposing viewpoint, in exactly the same way that I think my view on Israel/Palestine is totally correct, but wouldn't bring it up with someone I knew supported the opposing viewpoint. I actually think the vaccination thing might be even more explosive/poor choice for conversation because it is a personal decision.

aphrabean

@Ellie Yeah, but it's so hard sometimes. FOR EXAMPLE, after catching the whooping cough and then hanging out with an unvaccinated family who then casually mentioned that all their kids had it but that it wasn't a big deal. (To be fair, I should've gotten a booster, but I didn't know that was a thing until after I got sick.)

sunbeam

I'd also like to add that I have an few much younger cousins who are little terrors (a few years ago they broke an antique family lamp in our house, let our dog out and he was gone for two days, and refused to eat the food we provided, etc) and their parents blamed US for being frustrated or angry. My parents, who have clearly had young children and know what its like, could not believe the way they behaved. Some people (my uncle included) don't believe in telling their children "NO" anymore because "It's a negative word." The sad fact is there are boundaries in the world and those kids will hear that word eventually. I just think people don't want to admit it when they or their children are wrong but that's a horrible and selfish attitude to pass down through generations.

Shara

This post made me cry, because it is my worst nightmare. I have a three year old, and I share custody, which means half the time I'm a single parent. Where I go, my kid goes. I am so ridiculously self-conscious of my kid's behavior (he's an amazingly good kid, but he's three. c'mon.) that when I'm at a friend's house I find myself constantly apologizing and never enjoying myself because I'm monitoring his behavior and correcting him non-stop. It's exhausting. Non-parents, give these parents a break. I'm not excusing bad behavior or neglectful parenting, but I'm just saying that I've been there, and being a house guest with a child is f'ing hard. In general, having a young kid is really hard and I sincerely appreciate when non-parents cut me some slack. Sure, yes, I chose to reproduce, but it's nice not to feel like a pariah because of it.

whateverlolawants

@Shara Don't worry, it sounds like you are the exact opposite of these parents, who according to the author, did not monitor their child or attempt to correct his or her behavior.

Livia@twitter

@Shara I didn't mean to make it sound like "You chose to reproduce, so hide your child." I'm really not bothered by kids being around and being rowdy. Once at a party a woman brought her toddler son and kept saying, "Oh, I'm so sorry--I'm that person with the kid" even though he was perfectly fine and no one minded at all. I felt bad for her. Kids are part of the human race too and I'm all in favor of people getting used to them being around.

I just don't like having to reschedule over a baby I don't even know. It's like having the inconveniences of having a kid without any of the advantages, and it just puts me in a grump about being single.

I also kind of hate it when people complain about crying babies on airplanes. I mean, what are the parents supposed to DO?

Shara

@Livia@twitter I'm glad you responded. I was a little irked by your comment over entitlement, but mostly I was grouchy because I had had a weird night (out drinking with my ex-boyfriend who, incidentally, broke up with me because he always felt uncomfortable with my kid) and stuff like that hits a nerve. I have a major complex about being a burden in general, and being a parent makes you much more of a burden in social situations. Glad to hear from someone who recognizes both sides of this issue.

whateverlolawants

This comes a day after I went to an after-funeral dinner to support a good friend who just lost his 25-year-old sister in a car accident. During his touching (and brief) speech to his closest friends and family, his 4-year-old cousin ran wildly through the banquet hall, her little brother chasing her, yelling, then stopped at her chair and yelled about balloons for a good 3 minutes before her dad came over, knelt beside the kids... and did who knows what, because whatever he said or did failed to stop the gleeful squeals.

I was appalled. The little girl was adorable, yes, but how could her parents let her do that? She needed to either be taken outside or told to CUT IT OUT NOW. Four is beyond old enough to understand you don't get to run around yelling at all moments. Especially during a short speech at a goddamn after-funeral dinner.

/rant

On the upside, my friend claims he barely noticed it.

Long Lê

Tôi không thể nào hiểu được hết ý nghĩa câu chuyện của bạn. Nhưng tôi cũng thanks bạn nhiều. bat dong san nghia trang

kienduong

However... maybe don't continually say, "Oh no, it's fine!" if it ISN'T fine? If the problematic behaviors in the kids are indeed coming from a lack of clear discipline from the parents, then an unwillingness to confront the parents about it is, well... kind of the same issue. dong phuc
The sad fact is there are boundaries in the world and those kids will hear that word eventually. I just think people don't want to admit it when they or their children are wrong but that's a horrible and selfish attitude to pass down through generations.

stuffisthings

Well my wife is French so according to all the books, when we have kids they will spend their time at our friends' houses politely discussing contemporary literature while nibbling on pâté and delicate little salads.

