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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
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« Guess who's almost four? | Main | Quittin' time! »
Wednesday
Oct042006

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!

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)

A six year old boy to my five year old son on the playground last weekend when my son cried after scraping his knee: "Damn boy, you gonna get such a whippin' when you get home, fuck ya!"

Poor sweet beautiful Henry. Laugh back at those bas-turd-poopy-heads!
October 4, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKari
I'm a teacher of 3 year olds and let me tell you, kids are MEAN! Not all kids, mind you, but some of them you are just so terribly mean! Dr. Jekyll (sp?) and Mr. Hyde and only measure about 3 feet tall.But then there are some kids...those kids who get their feelings hurt when someone is mean. Those are the kids that just make you melt. Poor Henry!Give him a hug from Ms. Amy and tell him not to worry about those kids. They're not very nice and he really didn't want to be their friend anyway, right? Poopyheads. He's right!
October 4, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAmy
Rachel, thanks for your comment. I think these incidents really resonated with me, not because of these isolated people, but because this happens All. The. Time. And sometimes it's with relatives, sometimes with his teachers, sometimes with friends. I see my son absolutely erupt with rage when he's laughed at that way. Not that everything he says should be taken as law, but when he's that upset, some respect is in order. And more often than not, it's entirely absent.

I think it's wrong. And I think it's something that happens not only to children, but also to women. More than one of us has heard the "c'mon, give me a smile" line. As if we're only obligated to brighten the world, or something.
October 4, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteralice
I totally remember people laughing at me in church.

Bastards.
October 4, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdorothy
Oh my God, Girl, I am so with you on this one. It was terrible when I was a preschooler and it is absolutely heartbreaking to watch it happen to my kids. Have you noticed that it's always a CERTAIN generation, too? Somehow they don't get that children have genuine feelings. Bleh. Feh.
October 4, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNatalie
I think what a lot of adults don't understand is not so much that kids are people, but that kids are people with a low stimulus threshold. Certain intense kinds of stimulus--overtiredness, loud noises, mean big kids--just overload their little systems. And you can't "explain away" or "laugh away" their reactions (though sometimes you can distract them a little).

And also, we just are uncomfortable with emotion in this society, and we want crying kids to shut up right now and stop disturbing us, to hell with their struggles, and the fact that they're, you know, FOUR or whatever.

My kid cries at loud noises, and people laugh at that, but you know? Loud noise is stressful. I don't like it either, I'm just more used to it than he is.

I took him to church a few weeks ago (he's 10 mos) and nervously left him in the nursery, but they gave me a beeper, so ok. But unbeknownst to me it was the church tradition to bring in all the kids at the end of the service for a song. And the bright lights, strangers, and loud music freaked him the hell out, and it pissed me off that they hadn't told me they were doing that.
October 4, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteremjaybee
Henry's troubles reminds me of one of my worst stranger interactions. I was 28 and 8 months pregnant. And it was January and I had my 2 year old daughter with me; it was snowing, our floors were being refinished and we couldn't go home. I had already had her climb into the stupid tube in the playland at McDonalds and cry that she couldn't get out. We ended up at a mall and I cried. Whatever would I do with this child for the next 4 hours (when I had a place to go, without floor refinishing fumes).

While I cried, a stranger approached and no she didn't laugh. But she did tell me all about Jesus. And that was quite enough to make be realize I could walk (even though my swollen body had just resisted that idea violently). And my daughter fell asleep. And I read a book in the Barnes & Noble.

Poor Henry (the baby I was pregnant with ended up being named Henry too).
October 4, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSarah
What's wrong is that (many, not all) adults don't see kids as people, that's what. I'm sorry people are laughing at Henry. I'd be furious if someone did that to my son too.
October 4, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAbigail
My son would totally love to play with your sweet little boy!
October 4, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdesignergen
Hi Finslippy, thanks for the timely reminder that Ikea sucks. Shopping brings out the worst in everybody.
October 4, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterCL
Ikea is only okay before noon on a Tuesday, but at the weekends? Non.

And as for those people who made Henry cry? Assholes. Every one of them. So many in one week, though. What are the chances?



October 4, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLin
I think it's much worse to mock a child than an adult, really--children don't have the sense of humor yet to laugh anything off. Everything was so serious to me as a youngster, and nothing riled me up more than not being taken seriously. I feel for Henry.

October 4, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterR
I was laughed at by adults a lot as a child. Perversely, particularly when I said something clever or unintentionally funny. (And small children do know the difference between laughing WITH and laughing AT.) It definitely had a lasting effect on me. I still struggle with how that felt.

Alice, you're treating your son with respect he deserves and it's the right thing to do. Wish my elders had done that for me.
October 5, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermegs
Poor Henry. I feel nothing but empathy and sympathy for upset kids (and their parents). Sometimes to the point of tears.

This kind of thing make me wonder what experiences those people (especially your Granny, LISAME) had when they were children. Which is no excuse of course, but makes the whole thing even sadder.
October 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnne
As time passes this is the one thing that pisses me off that I can't get it out of my head all day. My daughter (5 yrs old) is open, loving and unfortunately an only child - but not for long. Her personality requires interaction with other kids. She loves everybody. Unfortunately some others don't feel the same way. When she zeros in on someone at the playground she will go over and introduce herself. I'm holding my breath at this point. Too many times she has come back saying that they have said "go away" or "you're not my friend" or "leave me alone". My heart breaks. Her heart breaks. She constantly is asking "why don't they like me, why don't they want to be my friend?"

