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The Kid From Hell

Photograph by Getty Images

You know that moment in a horror movie when everyone is smiling around the campfire? There are no lights for miles and the lead character says something like, “It’s so great to be here,” or, “I’m just so glad we’re all together and safe.” Without fail, a moment later the psycho killer jumps out of the woods and terrorizes the group for the next 90 minutes.

This is exactly what it feels like when your kids and their friends are quiet. Someone, a child-someone to be exact, is terrorizing the village. Or, in this case, terrorizing your house.

My 5-year-old has two buddies and their younger siblings over for some fun times. The kids have gone upstairs to play and they are quiet. Thinking that since there is no sign of bloodshed and no trace of tears, we leave the kids to play.

This is a very big mistake.

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After everyone’s left I walk into my son's room and it looks like a scene from The Shining, except instead of blood everywhere there’s blue paint lining the walls, the rug and his upholstered bed frame. It looks like someone vomited blue, and my son’s room was there to catch it.

My kid is very quick to tell me that he didn’t do it. I can tell he’s telling the truth because when he lies he says, “I’M NOT LYING!” and then giggles while he screams that he’s not lying. In this case he tells me that Henry, one of his buddies' little brother, found the blue paint and got to work covering the room.

I discover her little guy has drawn all over a toilet seat cover, mashed crayons into a rug and signed his name on the wall of my son’s room.

A day later, I mention to my good friend Ally (the little van Gogh’s mom) what had happened and immediately I wished I hadn’t. The look on her face is sheer embarrassment, horror and worry. It made me wish I'd never told her. After all, he’s just a 4-year-old kid, and sometimes kids do stuff they shouldn’t. It doesn’t make him a bad kid.

The next time Ally and her family come over, I’m faced with the same dilemma. After they leave, I discover her little guy has drawn all over a toilet seat cover, mashed crayons into a rug and signed his name (even though he doesn’t know how to write) on the wall of my son’s room.

I consider not inviting them again. But the kids are all friends and, quite frankly, so are the parents. So I steel myself for having the conversation about how it would "best if there were a grown up in the room," since the little one doesn’t seem to be ready for playing without supervision.

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But when it comes time for Ally and her family’s next visit, I find myself conflicted. Sure, I don’t want to replace more toilet seat covers or repaint more walls, but I also wouldn’t want her to feel uncomfortable in my home. My kids aren’t perfect, either. I say I’d want to know if they did something wrong at someone else’s house, but do I really? And how comfortable would I be bringing my kids over again? Ally’s kid is nice, he’s just young. And she and her husband are very good parents, it’s not like they’re not disciplined. But sometimes no matter what we do (I did hide all the paint, pens and crayons in case you’re wondering), kids will be kids.

So I think about the situation in reverse. Sure, I’d want to know about my kid’s behavior so I could make sure he doesn’t do it again, but I’d also feel self-conscious after the conversation and wonder what my friend thought of my kid. And so the decision makes itself for me and I don’t tell Ally about her son’s DIY art projects, nor do I ask her to supervise his visit. He’s a little kid, not a convict. Furniture is replaceable. Friendships aren’t.

But next time, we play outside.

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