August 31, 2009

We All Have Our Russells

People who know me in real life will say several things about me - that I'm nice, that I like everyone and everyone likes me. I explain that this is not always the case but no one seems to believe me. And it's true. I'm not lying to them. I'm generally well-mannered and favorable to all kinds of people but there's one stunning combination of obnoxiousness, arrogance and entitlement that causes immediate dislike. It's rare that I find someone who pushes all those buttons. When I was growing up, it was a kid named Russell. I've mentioned him a few times. He was a kid in my neighborhood who pissed me off to no end. I have not been able to trust anyone named Russell since then. And a little vindictive part of me hopes that he now spends his days making urinal cakes.

On Saturday, we hit our neighborhood pool. When we saw the family that was there, Beth and I turned to one another and said, at the same time great. Because there's an entire family of Russells in our neighborhood and try as we might, we cannot seem to get away from them.

The father is a jackass who goes to the pool, turns on his iPod and bakes in the sun while completely ignoring his children. The mother is one of those quiet, almost non-existent disciplinarians who can't seem to reprimand her children for doing anything short of torturing farm animals. The daughter is seven, and is personable enough. Mia likes her because she's older. Of course, whenever anyone cooler than my four year old daughter is around, Mia ceases to exist. Mia doesn't seem to mind. To me it's just a dick move. The son - four years old himself - is the most annoying member of the family and perhaps the most annoying child to walk the face of this great earth. He's obviously attention starved, cannot stop talking, says nearly nothing appropriate, and wants every adult in sight to watch whatever inane thing it is he's about to do.

Look, I'm not proud of the fact that I loathe a four year old kid. But I do. And the rest of his family along with him. So imagine what happened when the daughter asked Mia to come over for a play date.

The earth stopped rotating on its axis. The birds froze in the sky. The wind died, the seas stopped their roiling, and for a brief second my heart and all other autonomic bodily functions stopped while I considered the possibility that I would have to see these people - the sight of whom is the mental equivalent of nails on a chalkboard - outside the time I am forced to based on the simple dumb luck that we live in the same neighborhood and we share the same pool. My mind raced with possibilities.

  1. Move.
  2. Force them to move.
  3. Allow the playdate to happen only if they acknowledge that they too embrace Satan as their lord and master.
  4. Move.
  5. Hire a hit-man.
  6. Build a pool in the backyard and go into hiding.
  7. Move.
  8. Suck it up and accept the fact that you can't pick your neighbors and you certainly can't pick your kids' friends as shitty and unfair as that might seem.

I decided on option #3 but I'm going to consider #8 as plan-b.

Do you have any Russells? When you were growing up, did you have any friends your parents couldn't stand?

Posted by Chris at August 31, 2009 6:36 AM

Oh I sure did. There was this one girl in our neighborhood and she was hell bent on the torture of other kids. Like me. (So be careful!) Her parents lived in a world where they said, "kids will be kids", and "She just has to toughen up!"
This girl once roped the other kids into pulling the ladder on me when I was in a very high tree house and leaving me there! I was there until after dark when my older sister came and found me.
To this day, I fear heights.
And I detested that girl every day of my school years and when she tried to Facebook me recently, I laughed in an evil and maniacal way and said, "No way in hell!"

Posted by: Maribeth at August 31, 2009 7:24 AM

Awesome! I didn't know you were doing the playdate. Shall I schedule for a weekend or after work?

Posted by: Mrs. Cactus at August 31, 2009 7:29 AM

This is where you casually bring up how everyone juts got over the Swine flu... it works.

All the Russells I can think of were related to me - every get--together was hell.

Posted by: CK Lunchbox at August 31, 2009 7:43 AM

Did I know people like this? I WORK with people like this still today!

I wouldn't allow the playdate because of the age difference.

Posted by: Debbie at August 31, 2009 7:52 AM

I like the swine flu excuse!

