Home - Top Row


Home - Bottom Row

Let's Panic: The Book!

Order your copy today!

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

Some Books
I'm In...

Sleep Is
For The Weak

Chicago Review Press

Home - Middle Row

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. → 

« Guess who's almost four? | Main | Quittin' time! »

Watch out, she’s angry.

Last weekend we went to Ikea, because we hate ourselves and like to ruin our weekends. We put Henry in the playroom, where he romped and hid in giant shoes (there are giant shoes) and apparently he watched a movie in which a cook whipped a little girl. This is what the Ikeans show our children. And that’s not even what I’m mad about.

So when we were done remembering why we hate going to Ikea, Scott went to see if the chair we were going to purchase would fit in our car (it wouldn’t) while I picked up Henry. It was by now lunchtime and Henry, crazed by the ball pit and the (animated) whipping of youngsters, worked himself up into a froth about how hungry he was, how very very hungry. So I dragged him to the café.

My brain kept telling me not to do this. “Go to the car,” it said. “No café. He’s too hungry. Get him home and give him the same damn thing he always eats. He’s not going to like it in there. Hellooo. Am I talking to myself, over here?”

Yes! Because we were already in the café, and Henry was already having a meltdown.

We were on line, and Henry was in a puddle around my feet, shrieking, for no apparent reason. Or for these reasons: because there were so many, many balls, and was that his new home, maybe? With the oversized clogs? But no, now he was in this loud bustling place with all the clattering of the silverware and he was hungry NOW but wanted to go home NOW and CAN’T. DO BOTH. ERROR. ERROR.

So while he was shorting out beneath me, the two women in front of me did the very best thing any human beings can do, and this is the subject of this post, so pay attention!

They turned around, and laughed in his face.

One of them shrieked, “DON’T BE SAD, PRETTY BOY! WHATSAMATTA?”

Henry turned absolutely white with terror and began climbing me, using his talon-like nails. I tried to pick him up, but then he went boneless again and sobbed against my ankles.

“He’s having a rough time, so if you could--” I started, motioning at her to turn around.

One of them bent over to thrust her horrific visage into his. “GIVE ME A SMILE!” she suggested.

“Leave me alone!” Henry shouted, with tears streaming down his face. And they both laughed again. One of them continued to provide helpful suggestions to him (“ISN’T SMILING BETTER THAN SILLY CRYING? YOU CAN’T BE SAD ON THIS BEAUTIFUL DAY!”) while I dragged Henry out of the line and away and he shouted preschooler invective at them. (I believe he called them both poopyhead. I’d say he had a point.)

So, okay, an isolated incident, maybe? Two assholes bitter that their Swedish meatballs and lingonberry sauce were taking too long, seeking revenge on the youth of today?

But no! Because! Just two days later, at the playground, it happened again.

Henry was having a hard time making inroads with the other children, all of whom paired off according to some mysterious, prearranged order. Then he spotted a group of older kids. They were either eight or 21. Probably somewhere in the middle. They were sitting at the top of a slide, drinking soda and chewing gum, feeling dangerous. Henry was entranced. Before I could stop him, he was right there, standing outside their circle. I watched. Sometimes older kids are nice! Maybe!

The ignoring that ensued was brief but painful, as Henry repeatedly attempted to introduce himself and I considered tearing their lungs out through their mouths. Too much?

After he walked away from them, he looked over at me and started to cry.

“No one wants to know my name,” he called out, weeping. And two women standing right by him—c’mon, guess!


They didn’t just laugh—they laughed their asses off. They thought that was the funniest damn thing they ever heard. Such a cute little kid! So clever! With the stringing the words together! Just like a person!

Which of course set him off even more. The two of them tried to direct more commentary at me about my funny kid with his funny feelings while I dealt with my son, who was dissolving completely into the soil.

This happens to us not infrequently, and I’m sure we’re not the only people. I mean, yes, sometimes Henry can be jollied out of a funk, and sometimes strangers do that with remarkable aplomb, but this is not that. This is not a sympathetic smile or comment, it’s mockery. It’s insensitive to the point of being cruel.

