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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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I'm In...

Sleep Is
For The Weak

Chicago Review Press

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Let's Panic

The site that inspired the book!

At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it. → 

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Sometimes being disorganized is a gift.

Like when I find posts that I wrote three years ago and then promptly forgot about.

Actually I think I discarded this post because it made my son sound like he ran around beating everyone in sight. Now that he's a pacifist 5.5-year-old, though, I feel pretty safe letting you read this. Go ahead, judge the Henry of the past. He only beat the kids who deserved it.

To the mother I met yesterday at the playground,

I am sorry. I am. I never thought, before I had a kid, how much injury that child could inflict. I never realized how quickly a toddler’s mood could darken, how little time it took for his pudgy fist to wrap around a dump truck and raise it high over his head. And then bring it down on someone’s skull.

Is the swelling down? I hope it’s down.

I realize that at first, your upset was due largely to the fact that you hadn’t been looking when your child was struck by mine. I realize now, duh, that when you picked up your hysterical child and asked me what happened, I shouldn’t have shouted, “My child attacked your child OH GOD I’M SORRY!” I should have been calmer. I should have said that my child lightly tapped yours with a dump truck.(I will remember this for the future: “Tapped.” Not “attacked.”) I caused you to panic. Forgive me.

I should have known the precise moment when my child felt threatened by yours that it was time to haul him out of the sandbox and bring him to some less emotionally challenging portion of the playground. Your daughter—who is precious, by the way, did I mention that? Those eyes!—was an innocent bystander. All she did was point at his truck, but to Henry, she was all but declaring ownership of his truck, which he at that moment realized was the most perfect dump truck ever, so able to dump, so truck-like, its wheels so round and big, and she was going to take it and she had to be stopped. He had already been pushed to the brink by a 3-year-old who tried to “help” fill his bucket and by a smaller child who had leaned on him--twice. It was all he could take. Then your little girl pointed. And Henry snapped.

I hope you noticed, at least, that there were ramifications to Henry’s actions. The dump truck? Taken away. Henry? Sad. True, I could have left the playground with him, I could have really taught him a lesson by dragging him home, but it was the first time I had been out all day. So I let him keep playing in the sandbox. And he was being so good. He kept asking other children to play and then looking over at me like, see? See how good I can be?

He can be so good! You should see him be good!

I do wish you had been more gracious in the face of my apologies. Look, your kid wasn’t badly injured. A little bruise. That’s all! She was wiped up and happily playing in no time! It was alarming to look right in someone’s eyes and apologize sincerely and get a cold stare in return. Yeesh, lady. I didn’t hit your kid, after all. Can’t we have a laugh about kids and their lack of playground etiquette? Do you remember laughter?

All you said was, “How old is he?” In this disgusted voice. Like, what, doesn’t he know better? And when I told you he was 2, you were shocked. Did you think he was 7? Yeah, I know, he’s a big kid. He’s big. He’s Lenny from Of Mice and Men.

Anyway. Kids! Am I right?

All my best,

To the parent with the attitude at Barnes and Noble,

Really, now. I wish Henry hadn’t pushed your child—okay, in the face, which I realize isn’t the nicest place to push someone if pushing is absolutely necessary. Except when a kid is crawling, they tend to kind of lead with the face, you know? And when we’re reading a book and he looks over to see what’s rubbing against his side and it’s your kid’s little moon-face, what else is he going to push away? I didn’t even see her until the pushing had already happened, in fact, I couldn’t even feel it but he shouted so I guessed something was broaching his personal space, and there was your kid, shimmied right up against him. And where were you? Ten feet behind us, curled up in a corner reading “Marie Claire.” Of course you were glaring at me. Because I’m the bad mother, right? Because I can’t control every one of my child’s muscles while I’m simultaneously reading him a book and trying to turn off the ringer on my cell phone? Did I interrupt your article on 20 Mascaras That Won’t Clump?

Your child didn’t seem upset. In fact, she continued to smoosh her face against Henry’s torso while he cried out in fear. She didn’t cry until you ran over and whisked her up and shouted in horror when you saw her face. She has a scratch across her cheek! You announced to the entire children’s section. Your child pushed her and gave her such a scratch! Now she’s crying! I am sorry, I said, but you only glared at me and went back to inspecting your kid’s face.