I'm sure I had friends my parents didn't like, but I don't know who they were. I was a pretty solitary kid who liked my books more than I liked most people. I guess I'm still that way :)

Posted by: Elizabeth at August 31, 2009 7:58 AM

i was the one the parents didn't like...and i never knew why... i switched purses with one of my friends... and her mom didn't like me based on my purse??? she thought i would be a bad influence... ??? another friend - it was because i was white...

Posted by: the unicorn at August 31, 2009 8:15 AM

I love option #3.

Posted by: k8 at August 31, 2009 8:58 AM

i'm starting to wonder if, in my neighborhood, my kids and me are the russells. none of the other moms talk to me at the bus stop.

wait. it's just because i'm ten years younger than them and -GASP- have tattoos. i know that sounds dumb, as in, "surely they don't judge you for that!" but they do. they dislike me and the hubby because we're young and tattooed, and obviously think we should not be allowed to have children.

i have a few russells, unfortunately they are all my in-laws :(

Posted by: b. at August 31, 2009 9:23 AM

You are a better person than I. I would not allow my kids to interact with a 'Russel'. I don't have the patience for it. I would probably come up with any excuse short of "They died."

Posted by: Angelica at August 31, 2009 9:41 AM

The week that Emily wrote this piece for Slate, they discussed playdates during "Cocktail Chatter" on the Gabfest:

The conversation went towards the concept of the playdate picking your friends, or running your life...

ie - you're not alone in your concern of having your social life dictated by your kids.

Posted by: Lisa at August 31, 2009 9:56 AM

There was a kid my mother couldn't stand. Too bad it was her best friend's daughter! LOL!

Posted by: Rose Winters at August 31, 2009 9:59 AM

Oh man, yes there are families like this in my life. Unfortunately, one of them is close family! I cannot, for love or money, stand my similarly aged niece. Ugh.

My 4 year old son is a little like that 4 yo guy - he talks a lot and does love attention. I hope he doesn't come across that bad - ack!

Actually to be honest, I wonder how people perceive/judge us? Are we their "Russell" equivalents? One man's adorable is another man's obnoxious (see my niece for example).

As for the playdate - it would be an unreserved "thanks but no thanks".

Posted by: jacqueline at August 31, 2009 10:15 AM

I'd be hesitant to let Mia over to their house because of the lack of proper supervision. If they don't know where you live, I'd keep it that way, maybe have the playdate at a neutral location.
I secretly think the "Russell" types are multiplying rapidly and have an evil plan to take over the world...

Posted by: laineyDid at August 31, 2009 11:08 AM

there are a lot of russells out there, unfortunately. luckily my most annoying neighbors and their kids moved out a couple months ago.

that's one reason why i don't do "mom's groups". i don't want to have to pretend to like a bunch of rusells and their russell moms...

Posted by: kati at August 31, 2009 11:11 AM

I had a friend whose Mom made it really clear she couldn't stand me when I was 12. YEARS later, she continued to make it clear, even though by then I was 24.

Geez, I grew up. Maybe she should too.

For us, we've sucked it up unless the crazy is just too hard to ignore. This might involve not answering the phone or making up excuses, but it's survival. :)

Posted by: Scattered Mom at August 31, 2009 11:12 AM

I had a friend that my mom couldn't stand. He was totally hyperactive and more than a little demanding. Eventually, she couldn't take him any more and she decreed that he wasn't allowed to come play at my house.

Posted by: Hope at August 31, 2009 11:15 AM

Oh yeah. There was always jerks to choose from growing up. I stuck close to the good ones. Still do.

We've been very fortunate with our neighbors, but there are still some that require my constant presence to cut off the rude remarks or manipulative behavior.

Posted by: Brad at August 31, 2009 11:17 AM

There was a Russell in our neighborhood group my son's age. He was a bully even from a very young age and always, verbally and physically, went after the weaker boys in their circle. His mother thought he could do no wrong but we mothers knew the score. And he was creepy and smug and smarmy because he knew he could get away with anything with her. She was one of those "boys will be boys" people.
One family, who's son has Fragile X syndrome moved out of the neighborhood because she saw the abuse was starting against her son and knew there would never be any discipline.
It came to the point that he and my son were the only boys left living in the neighborhood and I hated it because they still hung out in 7th grade but then they moved to Pennsylvania and I danced a dance of joy when they left.

