Have you ever had that one house guest that you couldn’t wait to get rid of? That one house guest who under normal circumstances is easy to get along with, but then they overstay their welcome and you find yourself mentally counting down the minutes until they leave… Yeah… Had had one recently.
My friend moved to Anchorage about six months ago. It was right in the middle of her divorce/custody battle and as a result of the ongoing battle, she was unable to take her son with her. She made biweekly trips back to Fairbanks to visit him, hoping and waiting for the judge to come to a final decision. She would make the six hour drive after getting off work on Friday afternoon and stay with one of three friends in town. Meanwhile, every Friday her son would get dropped off with one of her friends to hang out until she arrived. She preferred to stay with me, as I was the only one with an actual guest room. At everyone else’s house she had to sleep on a couch or an air mattress. I was happy to accommodate her, as I missed her company. She had been one of the few friends I had left in town and after she moved I was left without much of a social life.
As the weeks went on her ex’s affect on her son got worse. He began acting out of character, talking back, throwing fits, breaking things, and generally misbehaving.
Now, let me be clear about something before I proceed any further. I love my son. He is my life, he is my world, and nearly everything I do is for him. BUT… I do not love every child. In fact, I don’t love most children. I don’t even like most children. I especially don’t like the bratty ones who misbehave nonstop, lack respect for others, and have a poor influence on my own child. This was exactly how her son was behaving. Here I was, graciously watching over him, letting them stay in my house every other weekend, and giving him a safe environment to play in, but instead of being thankful, respectful, or even pleasant I was met with a rude, bratty, disrespectful little demon of a child.
It was exhausting and frustrating and infuriating.
He regularly destroyed my house and refused to clean up after himself. He broke my son’s toys. He threw fits about not getting to play video games. And he refused to eat almost anything I cooked, even if it was something he asked for. And when his mother arrived his behavior only got worse. He would misbehave more because she wouldn’t do anything about it. It was like she was afraid to discipline him for fear that he wouldn’t like her. Instead of disciplining her child, she coddled him, she indulged his every whim, and she showered him with unnecessary gifts. She was basically rewarding him for bad behavior. And it drove me nuts.
I will flat out admit to anyone that I am judgmental. I am very judgmental, especially when it comes to how you care for your kids and your pets. Too many people care for both improperly and it leads to poor behavior, obesity, a lack of intelligence, and a slough of other problems. The basic concepts of parenting are simple to grasp, whether you’re parenting a child or an animal. You stay consistent. You reward and reinforce good behavior. You discourage, without abuse, poor behaviors. You encourage them to get regular exercise. You never stop teaching them new things. You keep in mind that your time isn’t yours alone, you now have to share it with other living beings. These are simple, easy, fundamental concepts that everyone should be able to grasp and agree with. And yet, we see it go horribly wrong for so many…. I will never understand why.
Anywho… Back to my story…
Almost as bad as her bratty child, my friend is somewhat scatter-brained. And while this wasn’t normally an issue for me, it became an issue when she stayed over. At one point I had to fix something on my roof and so I left the children in her capable hands. After all, she is a parent, she should be able to watch two boys play together for a couple hours. The repair took longer than expected due to sudden rainfall, and when I finally got back inside, soaking wet and exhausted, I find that she hasn’t fed the kids. I had been on the roof for five hours trying to patch something. Lunchtime had come and gone. She knew that I had food in the fridge and in the freezer and the cabinets. She knew she was welcome to it. In fact, I had even reminded her that they’d be ready for lunch in a little while. So I came inside and found her son scribbling all over my son’s drawings from school and my son in tears because he was hungry and nobody was listening to him when he kept asking for something to eat. I asked what was going on and she shrugged. She raved about her child’s scribblings and I asked why mine was crying. She said, I don’t know, but he’s been doing that for a few hours. He sobbed that he was hungry, so I asked what they had for lunch. She replied that they didn’t have lunch, like it was no big deal. She did, however, brew yet another pot of coffee, in case I wanted some.
This was not out of the ordinary.
Every weekend she stayed with us I found myself throwing out broken toys, cleaning up messes left by her and her child, sanitizing sheets and bed because her child was regularly wetting the bed, and washing almost every dish in my cabinets…. How two people could make such an extraordinary mess of my house was beyond me. I tried talking to her about it and she would rattle off an excuse about how the divorce/custody battle is getting to both of them. It was rare if she actually got around to helping me clean up the mess they were leaving in my house.
There’s another thing I’m judgmental about… Cleanliness. There is no excuse for anyone to come over and leave your house in complete disarray. My mother taught me long ago that when you’re a guest at someone’s house you clean up any mess you make and you offer to help with any dishes that get dirtied during your stay. A person’s home is not a hotel room and unless they’re filthy rich, they don’t likely have a maid service. She taught me to respect the belongings of others and to respect their home. Why this sort of common decency and respect is neglected by some people is another thing that I will never understand.
Every Sunday during their visit was a wonderful day. My son and I would busy ourselves in the morning and head to my parents house in the afternoon, and by the time we got home our house guests were gone. The house was quiet. Nothing was getting broken or destroyed. Messes were getting cleaned up. Nobody was getting bullied. It was quiet and calm and peaceful again.
I basked in that blessed Sunday silence.
Earlier this month was the last visit from our house guests. My friend got custody of her son and moved him to Anchorage with her. No more biweekly visits. No more bratty child. No more growing-less-welcome-by-the-day house guests. I’m glad it worked out for them and I’m glad I could be there for a friend who needed me. I’m also glad that the stressful weekends, while they did strain the friendship a number of times, didn’t ruin our friendship. Yes, despite the messes and the disrespect and her bratty child, we are still friends.
I just don’t think I’d like a house guest again any time soon…