Master’s in Anxiety with a Minor in Violence: Parenting with Mental Illness

E and S at playground on a day with no idiots

You know those parents who sit and talk about when Lindsay Lohan is getting out of       jail or who Ashton Kutcher is dating or worse, gossiping about other parents? The ones with nothing to contribute and are either oblivious to their own child’s deliberate dominance on the playground or, again worse, think it’s sound parenting strategy to let their offspring demonstrate Darwin’ s theories to smaller, shyer, less confident or experienced children? Worse still, to let them behave not just ignorantly, but to not step in when Butch targets another child specifically for life’s lessons?

As a parent of 5, I have seen it all, and have gone through every reaction – timid response (saying nothing); aggressive response( “is it just this museum, or are all children brought up without manners and all parents rude?” (that one emptied a room once, the babies had the whole play area to themselves); active response (“come on, i’ll go down the slide with you”); others.

I took an Adderall this morning and took the kids to the park. You would think 2 and 3 year olds could navigate a playground themselves, but they don’t get out much and have only one another to work off of, so they require guidance. I took E (3) to the foot of the steps so she could climb up and go down the slide but there were a couple of bigger girls and she didn’t know what to do with herself. My anxiety started to climb the steps with me. By the 3rd happy slide down/hesitancy to climb the steps herself, I needed to get back to L (1)  in his stroller. S (2) was also looking like she wanted to play. So after a few minutes of E standing in the middle of the playground just watching the other girls, I grabbed S, kicking and screaming, and took her straight up the steps and forced her down the slide. She fell on her behind and giggled wildly.

But the two of them still refused to go up the stairs themselves. Watching L passed out in the stroller, I carried, cajoled, encouraged them, finally threatening to leave if they didn’t want to play, their brother was asleep and he needed to get home to nap. They did not want to go. Then I realized that E was watching the girls, maybe 4 years old, with a basketball, carrying it up the steps, dropping it off of the platform, and running back down the steps to collect it.

I watched her climb halfway up the steps towards the ladder and have to clamber right back down when these two girls practically trampled her. I looked for their parents – 20 feet away, directly in front of where they were playing, making no note of their girls barreling over a smaller, obviously shy little girl. I left L where he was and walked towards the girls, irritation rising to irrational proportions.  When I reached them, the girls were standing, passing the ball between them, and poor E wanted to play with them, watching them, circling. I felt so badly for her. S couldn’t be bothered with anything, as long as she didn’t have to get into her car seat. But poor E wanted to play and couldn’t, by herself or with other girls.

I have two older teen girls, so I remember them being both the little and the big kids. Childhood trauma can produce both monstrous parents and hyper-sensitive parents. I always watched the way my older girls behaved around smaller children and taught them to think protectively of smaller children. I don’t let any parent off the hook, though, if you have common sense, you teach your kids to play nice, it’s as simple as that.

E was trying to climb the steps again, driven down once more as if on some cattle run in her puffy jacket and little  UGG boots.

So help these kids if they upset my kid again... I grabbed her down. “You can’t play on the slide honey because these girls are hogging the stairs.”  Hogging. What a funny word. I would have said “monopolizing” but that would have meant nothing to the girls, and probably less to their idiot mothers. I stared at them while I held E, squirming to get down. They paid me no mind, Kim Kardashian’s failed wedding somehow still a topic of interest. I wondered what else someone could get away with. Maybe I should just take E and cut through their daughters like Rob Gronkowski mowing down the Jets’ defense.

I stared at the mothers and placed E on her feet. The girls were back to their basketball game and when E and her pretty smile and eagerness to be included was too obvious for them to bear, one of them suggested they play somewhere else. Poor E. She was devastated. My anxiety was up so high and so much anger had welled up. These responses probably have more to do with to do with my own half-buried recollections of the playground as a little kid. And I don’t blame the kids of course. I just know I would have prodded my own girls into sharing the ball with the smaller girl, and I sure as shit wouldn’t let them run amok on the playground without regard for the littler kids. It’s not only rude, it’s dangerous.

