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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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Sleep Is
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Chicago Review Press

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Let's Panic

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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. → 

« Clumping action, ho! | Main | Down here on earth. »

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)

What a WONDERFUL post!!! So glad you found it. Thanks for sharing!
August 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLisa C
Hah, thanks for the good laugh! A little worried about what I've gotten myself into! :D
August 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterVanessa
i don't have a kid, i don't want a kid, but lady, you have me hooked. you, and especially henry, are so freakin' funny i cannot stand it. i want to hit you both with little toy trucks, that's how much you make me laugh.consider yourself pushed in the face, with love and gratitude and filed nails.
August 13, 2008 | Unregistered Commentertorrie
I don't yet have kids but I hope that when I do I am more like you and not at all like the first two mothers you wrote to. :)

August 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterErin
So funny I sent it to a friend who hasn't "met" you yet. I am sure she will be a loyal follower soon. Thanks, Alice. :)
August 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa
Oh Alice! That makes me feel so much better about my 2 year old who bites, hits, and pushes not necessarily on a regular basis, but pretty darn close.
August 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPaula
I hope you know that you are my hero. Thank god there are other real people in this world. :-)
August 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMolly
Thank you! Thank you for being disorganized so that you would find this post and put it up. Thank you for doing it now, right when I need it. Thank you. My darling daughter has a tendency to attack other (only smaller) children. After hearing my mother-in-law say over and over and over again - "I have to warn other parents when we go to the playground", this post makes me feel better. I have hope that she will grow out of this as your "pacifist" has, and that soon, we will look back on it and laugh.
August 15, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea
Brilliant. I've written a couple of notes in my head like this to other parents so many times I've lost count. Glad to hear Henry's a pacifist makes me hopeful that one day my 3 y.o. son will no longer tackle other kids and pin them to the ground.
August 15, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMeredith
I love this post. Can I add one? To the mother from the party: Of course all kids push, hit, bite, kick, etc. And when your 2.5 year old hauled off and whacked my 1.5 year old as hard as he could across the face, I was all ready with a friendly "Don't worry about it, he'll live, kids are kids." I only wish I'd gotten to use it. It turns out that picking up your kid and walking away from my screaming child without so much as a single "Sorry" was not your best move.
August 15, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSpacewoman
I can read your pain between the lines in that first letter.

I think most parents forget that the worst thing, besides having your kid get hit, is having your kid hit. That is, if you're a relatively normal conscientious parent. Some--well, just asshats.
August 15, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMom101
Oh, hellz nah, you'd better not get near my FOUR year old daughter when she's at the captain's wheel at the playground! One time I turned around after speaking to a friend and wouldn't you know my little sweet had someone's child in a sleeper hold. I couldn't believe the ferocity with which she was gripping her! I reprimanded her firmly and made her sit out on the bench telling her to NEVER do that again. The other family left without a word. I was floored and wished so badly I could have apologized. People that have those very subdued children will just never understand what us parents of the bolder kids go through...
August 15, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterApril
"I wish I could tell you this ends. But it just gets more subtle."

Oh brother, does it. In fact, the pushing and biting days suddenly seem easy-peasy.

Well, except...To the mom whose 3-year-old snatched the train out of my 2-year-old's hand even though the train wasn't being played with by anyone for the past half hour, and then he refused to give it back, and you pretty much said, "That's okay, you don't have to share", while my child was screaming, and I stood there and pulled Alpha Mom status and told you that I didn't care how old your kid was, snatching is understandable, but you still have to unsnatch and wait your turn, and I stood there and stood there and stared and let my kid scream until every mom in the playground was glaring at you and you finally did the right thing and gave the train back...Well Done You. Try not to be such a d*ck next time.

August 15, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJozet at Halushki
I think you just re-lived my life from 5 years ago...
August 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJoanna Schmidt
Oh, I remember this post. Which makes me swell a little in "knowing you" so long. Also, the post is still brilliant.
August 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterjenB
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. For posting this. It makes me feel so much better about my 21 m/o daughter and her love of slapping her parents in the face. And the body slamming. And the running at full speed into your legs. And being territorial about her toys with other kids.And anyway, thank you :)
August 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSara
Oh how I wish I'd had a Library Mom about two years ago.
August 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTricia
OHOHOHO! These are so GREAT!! Thank you for sharing them. ahahahahahaAHAHHAHAHA
August 18, 2008 | Unregistered Commenteramigurumigirl
I'm having some terrible toddler aggression problems with my 16-month old - and the WORST part is dealing with the mothers of his innocent victims. I needed this laugh today - thanks!
August 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSue
To the Mother who yelled at my son.

Sure, I had my back turned.While I was holding my 7 week old baby.Ensuring my 5 year old wasn't snatched off her bike as she rode.

Ok, I wasn't watching my 7 year old THAT MOMENT.

I was however watching when YOUR children were tormenting him.

I do believe I DIDN'T SAY anything.

So the next time you inappropriately yell at someone else's child in front of the whole playground you may like to consider cause and effect.

And I am SURE you would not have approved of ME yelling at your angels.

Btw, I looked for you to tell you this. You had vanished.
August 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMeredith
Thanks for sharing. Puts a bit of reality back into my life. I'm new at making comments and I'm so glad I'm a blog-aholic! I can see there are many women out there just like me who are struggling with the same day-to-day issues. Keep it real.Hugs,miss jack
August 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMiss Jack
What happened to the days when boys wrestled and fought on the playground and it was just boys being boys. I hate that I have to constantly watch my 3 year old to make sure he's playing "correctly". Most of the time I'm jumping in for the sake of the other mom rather than the kids, they will get over it and learn from it. Parents need to calm down a bit and let there kids get a few bumps and bruises, it builds character.
August 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLisa
Thank you, I soooooo needed to read this! I could have written this, well, not as eloquently as you :), but it's exactly my world with my 2 yr old. Mine tends to pick on little girls-oh the Mommy wrath.
August 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMichele

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