There is a girl pH interacts with several times a week. The girl is a little older, a little off when it comes to social interaction (boundary issues, moody, rude, something of a FLK), and–this is the problem–who has been rude to pH in front of me…and her own mother.

The rudeness of the girl, most recently, consisted of saying–after pH had repeated a word several times (either thinking faster than she can speak, or maybe stuttering, except it comes and goes, and usually is the hallmark of a leap in cognition, along with being cranky), not in sotto voce, “Mom, how many times did she just say that word?” About 30 seconds later, there was another snarky remark.

The kid is a brat. It’s sad, though. She isn’t stupid. She swings between acting manic and depressed. There is no father figure. Mom is not educated. Mom wouldn’t know intellectual curiosity if she met it in the street. (“Why are you reading that?” she asked me once. I didn’t say, “Because I can,” which is proof I can restrain myself when necessary.) Mom is “unschooling” the daughter while doing at home day care, to give you an idea of the situation. I’m not opposed to unschooling–after all, I try to work with my child’s interests–but I am opposed to letting a kid run amok without guidance or correction.

If it were just a matter of a rude kid interacting with pH and me, it would be easy to handle. I have no trouble with telling kids when they’re out of line. If it were just a matter of a rude woman interacting with pH and me, again, no problem.

The problem is the weird dynamic that the kid does it in front of her Mom and me, and it’s directed at pH–without Mom intervening or saying, “That wasn’t polite.” Which is astonishing. I mean, this is Portland. We’re nice here.

Anyway. That Mom can’t or won’t act puts it in a different category. It’s not my job to correct the kid when her mother is present (and I wouldn’t, though I suspect we are spoken of badly in our absence already).

kH’s first suggestion was I ought to have said, “Your child acts like she was raised in a barn. That makes you the cow.”

kH’s second suggestion, when I said I thought the former was a little harsh, was that I should have said, “Your child is rude and not fit to be in society. I would appreciate it if you kept her away from us.”

kH isn’t much on subtlety.

Now, I could be pointedly rude without resorting to farmyard metaphors. I’m not the oldest of four for nothing. But with great power comes great responsibility and…

…I believe children should have an opportunity to work things out themselves–so long as it’s just kids with kids. But we have an age and a power differential, and a parent who doesn’t care or notice that her kid is rude.

Later in the car, I explained to pH that the way she was spoken to wasn’t appropriate, that it’s perfectly okay for her to tell a kid that she doesn’t like what he or she is saying (assuming she even picks up on it), and that in this case, the Mom ought to have corrected her child. I also said to pH I was proud at how she acts around other kids. She took a kickball to the face last week in a different class and the first words out of her mouth were, “I know he didn’t do it on purpose.” No PI work in her future, methinks.

So this sort of thing is an aberration for pH. She’s in four other classes with different kids and this doesn’t happen with anyone else; I would be wondering if it was just me being hypersensitive, except I’ve noticed other kids–and their parents–skedaddling to get out the path of this duo.

Do I say something to the mother? The kid? Passive-aggressively avoid? Reschedule the days I can? Or do I go nuclear with the barnyard analogies? What do you think?