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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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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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Wednesday
Jan182006

Burning onions = ten years of therapy.

While Henry organized his Stormtroopers, I had some precious phone time with my friend.

“Damn, I burned my onions,” said Stacey.

“You burned your onions?” I said. “I didn’t even know you were cooking. You cook while you’re talking? You talk while you’re cooking?”

“I’m a multitasker,” she said.

Henry, meanwhile, was staring at me. “Who burned what?” he asked.

“Stacey burned her onions,” I told him.

“Let me talk to her,” he said. He grabbed the phone and confirmed the events surrounding the onions, and the burning of said onions.

Eventually I got the phone back. While I attempted to finish our conversation, Henry pulled at my leg, barraging me with questions regarding The Burning.

I began to lose my patience. I suggested that he play. Look at a book. Do something while I have the only interaction I’ve had with an adult all day except for those few minutes with the cashier at the supermarket that I continued way past an appropriate point.

His lower lip began to quiver. “But why did everything get all burned up?” he said. Then I noticed he was holding his special bear.

Finally I got it. Burning. Fire. Three-year-old listening, thinking our friend is aflame.

I explained to him as best I could about what we meant when we said the food “burned,” how it’s not on fire and etc. He was not appeased. I got off the phone and sat next to him. He leapt onto my lap and dug his head into my chest.

I explained it all again. “That was confusing, when we talked about something burning, wasn’t it? You were worried.” He nodded vigorously into my boobs.

“I didn’t understand,” he said.

“Well, why would you? When we say something’s burning, we usually mean it’s on fire, right?”

“I’m sorry I didn’t understand about the burning,” he said.

“You don’t have to be sorry about that,” I said, and held him tighter.


When I was three, a boy we called Little David began spending weekends with us. I am unclear about the reasoning behind this, but I know that he lived at an orphanage where my mother was a volunteer. It seems strange to me that the orphanage would loan children to volunteers, but there it is. Little David came for weekends, and according to my parents, I did not like this at all. He was maybe a year younger than me, and very physical and boisterous, and I was a little girl who liked everything just so and he was touching my stuff and he even slept in my room, and I wanted him out out out. So after a few weekends, my mom told the orphanage the weekend arrangement wasn’t working.

The following weekend I asked my mother where Little David was. “Don’t worry,” she said, “We know you didn’t like having him here, so Little David’s not coming back.”

The next morning I woke up and couldn’t talk.

I couldn’t talk for a while, actually. Well, can you imagine? I had wielded untold power! One complaint from me and I could disappear people! How could I say something? What would happen next? I would say I didn’t like my hamburger and then all the cows on Earth would spontaneously combust?

Eventually everyone in charge figured out what had happened; I was reassured and shortly thereafter I returned to my usual chatty self. And every time I heard the story of my temporary muteness, I would wonder at how impressionable little kids are. I knew, however, that when I was a parent I would certainly be as mindful as I could of my child’s fragile grasp on how the world works.

But the thing is, it’s haaaard. It’s like you’re raising an intelligent, perceptive, mildly psychotic Armenian. He’s got a good grasp of the language, the Armenian, but he doesn’t get the idiomatic expressions, he has frighteningly good hearing, he remembers everything, and he’s extremely sensitive. You can’t get away with anything with this Armenian. Don’t tell your husband, after a long day, that you’re pooped—because five days later the Armenian will shout to you in the supermarket “WHY WERE YOU POOPED DID YOU HAVE POOP ON YOU?” (For instance.)

A few months before the Armenian really wasn’t as interested in what you had to say. He didn’t have a real handle on the language, so if conversation went over his head he would let it pass him by. He was invincible, the Armenian—if he didn’t get something, it didn’t need to be gotten. All that mattered was what he knew. But now he’s figuring out how much he doesn’t know, and how much he needs to know, and suddenly he spends a lot more time with his bear, on your lap, needing some extra comfort.

