Only a certain amount of goodness ...
Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha - IF ONLY!
The reality is more like this:
Me: Hi guys. Great to see you. How was your day?
Child 1: (hurls bag at me) Terrible. Do you have anything for me to eat?
Me: Sorry, no food today
Child 1: (yelling) WHY NOT?!!
Child 2: (yelling at Child 1) STOP YELLING - you are making me so ANGRY. No one played with me at lunch today.
Child 3: (crying) Child 1 is looking at me - what did I ever do to you? I hate having brothers
Child 1: MUUUMM aren't you going to DO something about Child 3? She can't just talk to me like that.
Child 5: (in pram) My get out! MY GET OUT...
Me: OK let's all go home
Child 4: But I haven't got one of my notes - I have to go back to my teacher
Child 1: Why do we always have to wait for him?
Child 2: Yeah, why?
Child 3: (still crying) O you are SOOO mean Child 2.
Now, my guess is that my kids haven't behaved like this all day at school. Well, I haven't been told so anyway. Apparently, they are quite well-behaved in class.
However, my own theory is that they rise to the occasion. They use up their 'quota of goodness' while they're at school. That is, while they are at school, they work super hard to be good for their teachers and interact well with their peers. It can be quite exhausting, especially negotiating the complexities of peer relationships.
BUT... when they see me, it seems like they think, "Great, now I can relax, I'm with my mum who loves me unconditionally, a safe person, someone who I can rely on". I suspect it also happens with their siblings - brothers and sisters who know all the good, bad and ugly. And for my kids this 'relaxation' comes in the form of dumping all their stress of the day onto me as they come out of school. Yay for me! Nothing like regular, public humiliation in the form of grumpy offspring on the walk home from school!
Part of my theory is that as adults, we too often have days where we can only muster up our 'quota of goodness'. When I'm having a bad day, which people do I treat the worst? The mums I chat to at school? No. The lady at the check-out at Coles? No. The friend I had coffee with? No.
It's the people who I love the most that cop it at the end of bad day. It's my husband, my kids, those who are closest to me. And perhaps it's because at the back of my head I know they love me and I can relax with them.
So my kid's behaviour is a work in progress. But thinking about it from an adult point of view has helped me understand a bit of what's going on for my kids when they come out of school each afternoon.