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?