Darbi Bradley@twitter

Oh man. This is so rough. My mom's sister is a lot like the letter writer. Nice home, childless by choice, total neat freak. We went to visit my aunt when I was maybe 4 or 5, and my normally loving aunt just barely tolerated the trip. She just couldn't handle even a decently behaved kid in her house. I cannot even imagine what she'd have done if I'd broken things or gotten handprints everywhere. Letter writer should do what my aunt did, at the end of the trip she told my mom -- I love you, and I'd love your kid a lot more in a hotel. I saw a ton of my aunt in the Holiday Inn and the Cracker Barrel, but I did not see the inside of my aunt's house again until I was 16.

commanderbanana

Uh. Okay.

So, firstly, I also do not have/am sort of uncomfortable around/don't prefer the company of children. I will, however, add the caveat that I was a nanny for a while and do have a small select group of children that I do like, more since they are interesting smart little people and will probably grow into interesting big people, and that's cool.

Howwwwever, all of these children have parents who are On It in terms of behavior, manners, etc. People who are afraid of their children aren't doing anyone any favors. It's like having a giant, jumpy, aggressive dog. No one likes the dog. No one wants to be around the dog. No one wants to invite you when you bring the dog.

Leaving aside the question of whether your standards for your friends' kids' behavior are too high or not (because that really doesn't matter), your house and your friends' kids don't mix, so don't invite them to stay again.

I don't think that having children automatically makes people unfit to be friends with those who choose not to have them, but I do think very different standards about how their kids should behave and/or the parents' unwillingness to do anything without their children means that yeah, maybe this friendship should be dialed back or confined to things like drinks out without the children.

Also! I would just like to say, to all my fellow non-having children peeps out there, if you are getting tired of being told that you'll change your mind, etc., etc., do us all a favor and stop bringing the subject up.

The easiest way to convince people that you aren't having children is to just keep on keeping on not having them. You don't need to involve anyone else in your philosophy and whys and wherefores, and it's just a source of mutual frustration, like trying to talk foreign policy with a Tea Partier. I just won't go there. I figure people will figure out that I'm serious when I continue not having children as the years tick by.

So, I think this is less about your friends having kids, but more about how their choices about parenting are affecting your desire to be around them and their offspring.

And if it's any consolation, those folks I know who treated their children like that are now miserable all the time, because their kids are little shits.

Better to Eat You With

@commanderbanana Do you really think any of us willingly bring it up? Because that would be stupid in the extreme. The commentary comes frequently and unprovoked.

commanderbanana

@Better to Eat You With Yeah, I do, actually, although I'm not debating that the commentary comes up frequently and unprovoked. I'm really fortunate in that my particular circle of friends doesn't feel strongly one way or the other, and neither do my parents/grandparents/boyfriend's parents, so I am (fortunately!) spared a lot of the fuckwittery that other folks have to deal with.

Hooowwwwever. I used to spend a bit of time on the Childfree LiveJournal communities and related websites (insert caveat in there that that's a self-selected population, etc. etc.) and a lot of folks seemed to go out of their way to raise the topic with others, for Reasons that are unclear to me, except perhaps to have a chance to get on their soapbox.

For example, a coworker of mine is having her first (twins, actually! Yikes!) and we're doing all the obligatory baby-showering, which always provokes everyone wanting to know when you are hopping on the baby bandwagon, and I've been with Sir Commander for nearly a decade now, so I guess that question, while I find it intrusive and weird, isn't all that unusual.

Now, I could deal with that by getting all screechy about how I'm never having kids and just try to change my mind because I WON'T EVER.

Or I could just be like, oh, haha, who knows, Lovely Coworker is sure going to have her hands full, look are those cupcakes? and make a graceful exit.

One of those approaches, while slightly disingenuous, is going to result in a lot less hurt feelings and raised blood pressure.

Frankly, I find those militant childfree (you know, those people who refer to kids as "crotchdroppings" etc., and now I'm not saying you or the LW is one of those) kind of annoying.

