Oldest niece held a barbecue at her new house on Saturday. We all attended as did some of her mother's side of the family. The house is a bit beyond the swamps of Langwarrin, but in a pleasant enough town. We bought her a house warming gift, a $60 vase, reduced to $14 and then when we paid for it, it was a further 20% off. We should have bought ourselves one too.
Sister arrived by the ferry from Queenscliff and there were many children for Little Jo to play with. Sister came back to our place afterwards, left Little Jo with us for the night, saw an important rugby match, then went to her home. She and Bone Doctor collected Little Jo the next morning on the way to a few days holidays in a work colleagues house near Mansfield.
Little Jo woke at 3am with a nightmare. R comforted her but she only slept fitfully afterwards. A certain indulgent Uncle who should know better allowed her rather too much to drink the preceding night and suffered the consequences of a wet bed in the morning. I went off to work in the morning while R took Little Jo to Prahran Market where she ran riot with all the other kids on play things.
But a disturbing thing happened at the Oldest Niece's barbecue. I must have been talking as I was only slightly aware of what happened. In a line sitting were two older women, R, myself then Mother. A girl aged maybe five came along to each of us and with the saddest expression on her face sincerely said sorry to each of us. I had no idea what was going on. Mother was the last in the line and took her into her arms and gave her a cuddle.
R was a little more aware of what happened and told me later. The girl had done something wrong and none of us knew what. She had been made to sit for five minutes facing a fence and then had to apologise to us all. Whatever she had done wrong was obvious to none of us.
I am one for sprouting that children need more discipline. They need to do what they are told. They need routine, etc etc. I am not much of one for putting these words into practice with Little Jo.
But truly, I think what that five year old had to do to atone for whatever she had done wrong was an extreme and humiliating punishment in front of strangers. Perhaps a whack on the bum immediately might have been more appropriate.
(later note) I have since learnt that the parents were on about their fifth can each of Bundaberg rum and coke.