The Saga of the Smashed Glass Window
Tasmania is famous for its seafood. Maybe that’s why P came the raw prawn.
“This rock just… fell from the sky!” he said. His voice oozed wonder as he described, in detail, the angle at which it had come down. “It must have been a meteor! But-” here was the unfortunate news- “it hit the window of the greenhouse and broke it.”
My sister and I glanced at each other and scuttled outside. “Did you just throw a rock through Aunty R’s greenhouse window?” I asked sharply.
P shook his head. “It was a meteor! Actually now you’d technically call it a meteorite.” Aunty R didn’t say anything, but she emanated a fierce anger as she stalked off to get the broom.
And that’s the short version of what happened – but indulge me for a second as I delve a little further.
It all started the moment we arrived in Hobart – a combination of excitement, nerves, new rules (not always appropriate for his age group), new people, being away from Dad, not having anyone his own age to play with, and the stress of sitting squashed up in a small car between two toddlers who kept flailing across him trying to hit each other whilst shrieking, “Mine!” even when devoid of an object to contend over. We would probably have even felt sorry for him, except he was carrying on like the world’s most powerful irrit-o-matic, and we were focussed on trying to shut him down.
Then one morning, after we’d sent him outside for failing to act like a civilised human being, he appeared at the back door asking us to guess what he’d just seen. And what he’d just seen, apparently, was a meteor – an actual piece of space-rock – come zooming through the atmosphere to strike the window of Aunty R’s greenhouse.
It was roughly the last straw. Half an hour later we were on the road – just the three of us – and I was indescribably angry and upset. There’s nothing quite like being the parent of That Kid Who Just Smashed That Window, unless it’s being the parent of That Kid Who Just Hit That Other Kid or That Kid Who… well, I’m sure you’ve got stories. Let’s not get stuck here all day.
Of course, that wasn’t the end of it. As time ticked on, P continued to needle and push until finally, twelve hours on from The Incident, I snapped my tether completely and demanded to know what was wrong with him, and he broke down and cried.
“It’s just, sometimes, it takes me a few days to work out how to behave in a new place,” he said. Yes, that’s what he said.
“It takes you a few days to work out that you’re not allowed to throw rocks through glass windows… in Tasmania? These aren’t complicated rules, P. Do you want me to list all the places on Earth where it’s okay to throw rocks through glass windows?”
Through his tears, he said, “Yes?”
That’s the thing with five year olds. They’ve heard of meteorites, but they don’t understand sarcasm. Nor do they understand anxiety, or excitement, or self-control, or stopping to think about consequences. They see that rules change, and they can’t for the life of them figure out which ones stay the same. For every insightful discussion they spark over sustainable fishing practices, there’s a big, steaming pile of WTF where a mature person’s knowledge of basic, common decency would be. They’re so big, but they’re so little. They’re just grown up enough to be dangerous.
“There is no place on Earth where it’s okay to throw rocks through glass windows,” I told him.
And that’s kind of the end of it – at least, it was the end of P’s reign of juvenile terror. He tried hard to cooperate after that, unless you count the night before we left, but for the sake of the narrative let’s sweep that bit under the carpet. He has his moments. Apparently – as the older generation were keen to assure me – so have we all.
On Sunday we went to the tip shop to look through the recycled building materials for a new door:
Even with a friendly discount, it cost all P’s Christmas money plus the earnings from a stack of chores (thanks Nanny and Pa – best customers ever) but at least we could bring it to a close:
Travel lessons learned: when visiting family, especially those you don’t see often, and especially if the two-year-olds are having trouble with the pecking order, spend a maximum of half a day in each other’s company at a time, at least initially.
P actually still has $2 left to pay off at the time of writing, and will consider all reasonable contracts. His speciality is responding to unusual or undesirable situations by being an obnoxious twat, and we have NO IDEA where he got that from.