in that they can show a surprising amount of random sociopathic behavior.
take ruth, for instance. most of the time, a seemingly well-meaning citizen of good standing, always one to help out with chores and who gives frequent shows of her affection. a seemingly normally developing individual. usually, she loves her brother to pieces and can’t seem to get enough of his adoration for her. except for sometimes.
like today. we were playing our usual game of “the kids take turns running at me then i catch them and swing them around until i can feel my spinal cord creaking and groaning under the strain”. it’s usually a fun time for all (pass me the kroger brand acetaminophen). we had been at it for a few minutes when joel, it being his turn, started toward me, big goofy grin in-tact, arms outstretched, clumsy baby gait all a-wiggle, when, out of no where, ruth, who was standing next to me having just finished her turn, suddenly reached over just as he was about to get to me, and knocked him down on the cement with no notice. “ruth!” i yelled in disbelief, “what are you doing??!” then bent over to pick him up, where we both found him in tears with blood streaking down his chin, making that terrible cry he does when he gets really hurt that sounds like his lungs are going to implode from the sheer force of the cries.
ruth looked scared for a second when she saw the blood, but then quickly shook off her participation in the injury and started asking if he was ok. i employed my usual parenting strategy when i have no freaking clue how to react and i said nothing as i went through a line of questioning in my head that went something like: “why did she do it? did she mean to do it? clearly she did it on purpose…but did she really mean to hurt him or was she just acting on a whim? she seems like she didn’t mean it…but is that just an act? should i punish her somehow? appeal to her empathy? get mad? get sad? get confused?” i settled for asking her in a somewhat accusatory tone why she did it. “i don’t know,” she said, sounding a bit baffled, but more just bored with the fact that he was still crying, i was still talking about it, and we hadn’t all moved on to something more fun by now. “ok,” i thought. “she sounds totally confused and like, well, like she’s four. she clearly doesn’t get what she just did.”
i think i tried to tell her what she did was wrong (DUH) and that she shouldn’t do it again (DOUBLE DUH), but so much of what i said seemed to just roll off her back. in one ear, out the other.
i employed my second tactic for when i really don’t know what to do, and i said as little more on the subject as possible. why assume the worst? why dwell on it when she has already moved on? maybe she felt bad, maybe she didn’t. but i have to believe that, someday, when she’s grown, if she grows up in a mostly kind and caring household, an empathetic response will come naturally to her when she sees she’s hurt someone. at least i hope (????!!) sigh.
just to make myself feel better: dear the late chris farley, hey, what’s up? i miss your hilarity something terrible. i hope you’re well. anyways, please don’t let my daughter grow up to be a sociopath. and thank you for dove dark chocolate, beer, and sweatpants. amen.