Okay, so my metaphor has fallen apart, but you get what I’m saying.

A couple of hours later we were playing on the floor, and he asked me what the floor was made of. Was it made of sticks, like in the Three Little Pigs? He studied the floor, checking it for signs of weakness. “No, no, it’s nice, sturdy wood,” I said, and he knocked on it. There was a faint echo.

“Hey, it’s like someone knocked back from underneath there,” I said. As I said it I thought, hmm, perhaps this isn’t the image you want to give your child, and before I could even finish the thought he was back on my lap with his bear.

Hey, at least he can still talk.

Reader Comments (75)

Hugs to your special little Armenian (I thought it was a pretty apt metaphor, actually).
January 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMir
The first time I ever went to McDonalds when I was 4 or 5, the grandmother of the little boy who was my friend had medium fries, which came in a red packet, and everyone else had small ones, which came in a white packet. The grandmother was also in a wheelchair. So for AN EMBARASSINGLY LONG TIME, I thought old and/or disabled people got red packets when they ordered fries. Like it was some kind of honor for their age and wisdom and the trials they'd been through in life. Also, the white packet was just made of paper but the red one was sturdier and made of shiny cardboard. I thought this was so the seniors could grip it better. Because they were so old.
January 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNothing But Bonfires
My husband works in film.Sometimes he edits.Sometimes he edits with an editing program called a "flame."Some days he would come home and tell us he had spent the whole day in the flame.One day my then-three-year-old was very busy telling someone that his daddy worked in the flame -- but that he wasn't on fire.
January 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterblackbird
Just like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego!
January 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteralice
What a sweetheart Henry is!
January 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterChristyD
I'm still so freaked out about Little David stuck under your floorboards that I can't otherwise comment.



January 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSuse
It was a good thing we were living in a brick apartment building during the Three Little Pigs phase because my oldest son needed sturdy brick home reassurance daily for a few months.

Today my 12 year old told someone how he spells in front of his 4 year old brother and then lies about what he spelled. The four year old heard the whole thing, and now the gig is up-much to his brothers surprise he inderstood exactly what was going on. Hahaha
January 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterclickmom
eep! Now you've got *me* scared about floor people! Kids always have weird ideas about things. When I was a kid, we always went away for the fourth of July. I grew up in Wisconsin, which has tornado sirens up all over. They look like three rows of horns all arranged to form a circle. Anyway, as a kid I did not know the tubes function, so I thought that on the fourth ice cream poured into the streets and everyone ran outside with spoons laughing with glee and stuffing themselves with ice cream. And I was pretty put out that I missed it every year.
January 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterEmily
What's with you all obsessing about the floor people? There are no floor people. Little David is now probably too big to fit under the floorboards. He's out in the world, robbing people. Because of me.
January 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteralice
Those little ones can be awfully literal, indeed. My oldest was like that. We forget so easily.
January 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterwordgirl
Oh no Margot DIDN'T just go there!
January 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterS-Way
as we say at our house...put another dollar in the therapy jar.....
January 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterelisabeth
I have really vivid memories of being 4, having just started reading, and being very concerned when we'd get on the freeway to go to grandma's and the signs would say "Sacramento" for the northbound 5 freeway, because I *didn't* want us to have to go to Sacramento! :)
January 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDevorit
OK, it's not so much that I lurk as that with two children, I get the chance to read finslippy as often as i get the chance to shower. Be happy I DON'T live in your neighborhood.Food. Thank you for writing that. I haven't read any comments because really I SHOULD BE IN BED. but i'm enjoying being "alone" in the house and decided to read finslippy. So, my nearly 3 year old has stopped eating everything except cheese, crackers, raisins, bananas and crackers oh, did i all ready mention crackers? And do you know what realization I've come to after many interactions you've all ready described (except picture a newborn sucking at your boob while also trying to turn her head to stare at your toddler emanating sounds that only dogs should be able to hear), fine, eat cheese and crackers and raisins. And not the $2 apricot i bought because last summer all you could say was "mommy, more cocks" because you loved apricots so much. And, by the way if you say dammit, you can convince your kid that you just said darnit.
January 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGenevieve
I love your blog. I have a 5 year old son and an 18 month old daughter. Your stories remind me of where I've been and where I'm headed again. Henry sounds like such a sweetheart.I loved your post about his eating habits. At almost 6 years old, Nick STILL won't eat anything so I feel your pain. Oh, there is one thing he always wants to eat: King Crab Legs. Go figure.
January 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterApril
My about-to-be-three year old boy has suddenly started needing more lap time and explanations (of everything) during the day, and more soothing in the middle of the night. I think you just explained why. I am a parent of epochal and unaralleled density (well, mentally speaking; we'll leave the physical right out of it). Fortunately for me, and my poor kid, you are smart enough to figure these things out and blog about them. I am most grateful for this public service!
January 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBihari
This belongs under the older post about how to find time to write while parenting but if I put it there no one would read it so...

