The Crank

Silver Gelatin Print

Photo: Vivian Maier (Girl Crying) N.Y. 1954

 

She huffed and she puffed and she stomped her small feet. She whined and she cried and she kicked the car seat. She refused to wear shoes, threw her coat on the ground. Made sure everyone heard her for miles around. She tossed food on the floor. Then asked for some more … Like a kid on a mission for the spoiled child edition.

Evening came.

Gramma called.

Mama handed the phone.

“Tell me now, little one, what on earth’s going on?”

“I’m a crank,” the child said in response. “Now Mama’s tired, all on my own.”

 

 

 

For more of Vivian Maier’s amazing photography: http://www.vivianmaier.com/

For The Daily Post

What do you do with a melted child?

I could hear them before they even entered the building … his screech, her frustrated murmuring, unclear words with clear intent to hush and stop the fussing.

It did not get better in the vestibule, or the stairway. Screaming, banging on the rails (there’s fantastic echo in the building–apparently it is spectacularly irresistible for maximizing the effect of tantrums).

The mother’s pleas inched up in volume, from “stop this” to “please behave” and “you are making too much noise” to “other people are going to get mad at you” and “if you don’t stop this there’d be no playdates.” The immediate effect was a proportionate rise in the child’s loudness.

I decided to go meet them half-way. It is not something I usually do, so my very appearance in the hallway was enough to generate sufficient surprise to elicit momentary silence. I capitalized. “Sounds like you are having a hard day,” I noted, directing my words to both red-faced figures, one with mortification, one with the exertion of maximizing vocal output on steep stairs.

“I’m melting,” he noted, quite matter of fact, I might add.

“Oh,” I responded.

The mom looked from him to me and back again. “Melting?”

“A meltdown, I suppose,” I smiled, turned to the boy. “It sure sounds like a major meltdown.”

He nodded emphatically, satisfied.

“Do you think you had enough of a meltdown for one time?” I offered my hand to him. “It sounds pretty exhausting.”

He considered, placed his little hand in mine. Turned to his mother with a rather smug expression. “I done melting now.”

“I’m glad,” she managed.

“What was this about?” I wondered aloud.

“He wanted to be the one to press the button for the bus stop …”

“Ah.”

“But someone else on the bus already pressed it … so he refused to get off …”

I looked at him with a raised eyebrow. He nodded, approving of the testimony. “It was my turn to push the button,” he accused.

“Hmm, maybe other people on the bus didn’t know that.”

He looked shocked at the very notion. How could anyone not know what he clearly had?

We climbed. He pondered.

“It only got worse from there,” his mother added, still debriefing. “I had to carry him off the bus, screaming. He threw himself on the ground …”

It explained the stage of his clothing … it had rained earlier …

“He got himself all wet …” she sighed, “I’m sorry for bringing him in such a mess.”

He turned to her, his face a mask of indignation. “Of course I wet, Mama! I was melting!”

meltdown1

Mean Math …

 

math

“If I have four and you give me more than I have more.”

This axiomatic truth came from the mouth of a bright preschooler. His speech is difficult to understand, but his ideas are crystal.

He asked me, the other day, about math. More like, told me. Checked to see I understand …

Math, but also some other things.

“If I get angry and then my mommy gets angry than we have a lot more angry.”

Yes. That’s true.

“I don’t like it when we have more angry.”

I totally understood that, and told him that I didn’t like ‘having more angry’ either.

“It is lots more better when we have giggles. I love giggles.”

So do I.

He was quiet a moment, then asked me about the news he’d heard. Children often pick up more than you give them credit for, and understand more than you would like to think they have internalized.

“A lot of people are angry and crying on TV,” he said. He was referring to the news of three teens who were kidnapped and murdered by Hamas terrorists in Israel. The teenagers’ bodies were found that day, and his parents were aghast and upset with the realities in the Palestinian territories, terror, hate, and rage. They discussed the news among themselves, along with their reactions and thoughts. He saw and heard reactions of others, perceived the agony of desperate angst, the fumes of hate. I’ve seen it, too. It is difficult, difficult stuff.

“Yes,” I responded. “They are.”

“Are more people going to be mean?” he worried. “I don’t like it when more people want to be mean.”

Oh, how I agree, dear boy, neither do I.

He wasn’t quite done. How could he be? These are big issues, even for grownups, let alone little ones. He pressed on: “If more people are going to be mean then it is going to be even more mean and more mean.”

“I understand.”

I think I sighed. He looked at me a bit quizzically, adorable in his earnestness. I smiled at him and asked, “do you have suggestions about what people can do?”

“I don’t know,” he said after a thought. “Maybe a ‘safe tantrum’?” (in his house, this is the term used for when someone–usually him…–gets very angry. They can’t hurt themselves o others but they can punch a boxing bag and shout a little and jump and jump …).

I nodded. Safe tantrums would be a good, in fact a very good alternative.

“But,” he interjected, “even if they still feel mean I think maybe they need to learn to use their words.”

 

From the mouth of babes, Little Teacher. Simplified reality yet no less wise. In all war, terror, conflict, violence–may all find room for less hatred, more reason, some space, more safety, less meanness … more peace … in their hearts.

 

the problem with hate