At the very least, these people should figure out that their charm is not having the desired effect, and at the most, shouldn’t they respect someone’s feelings? If you saw an adult crying in public, would you point and laugh? Don’t preschoolers deserve the same courtesy?

What on earth is wrong with people?


Reader Comments (111)

Ugh! My father does this. When one of the kids gets hurt, he chooses to loudly (fake) laugh at them ... thinking he can trick them into giggling their pain away. When usually a simple kiss will do the trick. Drives me crazy.
October 4, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterann
oh, and of course, come home and vent on the blog! I appreciate knowing I'm not the only mom fuming inside over the rudeness of strangers. People have actually asked me 'why didn't her mom want her?'--RIGHT in front of my kids!grrrrrr.

October 4, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterowlhaven
OMG, that made me laugh until I cried (best blog, ever, this one) and then almost actually cry. People are so self absorbed and if they are not from this generation, I really don't think they think of anyone under 30 as actual people. I'm so sorry. Unbearably painful.
October 4, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkim
When did Typepad forget how to count comments?

Oh, and people are dicks.
October 4, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLOD
I like to think of myself as the remarkable aplomb person but maybe I'm not... maybe I'm that other. Oh bloody hell, what if I'm that other? I like to interact with little kids out in the world. I like to make them laugh (not cry! laugh!)

Now you have me thinking.

And for the record, I've never even BEEN to Ikea so it wasn't me.
October 4, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJustLinda
you people are insane. you drag your bratty, caterwauling spawn into public spaces and then you are shocked SHOCKED that people respond. christ. o and to that "you are rude" dull-normal -- nice work teaching by example and all.
October 4, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdubarry
Reminds me of the time my daughter was weeping sadly about something or other that had disappointed her, and Stupid Senseless Mommy made the command decision to take her and her little brother into a store we desperately needed to go into just at that moment, so here she is crying while we walk down the aisle of a -- oh I've got it! A Frank's Nursery! Going out of business! That Daddy wanted us to visit in case there were any Good Deals to be had!, and I'm letting her cry, and it's okay because, you know, sometimes we all need to shed a few tears, you know? So then, some Simian-Male type walks past us, winks at me knowingly and says, "Someone must be past her nap time", as if we're all in the Adult Conspiracy together and it's okay to talk about children as if they're lamp posts.

My jaw dropped, I kept walking, but then I turned around and confronted this jerk, asking him whether if had been an adult crying would he have made a comment like that? Either he truly was a jerk, or I had a crazed look on my face (or both), because he advised me to "calm down" and told me I was "wound too tight."

At this point I was less than speechless, and could only glare menacingly at his back while we stood in parallel cashier's lanes.

My point is: People are jerks. They are insensitive. They probably do not do this on purpose, but for some reason they have forgotten that children are human too, and somehow remember nothing at all from their own probably tortured childhoods. I say the important thing is, since it's sadly impossible to shield our children from this sort of stupidity, is to at least let our children see us take their side, NOT to sit quietly and let these people terrify our children and horrify us. At least, that's what I decided is what I can do about it. Short of renting a lot of automatic weaponry and just mowing everyone down.
October 4, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkaren
Since I seem to have almost zero ability to stop/reverse a meltdown with my children, I assume that my success rate with unknown children will be less than zero. So, I often opt for the sympathetic smile to the parent. A been-there-and-feel-your-pain kind of smile. I always appreciate it from others. It's so much better than the why-can't-you-control-your-child grimace. (Also, my son, who is now 5, would totally snarl at anyone who even noticed his existence during a meltdown.)
October 4, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMJ
Unfortunately children all have to find out that everyone is not nice. My childrens' father was one of them. The biggest favor I did for my children was to help them understand that HE is the one with a problem and not the child. It really helped and continues to help them know they're not responsible for nor the cause of someone elses bullshit.
October 4, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJO
I can relate to poor Henry as an adult. Once two hours after I had a D&C for a miscarriage and was waiting in line for the iced coffee that I so desperately wanted, the server insisted that I smile and laugh "because it's such a beautiful day." With the hormones still coursing through my body and my assinine (ex)boyfriend waiting in the car because he refused me the nicety of fetching the iced coffee, the tears would not hold back. They. Just. Would. Not. Yet she kept insisting that I SMILE. I dumped that boyfriend, and I dumped the iced coffee all over that lady.
October 4, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterwritergirl
This happens to my Henry, who turns four on Oct 12, ALL. THE. TIME. People can't seem to handle that he would have real, actual-factual feelings at such a tender age! They must laugh and point and attempt to cajole, through mockery, at the tops of their voices! Especially when he is at the doctor's office, or getting a portrait taken, or ... well, just about any damn time I need him to not go over the edge. NOT HELPFUL. Sheesh, people. Shame on adults.
October 4, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSnickety
That's sooo sad!!! Poor little thing.