“E, we need to go anyway, sweet.”

“NOOOOOOO!” She started to cry. I started to lose it.

“E, those girls won’t let you use the steps and they won’t play with you. THEY ARE RUDE.”

The mothers looked at me briefly. E cried and I stared angrily, wishing one of them would say something to me.  E wanted to play so badly. When she is in school, maybe my mental state won’t be so bad, maybe I will join the PTO like I did when my older girls were elementary students. That ensures that your kids are never left out of anything. But for now I had just this crying baby.

I have a small bearing but my Borderline (or my mother’s example) renders me fearless in most situations, happy to take on anyone if I am right. (Sometimes I am wrong, and I can admit it.)  I have walked away only once – a lumberjack of a man was flipping out on me for parking on his street one morning before work.  I owned a waterfront condo a block over, but there were no spaces available on my street, the whole neighborhood was resident sticker parking only, so he could see I was local. He went crazy. He must have been crazier than I am now. It was 7 in the morning, I had just dropped off my older girls at school and was locking up my car and walking to the train station. I don’t remember what he said, but he walked away from his pickup truck, a little girl and boy looking on, and started to terrorize me. I shouted back to him that if he could read, he should examine my windshield and observe the sticker.

“I pay property taxes in this neighborhood, asshole!”

“What did you say to me?”

“Dude, go fuck yourself.”

The things he shouted – sexual things (I had never heard the term “hosebag” before, much less been called one) – and the violence with which he spewed them scared me more than his quick, aggressive strides towards me or his apparent abandonment of his children to terrorize a woman.  I turned the corner before he got to me and the police were there, working a construction detail (sidewalk repaving). I was shaking and I wanted to say something to the cops but I was afraid I would cry if I opened my mouth.  I told my husband, although the guy had been much bigger, my husband was from Somerville and had the scars to demonstrate his own willingness to take on anyone. Fortunately for Lumberjack Dad, we never saw him around the neighborhood.  He was probably too busy killing off hookers on GTA.

But back to the playground. In my mind I walked over and threw a jab into each of their throats. That shut them up long enough to endure my tirade.   That’s as far as my fantasy got. I had to pick up poor E.  It was late, it was time for her nap, and we would come back when ordinary playground behavior wouldn’t throw me into a murderous mental frenzy. I won’t ever actually hit anyone. But god do I sometimes want to.

"I will END you!"



  1. I really enjoyed reading this! thank you!

  2. I absolutely love the photograph at the end!

  3. That’s really upsetting. 😦 I completely agree with this comment you made: “if you have common sense, you teach your kids to play nice, it’s as simple as that.”

    Now, I’m not a mother myself, so I don’t have much authority in this, but I just can’t stand it when mothers blatantly let their kids run amok, especially when they are obviously not playing nice with other kids.

    My mom came from a very abusive family, she therefore continued the cycle of abuse with me. She was never confident enough to stand up for her kids. I remember her saying she used to cajole my brother into the playground and he’d run back and latch on to her skirts. I on the other hand, despite being in a wheelchair, was not so timid then, so I’d beg to be taken over there.

    Unfortunately kids are not so considerate at a young age–that’s where parent’s should step in– and I got taunted a lot. Although, I admit, I managed to get by pretty well in my early early years. I think middle school was the worst. But isn’t it for everyone?

    Then there was this fifth grade teacher that didn’t let me go to recess because she was terrified I’d break, so she kept me inside. Again, my mother did not know what to do even though she was furious. There was also the language barrier.

    It must be so frustrating and so rough. Thinking about being a mother makes me quiver. hahah

    And that man! oh my jeezus. “killing off hookers on GTA” is probably right. ha. Funny and sad and true.

    I give it up to any mother, especially those who TRY and those dealing with mental health issues.

    • Oh dear, are you still in a wheelchair? I can’t imagine. Your mom didn’t put you there, did she? Christ, I can’t imagine, I guess we all have our dynamics & they all sound unmanageable to everyone, and I guess if they were manageable we wouldn’t have mental suffering, would we?

