The block captain behind me called a few weeks back. She's a landscaper and one of her clients, who lives in Compton Heights, has a granddaughter visiting for the summer. Near to Sophia's age, would we be interested in playing with her sometime this summer?
Sounds so benign.
Sure, I tell her. Whatever. I'm thinking she and her grandmother will come over, sit on the stoop, pass the time while this kid (I'll call her Patti) and our neighbor kids will play.
She has a pool, is the next statement. That's great, I think. We'll go over there some, over here some, maybe once a week or something?
But nothing is ever that easy.
We set it up. I bring my kids plus two of the girls Sophia's age (on the other blog they are Bree and Iris). We arrive at the house--keep in mind that Compton Heights is made up of 120 year old gorgeous mansion style houses. The grandmother answers the door and invites us in. The girls change and we head out to the pool. It works about as well as any first time meeting between kids usually does. We only stay about an hour because a thunderstorm approaches, but we promise to come back later in the week.
Later in the week, we do return, but just with my kids and Bree. It works really well that time, from a kid perspective. But that's when things get weird. The grandmother leaves me there with the kids. Her nephew, who is an adult, is there, too, playing with his dogs. But it's really kind of my responsibility--which is fine, except not. It's fine at my aunt's pool when we bring a friend, but this was weird because I had this other kid, too. And the grandmother got in her car and left. Bye bye. But she left rules: don't let the dogs in, don't go through the gate, go through and out the side door, etc. It wouldn't have bothered me if she hadn't left me there with her granddaughter like I was a member of the household staff.
Then the block captain sends me an email. She and the grandmother have talked it over and have decided I shouldn't bring Bree back with me next time because "she's such a born leader and the other girls follow her and exclude Patti."
It takes about ten tries for me to come up with an email response I'm willing to be responsible for. The whole thing starts to feel not like I'm doing this woman a favor, but that I'm mooching off her goodwill. Which is not the way it was supposed to go in my head when I said yes to this plan.
Well, she gets my home number from the block captain and calls me last week. "Can you come over today?" she asks. I tell her no, honestly, that we have a busy evening. But I give in and offer Friday.
We went on Friday--Maeve was at camp and my mom kept Leo. I brought Sophia and Iris this time. The grandmother stayed and sat in a chair next to me while we watched the kids. This was more normal, but it still grated on my nerves that we were always meeting here, that I was somehow responsible to provide her granddaughter with friends, and that I was supposed to feel grateful.
She finds out I'm a teacher and asks, "Do you know any tricks to get kids to do things they are good at but don't necessarily like to do?"
I ask for details. Piano. Patti is "naturally talented" but hates to practice. I suggest bribery. This is met with a thin-lipped shake of the head. Later she asks me about the swim camp Maeve attends. "Perhaps we'll do that next summer. Patti is a good swimmer but has such poor form."
There were other mentions of Patti's natural abilities but sheer laziness and lack of drive (for shame, she's 7 years old after all). It was just weird. Everything had this Mrs. Havisham feel to it, like aging grandeur covered in dust and a new generation of unacceptably mediocre children.
When we left, she stood at the side door with her hand on the knob asking when we would return. Not until I'd agreed to Thursday afternoon did she open the door and let us out.
Ugh. I seem to always wind up in stupid things like this. I say yes to something that sounds ok and it turns out to be a chore. But at least the kids haven't picked up on it. It really is my problem--they see pool and jump in. And Bree does not exclude Patti (in fact she's probably the most inclusive of the girls on our block, Sophia included). I've decided to totally ignore that pronouncement. As Ann put it, kids aren't sprinkles you put in a jar and shake up to mix.
Maybe I'll bring knitting next time and look busy instead of play with my phone and invite conversation....