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Joel Stein writes a weekly column for TIME, and has appeared on VH-1’s I Love the ‘80’s and any other show that asks him. On May 15, Grand Central Publishing is releasing his first book, Man Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity, in which he finally learns to be a man; you can pre-order it here: http://tinyurl.com/6sghjok. You can follow him on twitter at @thejoelstein, but it's just going to be more of the same stuff.

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Maybe Keep Some Thoughts Inside

By Joel Stein |

This is blatant attempt to suck-up to Babble's parent company, Disney.

I was waiting outside with Laszlo for an animal balloon at a particularly nice birthday party at a part of Griffith Park with train rides and old Pullman cars you can walk in, when one of the moms walked by and, as she passed – shaking and about to cry – said to us, “I don’t want to be his mother anymore! I’m so fucking sick of him!”

This momentarily killed the birthday party buzz.

But only for me. Everyone else in line went right back to talking about balloon animals and trains and the amazing homemade birthday cake with an alligator on it. This seemed even weirder than yelling, “I don’t want to be his mother anymore! I’m so fucking sick of him!”

So I asked the mom in front of me, who knows Tourette’s Mom, what the outburst was about.

“Oh that’s normal. Every mom gets like that sometimes,” she said. “Ask your wife.”Every mom gets like that? No, Howard Beale gets like that after he’s fired from his news anchor job in Network. Moms roll their eyes and say, “Kids, right?”

I totally understand thinking, “I don’t want to be his mother anymore.” It’s a very dark thought and one, honestly, I haven’t had yet as a dad. But you definitely can’t say it out loud in public.

You can’t even say, “I don’t want to be his wife anymore” to a bunch of strangers in line for balloon animals. You can’t even say “I don’t want to be her daughter anymore.” These are sentences you can only say to your therapist or on Lifetime movies. Even “I don’t want to be his friend anymore” is something you’re not really supposed to say after age six.

If a dad walked by and yelled, “I don’t want to be his father anymore! I’m so fucking sick of him!” someone would, I hope, call child services. Dads who lose their temper and hit their kids in public don’t even say that. Any dad who would actually say that is hopefully leaving his wife and kids that night, or, more likely, abusing them in ways that they don’t even show on Lifetime movies.

I get that being a mom is harder than being a dad. And that women are allowed to express their feelings more than men. And that Cassandra and I are lucky to have randomly gotten a sweet, well-behaved, meek little boy. Maybe Tourette’s Mom is chasing around a little Charlie Manson and no one would want to be his mom. Maybe Little Chuck Manson had just pulled down his pants and said, “I’m going to rape the fuck out of that alligator cake.” That would make me not want to be his mom.

But barring that, Tourette’s Mom’s behavior is not something we should accept. We should make it clear – at least to each other  if not to Tourette’s Mom – that it is unacceptable. That as a parent your job is to keep your emotions bottled up inside.

My generation was taught that any immediately unexpressed emotion will result in disease, resentment and dangerous  outbursts. But that’s not true. Repression is what separates children from adults. Its our job as parents to show our kids how to control our emotions. And if you can’t do it at home, at least don’t do it in front of my kid. I think the kid in front of us asked for a balloon light saber just to protect herself. I know I did.

Pre-order my book, Man Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity, (out May 15) on Amazon.

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5 Answers to When Your Kid Asks Why

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About Joel Stein

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Joel Stein

Joel Stein writes a weekly column for TIME, and has appeared on VH-1’s I Love the ‘80’s and any other show that asks him. On May 15, Grand Central Publishing is releasing his first book, Man Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity, in which he finally learns to be a man.

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42 thoughts on “Maybe Keep Some Thoughts Inside

  1. Cassandra Barry says:

    The ONE kid’s birthday party I missed and THIS happens?! I will never miss a kid’s birthday party again.

  2. Cathy Stieve says:

    I just had something similar happen to me. I was walking to my car at the mall with my two kids when a woman came tearing past us with her two little (like 3 and 6, maybe?) girls and what appeared to be her mother, screaming at the top of her lungs for them to “Get the f*ck in the car” and how she was so “F*cking sick of them”. I was so freaked out that aside from giving her the hairy eyeball all I could think of was how much I wanted to get my kids away from her. They all got into their car, the mom continued screaming and then the grandmother lit up a cigarette in the windows-up car which then drove away. I was horrified on sixteen different levels not the least of which was why didn’t I do anything to stop it.