Yes, it sucks when people are naggy and weird and intrusive about it, just as it would suck if they were about your choice of religion/job/milinery. But that's when I like to hone my Claws of Good Manners and exeunt stage right.

sinjin

@commanderbanana Personally, I prefer the more elegant phrase of "crotch fruit". :D

commanderbanana

@sinjin The darling fruit of my loins! Hahahaha. No loin fruit for me, please, I'm allergic.

emjb@twitter

LW has no more obligation to have people's kids over (at least under age, say, 13) than she would to have their giant dogs or random bar friends over. But also these kids sound awful.

LW, should you ever find yourself again in a situation where there are Children! In Your House! I can recommend two things that help:

1. Put away (in closets) anything you are particularly worried will get broken; cover nice but stainable furniture.

2. Be an asshole. It is totally ok for you to say "LUCIFER GET OFF OF THE COUNTERTOP NOW!" It really is! You make the rules in your house. If your friends don't try/care about controlling their kids who are being outrageous, you have the right to do so. Not to hit or spank but to scold? Hell yes.

Here's the thing; the parents know they are screwing up. They are just hoping you won't say anything. So say something. "Hey guys, I'm going to have to ask you to pay if your daughter's footprints won't come out of my chair upholstery," "Jane, I think your son is very cute, but he broke my dresser, so I hope you won't be upset when I send you a bill for the repair. Maybe you could take it out of his allowance as a lesson!" Now this may have the very obvious effect of making them mad at you and perhaps ending the friendship. But friends that let their kids wreck your house aren't really very good friends. It's totally possible for parents to control children for a few days in a strange house.

tandemkas

We used to be friends with a couple who had children, and they treated my husband like a human jungle gym whenever we visited them, and the parents always said nothing! It's not like he could physically remove 7 year old girls from his body, and they had no qualms about where to touch him. Very awkward, and the parents said nothing.

They were also horrible to animals, so whenever the parents wanted to come over to our house the kids were banished to the yard. As in not allowed in my home whatsoever. One thing I don't need is kids terrorizing my cat and accidentally touching my husband's junk while we try to eat a meal.

Maria Polonchek @twitter

I'm tooting my own horn here, but I wrote a piece titled "Why My Home Isn't Kid-Friendly." P.S. I'm a mother of 3. http://atthetabletogether.blogspot.com/2013/04/why-my-home-isnt-kid-friendly_9.html

Ajd29

Bratty children are annoying. So are people who talk about their vintage brocade chairs. Yes the visitors were inconsiderate jerks, but when I got to the expensive truffle comment I wanted to tell the author to get over herself. Clearly they can afford another box.

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selasphorus

Nope, from what I've seen of the next generation they are pretty much ALL like this. I am constantly horrified (horrified enough that I wrote in to another advice column about it). And of course the comments were split half and half; half say "I've never heard of children behaving that abominably" and half say "You can't expect children to behave!" When I would have been smacked and sent to my room for the behavior I see ignored by parents every day. You know what, parent however you see fit. As soon as your parenting affects my quality of life, shit's going down.

Erin Thompson

I'm a new parent so my baby isn't to this stage yet, but I can say: as a parent, I still think those people are behaving like assholes. I am shocked as well.

I will say that I was surprised by how I have changed from having a child; I had always thought the struggle of parenthood would be to keep them well behaved, but now with my bebe in front of me, my biggest struggle is not spoiling her all the time. I just want to hand over the world to her. But I know that I have to fight that urge and not let the world revolve around her (once she is older - when they're three months old, there's no such thing as spoiling). It's a pretty simple thing that everyone should keep in check. They're not doing their kids any favors by letting them rule the house, and they are probably so exhausted they can't see things clearly. It would be good for someone to say something to them, but...you might be right that it shouldn't be you. Sorry, no help at all here!

Wallpaper

I haven't read all the comments, so don't know if anyone has mentioned STFU Parents (http://www.stfuparentsblog.com)? It is a soothing balm for my child-free, 30-year-old soul in a world full of people telling me "it's about time". I'm a teacher, I love kids, but when I see the kind of life-force draining energy it takes to raise them, I die a little inside just thinking about it. So I'm in no rush to have any of my own.

My latest, "it's about time" conversation was with a cab driver in Quebec city, in front of my students. I had to have a heartfelt talk with them later on, because that's not the kind of message I want my students buying into. Not every woman needs or wants to have children. It's not a cornerstone of womanhood. And opting out of parenthood is not a selfish decision, like so many parents like to argue. The world doesn't need more people, and children require more energy than I have to give. And I really don't see how setting Me 2.0 loose on the world would make me a better person. Really, I'm doing everyone a favour!

Okee...I'm done talking, then.

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