I love how you wrote standing "on line" instead of "in line" though. So internet-y!
October 4, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJem
I think I'd have to restrain myself from punching their lights out if someone laughed at my J's pain. As for you, dubarry, the fact that you used the word "spawn" reveals your bigotry. They're people not "spawn." Only selfish sonofa bitches use that term when referring to children. Its people like you who think the world is there only for their enjoyment and comfort and how dare any children cry or get upset anywhere near them. In your fucked up little world only "bratty spawn" ever cry in public. Children should be seen and not heard, right? You clearly don't have any children and I hope you never do. Sympathies to Alice and Henry and anyone who runs into you.
October 4, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMatt
I have to say, I'm a little taken aback by the vitriol directed at total strangers here. Yes, there are true idiots out there, and apparently many of the commenters are related to them, but it hasn't been my experience that most people are laughing AT a child in distress with the intent to mock them.

Screaming kids make people uncomfortable, and if someone interacts with you it is usually a well-meant (if poorly executed) intention to engage and diffuse general tension. Yes, kids yell, and people should accept that and move on. Then again, the sound of kids screaming is extremely upsetting to most people on a primal level. If people are really exacerbating the situation, you can tell them plainly to back off or you can leave. I wouldn't expect a total stranger to understand the dynamic of how their behavior is affecting my child, because they don't KNOW my child. I dunno, maybe I'm just depressed about all the school shootings, but I hate to see so much energy wasted on such ephemeral interactions.
October 4, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterVelma
While sitting in a restaurant about a week ago, fumbling to appease my sobbing, angry 2-year-old, a server got in her face and said, "Oh, c'mon! You're too pretty to cry! Now stop it!"

I wonder if she questioned her 10% tip. My kid was crying because of the crappy service.

This was one of the few occasions when the person telling my kid to chin-up-cheer-up was under the age of 70. I always figured it was just a passive-aggressive method for old ladies exacting revenge on our generation.

October 4, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRobin
I think you're right--I don't think anyone in these two instances was doing anything intentionally cruel. But it's the disregard people in general seem to have for little kids' feelings that really gets me.

But let me say right here and now: none of you should shoot anyone else.

See? Done!
October 4, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteralice
I almost don't want to comment on the people who were so rude to Henry because all I can say is that I want to kick each of them. Hard. Even the children and the old ladies and what kind of person does that make me?

I will say, the ignoring by other kids happens to my kids too (kind of often). It absolutely breaks my heart to see them put themselves out there and get shunned. Just this week, it happened to my son at the playground - he turned to me and said "she must not talk yet". I've been paying attention and it would seem (probably thanks to my stellar parenting/lying) that now, when my children are ignored at the playground, they assume the other child a)is mute b)is deaf c)doesn't speak English or d) is debilitatingly shy and wouldn't say boo if her hair was on fire.

As far as what to do when I see another parent dealing with a tantruming child, I really never know what to do. I don't want to look at them and have them mistake it for judgement (God knows I've been there and probably the same day), I don't want to scare a child with my strangerness so I don't say anything to a child. Occassionally, if I have something in the old diaper bag that I think might help (sealed up snack or stickers or something), I might try to offer it to the mom but mostly I try to give them a wide berth so they don't feel like a sideshow.

October 4, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterEm
I hate when people give the out to nasty kids. Children should be taught to be kind to everyone, ESPECIALLY those younger than they are. I want to smack the parents of those kids.