  3. Party Mom says:

    Hmmm… I was at that party too and while I was not in ear shot at that time, I’m pretty certain I can guess the offender.

    Being a mom has it’s challenges, and I agree that these kinds of thoughts can be damaging especially when expressed out loud, but you totally lost me when you started judging the other parents in line for not gossiping with you about the situation. Gossiping about other parent’s behavior at a party is neither productive nor polite. What good does it do to stand around talking about how horrible Tourette’s mom is?

    Wouldn’t it be better if you said something to her directly like “I know kids can be frustrating but I’m sure you didn’t mean what you just said.” Something that made her *think* about her actions rather than just hoping other people in line would have a catty conversation about her?

    Just my two cents.

    PS: Little boys don’t stay well-behaved and meek forever and sometimes a little spunk is what makes them special! :)

  4. Joel Stein says:

    Party Mom, I totally judge the people in line for not judging and being catty. It would have been so fun. Judging and catty is what I want in my party guests. I am not inviting you to my son’s birthday party. Unless, the school requires it. Or your name isn’t really Party Mom. That will make it challenging to figure out who not to invite.

    And there is no way I was going to scold that woman. She would have destroyed me.

  5. Party Mom says:

    Will you invite me if I promise to be catty? Pretty please?

  6. Afshan Jafar says:

    I agree completely that other parents should’ve been appalled and that behavior like this mom’s should spark some discussion. That’s not being catty, its being human, and a sincere one at that! Typical by-stander apathy results from people not wanting to be involved, not wanting to judge. Judge away, I say! It might make some people reconsider their behavior.
    On a different note, I don’t think anybody would alert child services if it were a father instead of a mother in this situation. If anything, this kind of sentiment is almost, almost, expected in husbands/fathers in American society (and many others). It is certainly more easily forgiven in men than in women. So, I am surprised that a mother voiced these feelings out loud and got not response! Then again, you are in Southern CA!!

  7. Meg says:

    Does she actually have Tourette’s? If your using it as an adjective please stop. It’s no less offensive than using any other syndrome, disease, or disability as an adjective. Couldn’t you just call her Outburst Mom.

  8. Party Mom says:

    PS: I just pre-ordered your book! Excited for it to arrive on May 15th.

  9. Vanessa momof2 says:

    Hmm… Couldn’t figure out if you were being sarcastic or literal… Either way, I’m completely with Party Mom as in “yeah, what she said”
    Why not say it and get it out of your system instead of letting quiet resentment a la “old skool” take over? Then again, I guess it’s a matter of choosing your poison and accepting the fact that that savings account for little dude/dudette might have to go towards some therapy!

  10. Sue says:

    It breaks my heart when I hear parents, mothers OR fathers, saying things like this. Especially when their kids are right there. Sure, sometimes it’s hard being a parent. SUCK IT UP. If you must vent, fine, but don’t do it in front of your kids. It seems to me that lots of people don’t get that just because a thought pops into your head doesn’t mean you have to let it come out of your mouth.

  11. Stoich91 says:

    I think sometimes you catch people at their worst, or, more specifically, their natural worst. Maybe her parents thought (or even said?) as much of her, which is why she is passing on the nasty gene. Hurting people hurt people, and I often find that the puzzling behavior of more volatile people can be explained by their past, esp. when it comes to raising kids. Either that, or you put something in the cake, in which case I say SHEESH tell your baker to lay off the special stuff he puts into your baked goods lol ;D I feel for her kid!

  12. Joel Stein says:

    Party Mom, after pre-ordering my book, you’re on the guest list plus one.
    And I’ll stop calling her Tourette’s Mom. I do not want to offend Tourette’s sufferers. Because they’ll curse me out.

  13. ann05 says:

    One of my dearest friends from college has Tourettes. It’s a hard disease and his tics and random noises can be difficult to deal with, disruptive and embarrassing in public. At first I thought the mom in your article was a mom of a kid with Tourettes and I thought… well, I can’t judge her. Dealing with a kid with a disability in public is especially hard. But after reading the comments, were you saying she had Tourettes? Because she said something unfortunate in public? That’s not cool. Most people with Tourettes have uncontrollable tics. Few curse. Fewer still are lousy parents. My friend will never have children, even though he would be a fantastic dad, because he does not want to pass his disease on. That’s kind of heartbreaking, you know? It’s a joke, but I keep thinking of my friend, who has chosen to spend his life working with kids, because he can never, ever have them.

