CHILDREN ARE SO ANNOYING!
W. W. Bauer
WHO DOES the annoying in your household? That’s easy. Of course it’s the children who annoy the parents. Don’t they practically refuse to go to sleep nights when mama and papa want to go out? Don’t they get into things they’re not supposed to touch—loose powder, jam bottles, knick-knacks on the whatnot? Aren’t they destructive . . . selfish ... quarrelsome? They nag the life out of you with questions, too, and turn up for an outing with their best clothes halfsoiled and unfit to wear.
Who annoys whom? Huh! Try to get them to practice their music lessons, or go to dancing school. Just try! Any moron who has children knows who annoys whom.
Okay. O-kay! Now for another question — for parents this time. Do you ever annoy your children? What’s your popularity rating with your offspring?
Not long ago my high-school-age daughter heard 1 was to give a lecture on how to get along with children. Raising her brows slightly, she enquired, “When does that start in our house, may I ask?” Of course there was a smile with those fighting words, but they set me to wondering. Honestly now—who does the annoying in your house, and why?
Perhaps a few occurrences, fictitious— naturally!—but typical, might help to answer the question. None of these could possibly happen in your home, of course. Or, could they?
Junior is about three months old. He cries a lot. Grandma would like to pick him up, but she stands in proper awe of modern efficiency so she contents herself with muttering darkly. Not so Junior. He yells. Father, young and inexperienced, is not so sure that the yelling is mere determination to get his own way, though he senses a fair amount of that heritage in his child—from the mother’s side. Young mother is sure of herself. The baby is dry and clean. There are no pins sticking him. He’s not chafed.
His clothing is not too warm. It isn’t time for feeding. Not for 35 minutes yet. And it isn’t playtime.
Who’s annoyed now? Right, everybody. But who has a justified squawk coming? I vote for Junior. Maybe he is dry, clean and properly clothed. Maybe the clock doesn’t say it’s feeding time. But his stomach does.
Dr. Anderson Aldrich—who had to remind us a couple of years ago with righteous indignation that babies are human beings—remarked recently that clocks aren’t wired to babies, or vice versa. And Dr. Bruno Gebhard says, “Grandma is not always wrong.”
Junior was well entitled to his lusty squawk. Babies will continue to protest until modern parents break away from “book rule,” and adjust baby’s schedule to his needs. Some need three-hour feedings, some four, some three and three quartern. They should have them. That isn’t the same as the old-time habit of sticking a bottle into the infant’s mouth every time he opened it. It’s an intelligent compromise between the old-time haphazard and the more recent overly exact methods.
The same applies to sleep. And let Grandma love him, within reason. He requires love. He can’t thrive without it. Let’s remember, babies are human.
When Junior grows a bit older, he starts to develop all sorts of cute habits and behaviors. So does the Smith’s baby down the street and the Sorenson’s baby upstairs and the Murphy youngster next door—all born about the same time. Naturally the young mothers compare notes. Junior is starting to sit up—but Betty Sorenson did that two weeks ago, Bill Smith a month ago, and Tim Murphy hasn’t shown any signs whatsoever. Mama Sorenson is just a bit proud; Junior’s mother puts on a fine act of indifference; Mrs. Smith beams openly; and Mrs. Murphy is frankly dismayed. And when the two “backward” Continued on page 64
Continued on page 64
Your kids can drive you crazy—but how do you rate with them? Before answering—read this
Children Are So Annoying!
Continued from page 8
babies get home—they are going to learn to sit up, or else!
Backward? Nonsense! Perfectly normal children, developing at slightly different tempos. Expressing their individuality as human beings. Trying to hurry them is useless. Besides, it’s annoying. And what does an annoyed baby do? It’s easy to find out. Just hold him tight when he wants to squirm. Watch his face get red, then purple. Hear him scream!
Yes, Ma’am. A temper tantrum. His Uncle John had a violent temper. Father is a bit quick on the trigger, too, though he denies that, of course. But it isn’t surprising with baby’s heredity —on his father’s side—that he has tantrums. A problem child. And so young, too!
Then Junior gets to creeping around, and one day he finds an interesting place where the floor seems to go up. With much difficulty he climbs to the higher level, and finds another one still higher. Well, here goes! Puffing and drooling, he makes the third step. He’s never met a stairway before—and isn’t it fun! He looks back, a little uncertainly, but with some pride of accomplishment.