I saw you looking at Henry’s hands, I know what you were thinking. Does she ever cut his nails? And yes, Marie Claire, I do. The nails seem to grow to twice their length every other day, but I am vigilant and the child struggles in vain as I clip away. The thing about cutting a child’s nails, though, is that then you’ve created sharp edges that can slice you to ribbons if he gets you in just the right way. And don’t talk to me about filing his nails, please. Even I have my limits.

In short: shut up.

Very truly,

To the mother at the library,

I knew the minute we walked in that we were in trouble. Your son is a little smaller than Henry—exactly the size he likes to take on. An exceedingly push-able size. And he was determined to be part of Henry’s world, to make his presence known. Every time Henry so much as glanced at a book, your son would grab it and wave it in my son’s face. Something was going to happen. I could feel it.

And then it happened. Henry tried to make a grab for the book your kid was waving around, and your son hauled off and whacked him with it, knocking him right down to the ground.

God, you were horrified. You should have seen the look on your face! You apologized again and again, and I’m sure you thought I was angry as I whisked Henry away. But in fact I was laughing. Because this time it wasn’t us! Whee! I went to find you after Henry had calmed down, but you had run off, no doubt in horror.

So: thank you. Also, please come back. I need you. I need you both.

I mean it,


Reader Comments (73)

Thank you, Alice.

My little one is, well, little. And is maybe 24lbs at 2 years but we call him Bruiser for a reason. He's the tiniest bully on the playground, and he'll whack you with a stick with very little visible provocation.

I've decided that the screaming from upstairs as they play trains is all youthful exuberance unless I actually hear the skulls crack. I hope that isn't wrong.

August 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJocelyne
I personally think the Barnes & Noble mom had it coming. I'm surprised you remained calm. This is not a playground! Watch your kid!

Glad you found this it was very entertaining.
August 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSparklieSunShine
Aren't all kids like this? I figure when my four year old gets wacked on the playground it is karma for all the times he wacked other innocent children back in the day :)

Thanks for another great read!
August 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDahlia
Ah Alice.... You made me remember my son's forays into human consumption. He used to bite every kid in his daycare, but in particular he would bite a peaceful kid named Tyler. I once saw Tyler's mom carrying him out of the school with a huge, perfect imprint of my son's teeth on his eyebrow! HOW did that happen? There was nothing to be said. I was horrified. I still don't know why Tyler sat still for that, and I have to blame him just a little for allowing my son to bite him. And yes, my son grew out of it. Tyler, alas, moved to Florida, so I have no idea whether his psyche was damaged by the biting.

There are other horrible stories to be shared, but that is enough for today.

Be strong. You will get through your current malaise. We all do even though at the time it seems impossible.
August 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterOther Bradley
Aren't kids that make your own child's occasionally outrageous behavior look normal, awesome! My 8-yr-old is prone to making the occasional, erm.... bad decision at school, and nothing makes me happier when another kid in his class does something just as obnoxious. See? See? He's just doing normal boy things, just like this other one here!!
August 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRobin
This post, in particular the phrase, "lead with the face," has significantly improved my morning. Thank you.
August 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMonoCerdo
My older daughter seemed to be a magnet for bullying toddlers when she was younger. I finally lost my cool the day little blond "Emma" had slapped her twice and pushed her down. I bent down and scooped up my child. Her clunky Elmo tennis shoe caught "Emma" right under the chin and sent her flying backwards. Accident? No, but everyone else thought it was. Funny and fitting punishment for the little bully? I still think so to this day. Would I do it again if I had it to do over? In a hot minute!My daughter is 10 1/2 now, and 5'2". There are still a couple of bullies in her circle, but they aren't fools, evidently, because they don't bother her.
August 11, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterame i.
You totally crack me up. This is what I would say if I could say it (after the fact of course because I can never think of the appropriate comment at the appropriate moment!) and believe me, my 3 and 1 year old have given me plenty of opportunities!!! Glad you let us read those.
August 11, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterwabisabigirl
This is my first time commenting, though I have been reading you for a while. You have no idea how much I needed this. As a mother of a 2 year old who occassionaly bites to get his point across, this could not have come at a better time.
August 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRachel
Good times ... the child may be father to the man, but sometimes the toddler is not father to the child (or whatever).