  14. Tahiti says:

    I went over this website and I believe you have a lot of good info , saved to favorites (:.

  15. Charlene says:

    Just my two cents, but it seems far more productive to give the mom some support rather than judgement. “Hey, do you want to talk?” “Sounds like you need some help, what can we do?”

    Be the change, people.

  16. mary beth says:

    “Repression is what separates children from adults. Its our job as parents to show our kids how to control our emotions. And if you can’t do it at home, at least don’t do it in front of my kid.” YES. Thank you.

  17. Chloe says:

    Sounds to me like this mom held in too much for too long, and it all came spilling out at the wrong time and place. While I’m horrified that she said those words in the hearing of her child and other people’s children, she was probably at a point where she’d lost her self-control. She needs support, not judgment. And try not to judge the other party-goers too harshly either. They were probably trying to defuse, or at least escape, the tension.

  18. Erin says:

    Wow, the line about the alligator cake was a bit much! Yikes.

    I agree that such thoughts should not be expressed in front of children – any children. And it’s a bit weird in a group of strangers. But in a circle of adult friends? I don’t see anything wrong with airing dark thoughts about parenthood. Repression is what causes people to live in misery with undiagnosed mental illness and depression because they are shamed when they express unpleasant feelings.

  19. betsy says:

    is LA full of insanely crazy people? i don’t get it. seems like the grownups act like kids and the kids act like grownups.

  20. LK says:

    It is definitely unfortunate that she said those things (although you don’t mention if it was in front of her child or not). But your tone is very judgmental and superior. Not that anyone should condone that type of outburst (though he without sin should cast the first stone), but it sounds like she maybe could have used some support and compassion, or at least an attempt at trying to understand where she was coming from and what might have led her to say those things. Instead, you use it as an opportunity to condescend and disparage her for being a terrible person, and pat yourself on the back for being better than her as a parent and as a person. And then you look down on the other parents who wouldn’t engage with you in judging and feeling superior. That gets no one anywhere. If you truly were the bigger person, you might have reached out to her and expressed your concern over what she said and asked her what was going on for her that she would have that outburst in public. At the very least you could have tried to give her the benefit of the doubt in writing about the situation – which would be entirely possible while still expressing that parents saying those things in front of their children can be harmful.

  21. BO says:

    Hey, the alligator cake line made me laugh out loud. I guess it just appeals to my sense of humor! ;)

  22. Donna says:

    As a psychologist, I just wanted to comment on some of the other comments. “Repression” is not a good thing and it can sometimes lead to mental health difficulties. However, I think what Joel was trying to say is that parents need to have a pre-frontal cortex which inhibits saying inappropriate things at inappropriate times. That is what is so upsetting about this mom–not that she should have repressed the thought but that she should have the brain development to not give voice to such things within in ear shot of other people besides her therapist or her spouse.

  23. Ayanna says:

    Yes we all think it, but at the end of the day, they are what we make them. We spoil them and give them a lot of control. We raise thinkers and they learn how to read us an d push all the buttons, like a husband:0)

  24. sara says:

    While I agree it is unsettling to hear an outburst that is not “ok”, this is another post that I leave feeling the intensity of your judgement of other parents and children.

  25. Jess says:

    Just my two cents….yes, the mom in question handled the situation in the most wrong way possible. But, what if saying that kept her from just beating the kid senseless? What if she has undiagnosed/untreated depression? Combined with a difficult child, or perhaps a child with an undiagnosed or untreated problem, such as ADHD? From experience, that is a very bad combination that leads to some very dark thoughts. Sounds to me like someone should be reaching out to help her, and her child, before the situation becomes so much more than an inappropriate outburst.

  26. Jessika says:

    As a mother of three kids under 7 ys/o (with another on the way), I definitely understand how frustrating and overwhelming things can feel when your child is being difficult. However, what that mother said is VERY wrong, in my opinion. It’s one thing to say “I need a break” or “I can’t handle this right now”. But to say that you don’t want to be your child’s mother anymore? That should never even be a thought in a mother’s mind. My children make my life worth living, and I couldn’t imagine my life without any one of them. Are my children perfect angels? Definitely not. But I’m happy and proud to be their mother.

