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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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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)

I know that frequently strangers are just trying to help.

I also know that frequently strangers want to pick on someone who can't fight back.

What bothers me is when family members point and laugh.
October 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLindy
When I was young the thing I hated most was people laughing at me when I was upset, as if it were "cute." It wan't "cute" to me, and it is embarrassing to have people laugh at your rage or unhappiness, especially when you are a little kid and already have the frustration of having so little control over things. And I completely agree with you about the fact that this applies to women as well. I used to get the "you're cute when you're mad" thing a lot, and it made me furious. How insulting.
October 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAlexa
It does feel awful when someone treats your child like that - like they're an object and not a person. I've dealt with the same attitude, but in a different form a lot recently. I've been annoyed with strangers who feel like they can try to touch or hug my daughter without permission. Even when she pulls herself away and says the words we've taught her, "No touch, please," they ignore her obvious body language and her very clear and understandable statement. I have to intervene in order for them to back off. It's frustrating that they don't listen to her.
October 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie
Lisa, the women at the playground were basically just talking to me and saying how adorable and hilarious what he said was. And beleeeve me, I wanted to tell them how much they weren't helping, but it was all I could do to comfort him, so I basically just ignored them.

In all of this is the reality that Henry has some sensory issues and is easily overwhelmed. And once he falls off that cliff it's definitely a lot harder to bring him back; often our entire day is off from that point on. Which may be why these incidents bother me so much.
October 5, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteralice
Too many people think children are not fully realized human beings...I think being a kid is much tougher than being an adult because you have all the feelings, but none of the power or skills or respect that adults somehow are given merely due to age...

Poor Henry... he got a raw deal there.
October 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKristin
Those are the very same people that shouldn't be spawning and probably are. They just don't get it. Sadly, if you kicked them and told them to stop laughing at your son they'd probably try to sue you.
October 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKrista
Sara said:>>One of my favorite comments is, "Oh, she must be tired!" or it's varation -- "That's a tired girl!" and I want to say, what the eff do you know?<<

Well, actually, I'll admit to occasionally saying "Somebody needs a nap" in a sympathetic voice to a parent whose child is having a meltdown. They generally seem grateful that I understand there's a reason why the kid is acting that way, and don't just assume he's an out-of-control little hellion. But I don't address the child directly, and don't linger, which may make a difference. (When I *do* address a child for some reason, I try to treat him as a person rather than an object.) Heaven knows, when my two-year-old Drama Queen is lying in a supermarket aisle, face buried in his arms and sobbing piteously, I appreciate some sort of "I know just what you're going through" comment from strangers rather than stony silence.
October 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterCobwebs
Four is so hard. Lauren turned 4 last month. I don't know if your son is also petit, but Lauren is very small for her age - in the 5th percentile for height and weight. She gets really frustrated that "people JUST don't listen" or "they think I am being funny when I'm not".

Sometimes the laughter is at me. I am cool with that. I imagine before I had kids a mom saying into her open car door "You can be angry but you MAY NOT throw things around in my car" would strike me as funny. I'll probably relish it when I'm arguing with my teenaged daughters about make up and curfews.
October 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterHeather
"What is wrong with people?" you ask. Clearly, those specific individuals are poopyheads.

Henry couldn't have summed it up more succinctly.
October 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterPlanet Mom
Poor little guy. Why didn't they tell him they wanted to know his name instead of laughing at him? He's right. People are poopyheads.
October 5, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterbad penguin
The second pair of women were definitely insensitive but the first ones probably meant well. As someone without kids, I might have tried to cheer up the little fellow the same way, thinking it might distract him. However, I hope I would have realized sooner than they did that they were having the opposite effect...
October 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMauigirl52

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