I LOL'd (although I've never, ever Rolled on the Floor whilst doing so) at the Lenny reference.

You are brilliant.
August 11, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterdianne
One time a mom came over and bitched me out because I asked HER kid to move his (giant, booted) foot off MY kid's fingers.
August 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSatchel Pooch
If you'd posted years ago, it wouldn't be pertinent to me. My two year old son was an egg traveling around inside a woman who was 'never' going to even date again, after her divorce! The timing was perfect. Hilarious as always. I need that last mother too, where is she?
August 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJamie
I love it! I have a 16-month-old Lenny-from-of-Mice-and-Men myself. And this: "bring him to some less emotionally challenging portion of the playground" is fantastic.
August 11, 2008 | Unregistered Commenteranna
oh god that was hilarious. according to my mom, i used to bite chidren (especially older and taller ones) when i was really young. kids are weird.
August 11, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterkate
Oh, this was perfect - and just what I needed to hear. I'm so glad that pushing 2.5 year olds can grow up to be 5 year old pacifists. Here's hoping!
August 11, 2008 | Unregistered Commenteremily
Some parents (okay, in reality, MOMs) are ridiculous. They'll have the kids that are getting drunk and stealing cars one day because they've been raised to believe they couldn't do anything wrong.

Funny thing, though. Including my own, this is the third blog today about kids hitting or getting hit. I could use some help with my son. Please stop by and offer your advice. It's greatly appreciated.
August 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterWendy
Oh my God, thank you.
August 12, 2008 | Unregistered Commentersmabmouth
August 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKeisha
My first daughter was a chronic biter, need I say more? From the age of 2 1/2 until kindergarten (!!!), she bit. She bit the same kid over and over at daycare. His mother refused to look at me when I apologized. She told people we must have an awful, violent home life to produce a child who was so aggressive.

August 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCeci
Ohhhh the joy of having kids. I am totally that mom who, when another kid pushes/bumps into/hits my currently-4.5-year old sensory-seeker (nothing like a kid who needs MORE stimulation!), reassures the other (usually horrified, embarrassed, apologizing like mad) mom that hey, I'm sure my kid was doing something to provoke her kid (I know my kid - trust me), or that I'm just glad that her kid could hold his own against mine. And then I make a joke about how I thought it was my kid doing the smacking, because experience has shown me that whenever someone's getting beat, it's usually my kid doing the beating. Hey, we're all in this together, right?

I hold no grudges - after all, the horrified-apologizing-like-mad is a sign of a good mom - the ones I dislike are the ones who are paying no attention whatsoever while their kid whomps another.
August 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTrish

I only have one thing to say to you. His roughness will come in handy one day... when he's old enough to have an outlet... it's called football.

And where as I was once mortified because my son was a little rough, because he was bigger than the other kids, I now sit on the sidelines and encourage him to pummel the other kids.

Surprisingly, he only does it on the football field. I think he bottles it all up until practices and games, but it's working.

And I'm hoping for a football scholarship... and for him to win the MVP of the super bowl. THen all those moms that I could've written a letter to? They can sit there and say, "My kid was beaten up by Matthew Jacobson, NFL super star."

It's nice in my world.

Love,A mother who's been there, done that and has multiple tee-shirts
LMAO!! Yesterday I got to daycare and I had two notes about him hitting a kid over the head with a toy and then the kid bit him. Never mind that this kid has been bitting away for 6 months with Zack doing NOTHING about it... so can you blame me for not being too upset??
August 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterHeather
Oh my, quite hysterical. My almost three year old daughter is currently perfecting the verbal assault/mind games. Sometimes I think I would prefer the good 'ol toy bonk on the head (which she has also done) least that seems like a toddler phase.
August 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKatrina
This is so funny. And isn't it so true that sometimes it's a relief when another kid just sticks up for himself?
August 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMamaCass
You should have started taking bets!

Some parents need to relax. If there's no blood, there's no crime ;)
August 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterFamiliesONLY

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