    As far as “repression” goes, it seems that is the wrong word. As a parent, we have to be emotionally strong for our children and keep our emotions in check to a certain point. Children can sense what you’re feeling, and they may start to feel it too. Which is why, when they get hurt, you don’t want to freak out and act like they’re dying (even if you really are freaking out in your mind), because then they’ll be even more freaked out. Our children look to us to learn how to handle situations, how to feel and express emotion, etc. So outburts of anger, etc. should be done in private, or at least where you child can’t see or hear it.

  27. Elizabeth @ Motherhood: A Descent Into Madness says:

    First of all, the line about the alligator cake cracked me up! Thanks for the laugh! Secondly, I am STOKED to read the comments from people who are mentioning that perhaps a better avenue would have been to recognize that most likely, the mom was at her absolute wit’s end, and to reach out to her might have been a better course of action. I have had moments as a mother where I literally felt like I was crumbling inside from the stress, frustration, helplessness, anger, and a myriad of other emotions. It’s not pretty.
    As I was reading this post, I just kept thinking, what would I have done were it me hearing this? I’m pretty sure I would have recognized that a mother was in extreme distress, and said something like, “Hey, I totally get it. What can I do to help?” – For her sake and also her child’s.
    Not that it’s acceptable to have crazy outbursts, in public, in front of total strangers. But the underlying issue is that if she was feeling so hopeless in that moment to be driven to do something like that, she, in my opinion, needs something more than to be ignored.
    One last thing, I respectfully disagree that we as parents are supposed to bottle up our emotions. I think it’s a better course of action to be able to vent frustrations instead of bottling them up inside. Yes, she probably needs to reign it in in front of strangers, but bottling it up could lead to her snapping one day and doing something far more harmful. Repression is dangerous. The venting and whatnot definitely needs to be done away from children. But holding it all inside serves to make one a pressure cooker, in my opinion.

  28. Jessika says:

    Also, a lot of ppl seem to be coming down on your for “judging” this mother. Honestly, I have a friend who constantly complains about her kids, etc., and many of her other friends do nothing but sympathize with her and validate her feelings. I agree that sometimes ppl just need to vent and have their feelings validated. However, if someone does nothing but complain about their kids, I don’t think they need validation, I think they need a reality check and an attitude adjustment.

    If I didn’t know this lady (or if she’s someone like my friend), I would definitely feel the same as you. I don’t feel that you’re trying to be judgmental or trying to act superior. It seems like you feel about this situation the same way that I do; it’s simply that you love your child and can’t imagine how any parent could truly feel – much less say – something as harsh as this. Not to mention how upsetting it would be for the child in question to hear his mother talk of him this way.

  29. Elvis Needs Boats says:

    If the mother said that in public, imagine what she says to the poor child in private.

  30. Ada says:

    Why do I have a feeling the first thought that went through your head when you saw this incident was ‘Great! Now I have something to blog about on Babble!’ Of course that’s awful the mom did that, but as other people wrote, sometimes you unfortunately see people at their worst. It doesn’t mean she’s always a terrible mother and maybe she really did just reach her breaking point. But that would require you to think about what she’s going through instead of just judging her. You know, like how a writer who says Indians ruined his NJ neighborhood might not want to be judged the rest of his life for that one horrible article.

  31. Lynn says:

    I have read all of these comments and I really agree with some – the mom was obviously at the end of her rope, she should NOT have said that out loud, someone should have reached out and offered her a helping hand…but if I was holding my kid in my arms waiting in line and my spouse was not available to take over – That “someone” would not have been me.

    If she was willing to say that in front of random people at a park party (even if she was so angry she was shaking and near tears) Lord knows what she would have said if confronted directly – and it’s not something I’d want MY kid to hear.