(Of course I have one of those kids who will choose the group least likely to invite her to play and hover until it is clear, even through her unshakable optimism, that they are going to continue to ignore her. *sob*)
October 4, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermadge
I hate when people give the out to nasty kids. Children should be taught to be kind to everyone, ESPECIALLY those younger than they are. I want to smack the parents of those kids.

(Of course I have one of those kids who will choose the group least likely to invite her to play and hover until it is clear, even through her unshakable optimism, that they are going to continue to ignore her. *sob*)
October 4, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermadge
It seems to me that there's a finer line to be drawn here. It goes against the tide of unanimous groupthink that seems to permeate the tone of your readers' reaction. All of a sudden, they are all proclaiming the human race as rude and ruder.

Did you believe the shrieking women involved were being intentionally rude, or merely oblivious to the intricacies of the situation? If yes, then your anger is justified. If the answer is in the range of maybe/not sure, then it's the classic case of utopian wishful thinking. One can extrapolate from your indignation and apply it to almost anything involving insensitivity: inapt wait staff, anonymous blog readers eager to offer advice, and other generally well meaning but inadequate civic reactions.

This is not to negate Henry's tears, or your irritation with the face-recognition failure of the Ikea mob. I object to the misguided and somewhat politically correct reaction towards these incidents. It strikes me as patronizing and devoid of reality. Its nonetheless well meaning.

Again, you write so damn well that it's worth the sensation that I'm reading a Communist newspaper from 1973.

Oh, and Henry can always spit in their Swedish meat balls. Now, this is something that requires balls. Bring him on, I say.

October 4, 2006 | Unregistered Commentertsena
It astounds me that people think they can jolly a complete stranger, never mind a child, who is melting down. When I see a meltdown, I usually give the mom a very sympathetic look and guess the age of the kid. "OH, three...that's a hard age." That's about it. I don't see why it is so hard for people to just leave meltdown kids alone. I think maybe they want to mean well, but they just don't execute properly. What gets me is the people that offer FOOD as an enticement to stop crying. Food isn't the answer and just teaches kids that food = comfort, something I think we need to dismiss from the country's collective mindset.

I don't think these are examples of rudeness per se, but more of cluelessness about Henry's desire to be included or listened to. His angst was directed to you, the person he trusts and loves and feels comfortable venting to. It wasn't directed to anyone else, and by butting in with laughter and mocking, they weren't helping a tough situation. But I think they weren't trying to be mean or rude, they just didn't know what do do. People often laugh when they're when someone falls down. It isn't nice, but it isn't also a vindication of the fallers stupidity.

I guess I'm trying to find a positive spin on a crappy situation.
October 4, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermargalit
I remember reading Raffi's biography and he said that children are the only people we think we can laugh at, even when they're not trying to be funny. We would never do that to another adult. He talked, like you, about the fact that children are people too and how dare someone laugh at a child who is hurting? I had not thought of it like that until I read what he wrote but he and you are right. Those other people are not.
October 4, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdaring one
I'm a stranger and I apologize on behalf of strangers everywhere. My success rate with managing a smile, or at least the cessation of tears, with children is pretty high. I guess my secret is treating them as if they were people. May all of Henry's tears be short-lived -- he's absolutely adorable.
October 4, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTastesLikeChicken
A prolonged, agonising demise to them, one and all.

October 4, 2006 | Unregistered Commentershula
I have to say that I was pretty relieved to read Tsena's post above. I am an avid fan of Finslippy - so I read your post a couple of times, and all the comments, and your comment to the comments etc., and I can finally understand, I think, where you are coming from. People do underestimate our little ones: their intelligence, their rationality or lack of, and their emotions.

I was a bit surprised, though, that you took these incidents home with you, so to speak. Most of the time I feel like you are voicing emotions from an experience of motherhood that I can completely identify with, but this time I can't really say that. I think these people were probably well-meaning in their own way, and stupidity in the general public, well that's not a shocker. I think that sometimes high reactivity in these sorts of scenarios says more about our internal sense of well-being than the transgressors themselves. Anyway - hope you're feeling happier as you get some distance from it.
October 4, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>