Attn finslippy fans (excuse me Alice, I don't really know you and I hope you wont be offended. I'm feverish and I had this idea and it wont go away until I do something about it so here it is).

I propose that the fans of finslippy begin an email campaign to a publisher asking for Alice's book deal to be offered at once. I'm no marketing/demographic whiz but I think the publisher of the Nanny Diaries might be a good target. 400 emails to the appropriate decision maker should get some attention - no? Anyone know how to get President and Publisher Sally Richardson's email address?

p.s. Alice, I'm not crazy or anything - I just think you are talented and something nutty like this might work
January 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commenternathalie
I absolutely LOVE reading what you write. I've been reading your blog for several months, and I always enjoy it! I always look forward to your next post. I'm convinced that Henry is a genius - the things he says blow me away!
January 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterChristie
You have such a fabulous style. Love the onion story.
January 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKathryn, The Daring One
It's overwhelming, isn't it? This responsibility we have...this power we have with our kids! It's so tough for me to remember how literally my words are taken. If my older kids overhear me telling the baby he looks delicious, I'm attacked with a barrage of confused questions.Henry sounds so sensitive! With all the concern and the snuggle-needing and the questions. The heart melts!
January 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTree
I was in elementary school when Mt. St. Helen's erupted. I saw the pictures on the evening news and heard about the ash cloud and every time a cloud would pass in front of the sun for weeks after that, I would run to the front of the house to look for the lava flow that I was certain would be about to overwhelm the neighborhood.



January 19, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkatze
...aaaaand I forgot to mention the relevant fact that I grew up in OHIO. Very, very far away from Mt. St. Helens
January 19, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkatze
Whoa, Nathalie! Whoa, now! That's an incredibly sweet thing to say, but I need to write the book first. And I'm working on it! It just might take, you know, some time.
January 19, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteralice
De-lurking ...

One day when I was about three, my mother was getting ready to go to work, and I didn't want her to go. After much pleading and an impressive display of histrionics, she said, "Stop it. You're going to make me late, and then I'll get fired. Do you want me to get fired?"

I'd never heard the word "fired" used to describe termination of employment; in my head it referred to what one did with a gun. So, I got it in my head that if my mother was late for work, her boss was going to shoot her. It took a couple of weeks before she figured why I'd suddenly gone from begging her to stay home to practically shoving her out the door 15 minutes before she had to leave.
January 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKate
Alice, I commend you on your excellent "How To Talk So Kids Will Listen" -style communicating when he was on your lap.

When I was very young (too young to remember), I went through a short period where I was terrified of moss, and eventually grass as well, which is a pretty tricky phobia to work with in the suburbs. I wouldn't set foot on anything remotely furry and green. My parents figured that because of all the Sesame Street I watched, I thought the moss/lawn would suddenly open its eyes or mouth and come alive like a Muppet monster.
January 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDebl

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