Suddenly, Mama discovers her darling halfway up the stairs—sees him, in her mind’s eye, tumbling down and breaking his neck. With a shriek she grabs him by the nape of his neck and puts him down on the floor where he started. Maybe, to relieve her feelings, she gives him a smart spank, and expresses strong disapproval in her voice and manner.
Junior gives his female parent one dirty look, stretches out on the floor, and yells bloody murder. Or he holds his breath. Mama is scandalized. .Or scared. She immediately overwhelms him with affection and forgiveness.
Bringing Up Parents
"Aha,” says Junior to himself, in whatever rudiments of thought - language he has acquired by that time; “I can handle that gal.”
And he can. Don’t fool yourself about that. “Train, lest ye be trained,” warns a famous pediatrician—and start early !
Toddling about a bit later, Junior sees some bright and shining gadgets on Mother’s whatnot. Pretty, pretty. But he wants to handle. Natural enough—how else can he learn to use Ins hands? So Junior reaches for a pretty gadget, and tries to hold it in his unsteady little hands while he admires it. Of course, he drops it on the hardwood floor. It breaks.
Who gets his fingers slapped? I’m asking you. Now you ask me who ought to get a rap on the fingers? Babies are annoyed, and rightly so, if parents do not put breakable valuables out of reach of tiny hands—or else learn to accept their loss with a smile. Babies who reach for things aren’t naughty, unless to be normal is naughty.
As soon as Junior gets to playing with other children he really learns about life. They are going to demand their rights, and have them. Your neighbors’ children aren’t going to conform to your child and his selfish ways, or to your ways for him. That’s why you had better begin early to teach Junior to live with other children. The best way is to have another child—but quick. Adopt, one if necessary. Or borrow one. Nursery schools are excellent for the only child. Anything short of kidnapping—but get companionship for that child of yours, early and often. There
is no more pathetic error than the one so often m&de by people who pride themselves on their intelligence, but remain content with one child in order that they may lavish upon him all their affection, all the privileges and advantages which their position in life commands.
These toddler-age and early school companionships offer parents so many chances to annoy their children. Here is little Jimmy—a normal, grubby little boy. If there’s dirt to be found, he’ll find it. Mother simply cannot keep up with him in laundry, and she hasn’t sense enough to quit trying. Instead, she takes out her frustration and her weariness on him.
He bursts into the kitchen just after the floor has been scrubbed, dripping muddy water. The sewer at the corner has been blocked with leaves, and the heavy rain failed to run off. Jimmy has been helping the men get the leaves cleared away. He is running over with enthusiasm. He wants to tell all about it. He is met with a cold and glittering eye and a tirade of abuse—he’s the naughtiest little boy his mother has ever seen and he must like awake nights to think up nasty, dirty things to do. And so on.
Flight from Nagging
■ Next afternoon Jimmy doesn’t come home for dinner. The neighbors haven’t see him. He isn’t at the beach. Nor the playground. A frantic call to the police brings a promise to radio the squad cars.
Father comes home, and at first he is disposed to take the whole affair lightly, but as the evening wears on he begins to worry, too. By the time the police call at 10 o’clock and say they are bringing Jimmy home, the parents are in a state of nervous collapse.
What could have possessed their child to wander to the other end of town where a squad car picked him up, weary and tearful, but insisting that he did not want to go home. It took some rather skilful questioning by the family doctor—not of the boy, but of the parents—to get at the truth. With a snort of disgust which he tried to conceal, the doctor summed up the situation.
“Your child has a lot of sense, I’d say. Suppose somebody you thought was the most wonderful person in the world—your mother—told you day in and day out that you were the naughtiest and the dirtiest and the most no ’count brat she ever saw—and you began to believe it must be so. Would you be anxious to go home?”
“Don’t answer that question,” the doctor might have added. Jimmy had a right to be annoyed at his mother. Was he? No, he was too busy being contrite about his shortcomings, and worried about what was coming to him when he got home with a torn shirt that caught on a fence. Besides, children will forgive their parents a great deal. But if this keeps up, there will come a time. And then it will be too late.
Here’s what happened to Eddie. He played regularly with Mary Jane next door. One day without warning he pushed her face down in the mud when she was all dressed-up. Naturally, Mary Jane’s mother was furious at the unspeakable little ruffian. Eddie’s mother couldn’t understand what made Eddie push the nice little girl into the mud. Neither could Eddie. It just seemed like a wonderful idea at the time.
