The women of Berk won’t look after Hiccup anymore.
|Gobber drained his mug and leaned back. Another dinner with Stoick and Hiccup tonight, and nothing had changed. Gobber had hoped that once Hiccup grew older and Stoick accepted him as being different, things might improve between the two of them. Hiccup should have calmed down by now, but who was there to make him? Valka was gone; Stoick’s work as Chief took him all over the island, and Hiccup wasn’t able to keep pace. Hel, Snotlout couldn’t keep up, and he was larger and older than Hiccup. No one was prepared to raise a child like Hiccup, with his tiny frame, active imagination, and propensity for disaster. Hiccup would spill wash water, fall into a hole, and lose his shoes all in one afternoon.
The village women began having their own struggles with the situation. Sharing their time looking after Hiccup and their own children meant something was neglected. The choice between chasing after Stoick’s son, with his runaway mind and quick legs, and raising their own youngsters who needed attention that couldn’t be spared, became a quandary for the mothers and grandmothers involved. If Hiccup were their own, they’d have him under control as the other children were. But he was the heir of Berk, the lone son of Stoick, and never going to any other family. Women who would be firmer with their own offspring had no lever they could use to make him behave. Making him sit still was the worst thing they could do to him, and they hesitated to even do that. He tried to behave for them but Stoick never reinforced the lesson at home, so the lack of consequences meant no real lesson was learned. Instead, he was let off more lightly often enough that the other children began misbehaving. “Hiccup did it, too,” meant another child to discipline. Hiccup having to do chores for the day he was at the Hofferson’s while Astrid Hofferson had a week’s worth for the same offense bred resentment among the other children and led to friction in their homes.
Afi Larssen discussed the problem with Gobber, hoping the chief’s friend would intervene. “It’s becoming a nightmare, Gobber,” he told the big smith. “No woman wants to tell Stoick she won’t watch Hiccup, but the village is suffering because of it.”
“The entire village, Afi?” Gobber looked skeptical. “He’s one small boy. Quick, aye, and a magnet for trouble, but I doubt he’s that much effort.”
“Gobber, you’re a bachelor. If you were coming home to a wife who’d had to chase him down while holding a babe on her hip, you’d feel differently. My wife is washing her hands of Hiccup, motherless or not. If he were any other child, he’d be learning a trade. You know that yourself, Gobber.” Afi drew a breath and continued. “Children need correction, and we already have three of our own. No one wants to be the one who takes firmer measures with Hiccup, yet our own children receive sterner punishment than he does.