    That being said, I HAVE been that mom. It happens to the best of us – and I am not the best. I have felt like my heart was breaking because I am such a failure and have lost control of my kids; completely at the end of my rope, holding my breath and turning red to keep from cursing, dragging my kids out to the car to put them in their car seats because, as my one friend pointed out to me – you can’t spank them if they’re in their car seats – and they can’t pull hair, bite, kick or head-butt you, either. I stand there shaking until the worst of it passes, then I drive home and hope everything will be better once I change the environment – and it usually is.
    Lastly, I try very hard not to be judgmental of other moms. Someone once told me – and boy did it hurt – that a bunch of moms at a play group were commiserating about how they did not know how I did it with two such rambunctious rug rats and how they were so glad that their kids were so much better than mine. Really? Their kids know all the words to the Barney, Diego, Dora theme songs and can color in the lines. Give mine a fishing rod and they will go dig up worms for bait, can sing songs about fishing and come home and paint a picture about the fun things they did that day. I’ll take mine.

  32. sarahh says:

    To everyone saying he’s being judgemental, do you really think it’s OK to say “I don’t want to be his mother anymore! I’m so fucking sick of him!” in public (or anywhere outside a therapy session or perhaps to your spouse? Really? The woman should be judged for that – not for thinking it, not for getting at her wit’s end, not for feeling that way, but for publicly saying it loudly enough to be heard by an entire line of people, and probably her child. There is a time and a place for everything, and part of being an adult is being able to tell whether or not it is that time or place, regardless of how frustrated you are. If it had been a man that said it, he should have been judged just as harshly. Again, being an adult means having a filter on your mouth.

  33. Hannah says:

    Okay, and how is it okay for you to write the phrase “rape the f___ out of…” in a public forum??

  34. Lance says:

    You and the yelling mom are both wrong.

    First, calling her Tourette’s mom is offensive. Tourette’s is a disease. I know you wouldn’t call someone Cancer mom or Lupus mom or Narcoleptic mom. Two of my family’s member suffer from Tourette’s. I don’t call them crazy or stigmatize their condition.

    Next, every parent has a bad day. Heck, every parent has a bad year. She shouldn’t have said it but you shouldn’t have blogged it. Unless she is a terrible mother, she felt some guilt. Someone will let her know that busybody with a blog wrote about her poor moment and that guilt will be compounded.

    The reason the people went back to balloons was, they knew in their hearts that the mom was having a terrible day and she’d get over it, eventually. Should someone have pulled her to the side, given her a hug and kind lecture about appropriate language and anger managerment, of course.

    As a blogger for 3 sites, I’ve made a promise to myself and my family, I would think twice before calling other people out for momentary lapses in judgement and behavior.

    After you realize calling someone Tourette’s mom is flat wrong then think about what you write about after attending a kid’s birthday party.

  35. anon says:

    I’m all for being honest with ourselves about how we’re feeling, and having good enough friends that we can open up to about those feelings. However, what this woman said is way out of line. She can think it and feel it, but to say something like that to a group of people, some who don’t even know you, that’s not right. And I want to add that while, yes, all mothers do have these moments, most of us don’t go around saying we don’t want to be mothers to our children anymore. She’s not the norm, and I hope that’s not the impression you were given. @Hannah, you’re missing the point, taking the phrase out of context, and need to take a moment to grow up before reading any more blogs.

  36. Crazy Mom says:

    I like you. Funny and brazen. Thanks for this. I have been at my wits end multiple times THIS WEEK but I would never spout off that crap – especially in public. Even if you actually feel that – LIE, HONEY! You are in public and someone might be listening that writes for a very popular blog…

  37. Anoosh says:

    You know when I totally lost my shit in front of strangers in a parenting context? A few days after my grandmother — who essentially raised me — died. I think a lot is mothers have been in that place of pain. Yes, it was a terrible thing to say, but maybe it was a one-off. I do find the smug and self-satisfied tone of this blog post off-putting. I try not to judge other parents (TRY), because I can never feel confident that I won’t one day do the same thing.

  38. Sophia says:

    I mean once that kid is a teenager he will probably yell at her once a week about he hates and wants her to die, as I did just a few years ago as a spirited teenage girl.

  39. Lurquer says:

    I have been that mom. Here’s what I would have liked to have heard when I was at my wit’s end
    1) Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.
    2) I’m told it gets better.
    3) It’s times like these you wish they served alcohol at these parties. On the other hand, there is Alligator cake.

  40. Some lady says:

    i would rape the fuck out of an alligator cake. but only in private & away from my kids.

  41. LMH says:

    I judge you when you scream profanities in front of my kids (and yours, even if they are used to it)

  42. Ashley says:

    I guess she should of thought twice before having kids if she was gonna say that.

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