Why can't we just all get along!



October 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKris
I think mostly people are just hapless narcissists. Unaware of the fact that they are either inappropriate or their "input" is unwelcome. Or, there's malice in it - a sense of entitlement to a calm and quiet experience wherever they go (in which case I'd highly recommend avoiding IKEA). I've been you, on airplanes, when the ridiculous person behind me starts making faces and "Give me a smile" comments at my daughter who is sobbing because her poor ears are having a hard time adjusting to the pressure, and they just think she needs a little "cheering up". Don't you f-ing THINK if that's what she needed, I'd be DOING it?And regarding that "top of the slide loitering" at the playground, I call that "Lord of the Flies". It happens a lot to my daughter, who is fearless and goes up to these children too. They won't let her slide. I can't sit back and let that happen though. I go up on the playground to where they are and tell them they need to go on down the slide and stop preventing the other kids from enjoying the playground, that they are mean little children. I have never had that fail to work, at least to where my sweet baby can use the slide.

October 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSkeezeroo
I think it is important in all situations to acknowledge a childs emotions, but to recognize them as simply that - a child having age specific emotions. They are not as complicated as adult emotions, with come with retrospect and complications. There are simple solutions to most of these feelings, and one of the differences between adults and children is the social barometer as to the manner in which we express our discomfort. I think it is important to respect the very real feelings and emotions of children, but not to project all of the aspects of mature adult experience into outbursts from a child. They just won't remember it, unless we make them.
October 5, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjmy
I wish I did not have such a potty mouth, and a too quick trigger, but if those last two women had done that to my 2 year old son, it would have been very hard not to have said "Shut the fuck up, you insensitive bitches."

Hence why my husband is a much better mother than I.
October 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnita
Okay, Alice. You're last comment about it being also women? So completely true. I am a secretary and I am the anti-perky. I don't bussle around merrily in pastels asking people if they would like coffee, etc... I would say at least once every two weeks someone askes me to cheer up or that things aren't so bad or to give them a little smile. That is so infuriating! I am not the queen of doom and gloom I just don't plaster a smile on my face 24/7. I always think, "I'll smile when you give me something to smile about!!"

I am glad that you decided to post about this though because it's shocking how many people are amazed when children display actual emotions. What's the problem? Why is it so amazing that children are human and feel what we feel? Hopefully from your post at least some people might stop doing it.

I wonder if we can say the same for the men that ask me to smile.
October 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSparklieSunShine
You know, maybe Henry is lucky. It's not like these people stop existing in your life once you pass the age of six or so. They are always there, at the most inconvenient and infuriating moments. Perhaps Henry's irresistible cuteness will act as an inoculation against them in his future life. He'll develop the thick skin that the irresistibly cute need to survive in life.
October 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnnie
I do not will him to be exceptional.It is the exception that interests the devil.It is the exception that climbs the sorrowful hillOr sits in the desert and hurts his mother's heart.- Sylvia Plath

October 5, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjocelyn
I have to agree with those above who suggest that the two incidents seem different, in that the intentions of the Ikea ladies were probably good, while the intentions of the playground ladies clearly weren't good. If I had been you at the playground, I think I would have been seeing red, and may have come out with something rude. If I were calm enough to execute it, I guess I would want to go up to the playground ladies, comment that my son is obviously distressed, and ask them if they would wish for someone to laugh at them if *they* were distressed? And end with something like, please don't laugh at someone who is obviously very upset.

I am never calm enough in these situations to do what I would wish for myself to do. I would probably be rude, and then feel ashamed later. Your reactions in both situations sound very good, particularly given what you were feeling. I feel more sorry for Henry for the playground incident, because it does seem like the kids and adults were both being intentionally cruel. I would be interested to know what the ladies in the playground said to you when you were trying to calm Henry.
October 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLisa
I'm honestly shocked by the moms in the playground. I would have had choice words for them. Poor Henry. I actually had an opposite experience at the park just last weekend. Some teenage boys were goofing on the slide and my 4 year old tentatively went over to slide. They basically got out of the way and made sure that it was clear below for him, so not all kids are assholes. Alice, your Henry reminds me a lot of my younger one sometimes. I find mine rather sensitive with his feelings. He tends to feel everything so deeply and is easily hurt and upset. It seems so much harder to calm him when something rotten happens to him. I read this book and saw a lot of him, and myself in it, and have found skills to help both of us in these types of situations. "Raising Your Spirited Child" by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. I'm not a fan of "parenting" books, but this one did help me. Hope Henry feels better soon.
October 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAEMom
I'm so sorry for you, Henry and your husband. Unfortunately there are lots of insensitive and unthinking people in the world.
October 5, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermira
My son has the same problem at the play ground. he's only 4 1/2 and the kids never want to play with him. It kills me when he crys that he has no one to play with. One time a slightly older boy would not play, The older boys mom saw this and she made the kid play. It was nice but still broke my heart.
October 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLisa in NJ

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