It was, too—and strictly normal behavior. Eddie was fed up, sick, tired and disgusted with hearing his mother compare him day after day with little Mary Jane. Why wasn’t he clean, like Mary Jane. Why wasn’t he polite, like Mary Jane. Why wasn’t
he on time for meals, LIKE MARY JANE. Why didn’t he practice his piano, like—oh, nuts. If this keeps on, Eddie will grow up feeling inferior to everybody, until some day he breaks out and tells the boss to go to the devil or picks a fight with a guy three times his size.
Speaking of piano brings to mind one of the most musically gifted children ever seen in a certain city. As a little girl Eloise showed outstanding talent, not to say genius, at the piano. Her parents got her the best teachers. They stood over her while she practiced— during school terms, four hours a day, during vacations, six hours. And no boogie woogie. Not even light popular airs. Exercises. Classics. Her parents were so proud of her.
She’s grown up now. She seldom touches the piano—except to commit mayhem on musical masterpieces. All she will play is the wildest kind of jive, savagely, as if there were an ancient and undying feud between her and the piano. But she isn’t really beating the piano. She is trampling fiercely, joyously, vengefully, upon the parents whom she loves dearly, but who spoiled her childhood and turned what might have been a delightful vocation into a hated phobia.
Children are so annoying!
Charlie draws, paints, and shows skill at making models. He has good taste, a feeling for color, and ability to put action into line drawings and silhouettes. When he gets a job finished does his father examine it closely, admiring its good points, showing where it could be improved? In short displaying a real interest in his child? No. Father glances up from his paper, nods his head absently.
Charlie’s sister, Joyce, comes home after school and breezes into the living room, bubbling over with enthusiasm about the senior boy—Joyce is only a sophomore—who waited for her after history class and “walked her” all the way to English, clear across the campus, and then just' “happened” to meet her after school. Mother is tired and cross. She has not time to listen to what “he said,” and what “I said,” and “I almost died,” and “did my face get red!”
It isn’t long, after that, that Charlie gets caught with a group of small boys —the newspapers call it a gang—which has been stealing from the dime store. Joyce is in an auto wreck, and some of the boys have definitely been drinking.
Parents Should Work at It
“Kids these days are really something,” says the father of Joyce and Charlie, as he falls into conversation with a neighbor. “The first thing we knew, they were in trouble. And we hadn’t any idea who the people were they were going with. Kids just don’t tell their parents a thing nowadays.” “That’s right,” his neighbor agrees, “and look at this headline. Juvenile delinquency. It gets worse all the time. We gotta do something about it.”
“We sure do,” says the irate father. “What we need is more police—more playgrounds and Boy Scout troops ...” “Yes, sir! Got a match? Thanks.” Yes, juvenile delinquency is getting worse, and we do have to do something about it. We may need more and better police, here and there; and perhaps also more social workers, Boy Scout and Girl Guide troops and other characterbuilding agencies. More power to them. They do a grand work.
But even more, we need parents who will take time to be parents, who will take an interest in their children, study their growth and development, help them, let them build their own personalities under gentle and unselfish—
and always unobtrusive—guidance.
Children require two things—a sense of being loved and wanted, and a sense of security. Quarrelling parents, broken homes, heated discussions of financial difficulties, cryptic remarks which carry a vague threat of disaster—all these underline security. Preoccupation of parents with their own concerns, excessively harsh discipline, or constantly taking down the child’s selfrespect with derogatory comments and ridicule, shakes his confidence in the love of his parents. ,
We have largely abandoned spanking but there are worse forms of cruelty. I have heard a child say he would rather be punished by his father, who was likely to be swift and severe, than by his mother who would shut him out of her conversation, her affection and apparently her consciousness for as much as a week at a time.
Fortunately, we are getting understanding parents in ever-increasing numbersYoung fathers and mothers take parenthood very seriously. They compare experiences in clubs and study groups. They buy books and read them. And they send tfieir questions to authoritative sources for reply.
This type of serious understanding is a very necessary part of the parental job in these times. The parents of yesterday had to learn to guard their children against disease and accident, because their problem was to keep the children alive. Today’s challenge is to learn how to live with them—and today’s parents must meet it. it