Posted by: NancyJ at August 31, 2009 11:53 AM

There's a "Russell" across the street. Last year he also ended up being in Graham's first grade class which made it even MORE fun. He's such a little shit that if I weren't morally opposed to it, I'd kick him when nobody was looking.

Posted by: Angella at August 31, 2009 2:01 PM

Mine live next door.

The day they moved in, I tried to be neighborly and took them homemade cupcakes. It wasn't until several days later that I realized my mistake, but now she thinks we're best buds.

We got another set of neighbors recently, and I'm afraid to take them anything and introduce myself for fear of a repeat. Being a hermit isn't so bad, right?

Posted by: Not sayin' at August 31, 2009 6:53 PM

If there's crap parenting going on, and it clearly sounds like you see their parenting as neglectful and emotionally depriving, then keep the playdate on your turf, and maybe see it as a chance to shine a little involved-parenting light on this kid's life? There's nothing more deeply lovely in a neglected kid's life than spending time with a grown-up who thinks they're worth some time and effort, even if they haven't the parent-taught social skills to express the gratitude yet.

Posted by: Jo MacD at August 31, 2009 7:32 PM

Not THAT kind of parent. The Boy had a kid like that in his glass. Dad was a bully (probably abusive), Mom was a mouse... she made no decisions and this little guy seemed meek forgotten. There was an incident at school last year, they switched schools... too bad really.

Posted by: Nat at August 31, 2009 9:01 PM

Firstly, imo, you're hardly being tough on the neighbour kid. My "Russell" is a 5 year old who lives next door and good christ I have NEVER wanted to break the neck of anyone more. For a start, he launches his toys over a 6'1 tall fence AT my daughter and his toys mostly consist of diecast matchbox cars. Cool really, we get to keep them and it's less toys I have to buy my daughter. He has launched a 7' piece of driftwood over the fence, despite me standing in the back yard shrieking at him NOT to do it. He constantly throws rocks over the fence AT my daughter, and now climbs up on a ladder to see her better so he can have better aim. I have yelled and screamed at him, I have spoken to his parents, and nothing changes. NOTHING. This little shithead screams abuse at his own parents, and sounds quite literally, worse than a drunken sailor. I am not even kidding. NOW the little fucker comes over to my house, bashes on my front windows and runs away. When this kid's parents asked if he could play with my kid, my eyes popped right out of my head and my mouth hit the floor. I could NOT believe their gall. I simply said, "NO." and closed the front door. Want to swap neighbours? :)

Posted by: erica at August 31, 2009 10:23 PM

I do agree that we can't pick our kids friends in the long run, however having a four year old myself I also believe that I do still hold that power. I wouldn't allow the playdate, or I would suggest it be at my house where it is fully supervised at all times. I also agree that the age difference is a bit more then I prefer, what if the 7 year old is playing something like Bratz (shutter), I don't want my daughter being exposed to things unless I am doing the exposing. And as far as explaining it to Mia is concerned, I would just be honest. You don't like the way they behave so we don't play with kids like that. Good luck!

Posted by: Deanna at September 1, 2009 9:30 AM

oh, i believe you. i totally don't like you.

I JOKE. you are the most likable guy everrrrrr.

Posted by: La Petite Belle at September 1, 2009 11:28 AM

Wow, I feel for those that have to deal with Russell families on a daily basis. We're lucky, the Russells we know are extended family who recently moved halfway across the state, thank the stars!

I agree with Deanna above - I would just politely say "No, I'm sorry, we can't" to the Russell girl and later at home, explain to Mia that we play with people who are nicer/more respectful to us than that. Good luck.

Posted by: reen at September 1, 2009 3:34 PM

I had a dream to start my organization, but I did not have got enough of cash to do it. Thank heaven my close friend suggested to take the loans. So I took the short term loan and made real my dream.

Posted by: MayLevy28 at May 15, 2010 11:46 AM