      Funny, my mom was a schizophrenic, violent alcoholic, very wild, & I would only take hits when she was drunk off her ass (‘Mom, we don’t have anything to make a sandwich with” – closed fist to the face, no school for 2 weeks, her trying to dress my face up with Paris Hilton glasses to leave the house, I guess she always felt bad afterwards, but she always taught me to fight everything & everyone. But anyone can be confident when they’re A. crazy & B. always in their hometown. Cultural barriers, that probably adds stress to a parent. Shit, I had cultural stress living in Brooklyn!

      I just jumped onto your blog today so will take some time this week to pore through your posts, but are you close w your mom after growing up under those circumstances? Mine killed herself, so I never had a chance to be bullshit with her (well, yes, I was bullshit at her for killing herself, so that’s not strictly true) or to forgive her (which is what I would do now) or really even get to know her. But, at least w people who have been sexually abused, I’m always surprised when victims associate with their tormentors, although I very happily avoided that particular brand of horror. Probably didn’t hurt to have a father whose violence was legendary in our neighborhood.

      Sleep well, so happy to have come upon your blog. Big hugs!

      • Yes, I use a wheelchair mainly, though I can walk a little bit these days. I’m going to ask for crutches. I have a walker but I hate using it.

      • Damnit.

      • No. GOD NO. haha. My mom didn’t put me in a wheelchair. I was born with brittle bone disease. But considering i have brittle bone disease, the fact that she smacked me around a lot didn’t help. Like I said, she had many issues that were never taken care of. I guess compared to the abuse she had mine was mild, but we can’t compare can’t we? Comparing isn’t healthy for the mind or spirit.

      • No, I don’t suppose it is. Regret rather sucks too. Oh, and guilt! You were dealt out in the womb. You actually sound like you have a wonderful attitude, I sink into the ground over the slightest little thing…do you post about it? I’ve heard of rare diseases, of course, anything like Samuel L Jackson’s character in ‘Unbreakable’? He was a badass. You sound like a bit of a badass. You sound, well, unbreakable 🙂

      • LOL. Sorry, one, just one more comment before I leave.

        Sammuel L Jackson SUPPOSEDLY played someone with my condition but let me tell you it is NOTHING like the character he plays.

        First off, I’m three feet tall and I only have the moderate form of the condition. Samuel L Jackon’s character is what? Nearly six feet? I don’t know how tall he is, but his character is supposed to have the most severe type and yet he’s taller than me and walks? WTF? No. ha. It’s so off.

        Anyway, glad you found me. It’s good to write about it. I’ve written a post on rare diseases, and yes, mine is quite rare. It’s the reason my family moved to the States.

        Bigs hugs. Stay strong

      • And you, hon! You’re a superhero anyway. Cape! Cape!

      • I never even identified with being abused actually, not until I started going to therapy. Only then did I say to myself, “Shit, you really took a lot”

        I guess my mom was a lost child, or like my first therapist said, “P, your mom was a child mother” or “child adult”… I don’t remember.

        I am now closer with her than I’ve ever been. She finally got help. But only because I told my therapist about this really bad fight we had three years ago where she could have god… I don’t even want to say. But the fight was so bad my therapist called adult protective services and sort of made my mom get help. It’s amazing how much she’s changed! More than I have! ha.

        God, I’m so sorry about your mother. I can only imagine… My heart goes out to you. I hope you make peace with it some day.

        I’ll tell you something though. My mother, supposedly tried to kill herself (i think it was one of those half assed attempts) when my brother was a baby. It was post-traumatic depression. Sadly, my aunt did commit suicide. Her husband was being abusive to her. I wish I could go visit my cousins to tell them not to hate their mother because she really did love them.

        I guess it runs in my mom’s side the family–the crazies.

        It’s tough. We get stronger.

  4. I meant post-partum. I better get to bed soon.
    Oh, and I’ve heard about Brooklyn. Sometimes I think I’ll move to NY some day…


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