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We Get Hate Mail!
This one's from Lehigh Valley, PA, about this recent Advice Goddess column, "Where The Wild Things Aren't."

A lady (see above entry) sent out invitations to her daughter's wedding, noting that there would be an "Adult Reception." Oh, the uproar. The child-indulgent went loonytunes. I told her to stand her ground. My response: essentially -- It's your party, you can ban screaming brats if you want to.

The lady who sent the angry letter below (I think it's a lady) probably reads me in the Allentown Morning Call. This is actually the first in a series of letters from the same lady; this one postmarked December 30.

The letter I got from her last week (same handwriting/postmark code) was signed "Anonymous." Ooh, clever. Gutsy! What does she think I might do if I have her name and address, mail her a bunch of exploding bad prose?

angryletterkidwedding.jpg

In case it's hard for you to read, here's an excerpt:

Nice you are not. Bitter, heartless, abusive & miserable, yes! Going to great lengths to call children "tiny tyrants" & "savages" along with food fight elaboration is sick. What happened to you in your childhood? Hope children are not part of your life. They don't deserve you! Seek therapy! You are sick! Also a stinko advice columnist!

I love the serial hate-mail writers, especially the hilariously humorless ones. As for her suggestion that kids don't "deserve" me, the kids really don't seem to give a shit.

My 10-year-old friend Oliver, for example, loved that he got to read the above column while it was in progress (I called him to fact-check the food items I used with him). He said the column cracked him up, and asked me when I was coming to see him and his family.

I actually have a few kids who are my friends. Two are the kids, 3 and 6, of my closest neighbors. The moment they spot me, they yell, "Amy! Amy! Amy!" and drag me off to show me their latest fort or dinosaur warren they've built.

Oliver, Avery, and Sophie are in New York. Their mom produced a TV thing I was in. They've since adopted me. I call them "my sitcom family," because they're hilarious -- never a dull moment, and they'd be depressed and so would I if I didn't stay with them when I'm in New York. (I think they secretly hate it when Gregg comes because I stay with him in hotel instead of on their sofa bed.)

Perhaps I'm not giving my all to communicate what a "bitter, heartless, abusive & miserable" individual I truly am? The truth is, I don't dislike kids; I enjoy some kids as individuals, just like I like (certain) adults. I just really, really resent the hell out of bad parents.

Posted by aalkon at January 15, 2007 9:11 AM

Comments

I loooooove kids, but I also loooooove grownup events at which kids are not appropriate...not least because they'd be horrendously bored. Which is something that all of these "my kid must be EVERYWHERE" with me parents don't seem to realize - the average child does NOT want to attend art shows, opera performances, or weddings. Now, I'll grant that it's probably tough to leave a well-behaved 12-year-old at home and attend a wedding at which numerous adults get drunk and act like asses in a way that your child wouldn't, but that's not what's being discussed here. And, not that this makes or breaks your argument, but Miss Manners is perfectly in agreement with you on the impropriety of parents throwing a tantrum about not being able to bring their kids. My parents adored my brother and me, but they were happpy to be able to get some parents-only time for a while at events such as weddings and parties. Makes me wonder if some of these "my child or nothing!" couples are terrified of actually having to talk with one another without the kids around...

Posted by: marion at January 15, 2007 5:53 AM

Hey, is there anything wrong with disliking children in general? I'm not even apologetic about it. I think 85% of them are annoying as hell and I avoid being around them. I have friends with older kids who are okay, but the little ones ... eeeuuuuuwwww. The noises, fluids, and smells they emit are assaults upon the senses. Children ... I'm so glad I found out what causes them and had it FIXED!

Posted by: Pirate Jo at January 15, 2007 5:58 AM

No, there isn't. I used to say I "loathed" children, but I found that what I really don't like is underparented children when I got to know a few of them. This doesn't mean I'm not with you on the noises, fluids, and smells thing). I just leave when those things start being emitted (providing they're taking place in the parents' own home). That's the beauty of not having children, merely visiting them. I'm the fun bad aunt -- the one who finds out what movie Oliver is mom-approved to see, then takes him to Bad Santa when that movie is sold out.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 15, 2007 6:15 AM

Personally, I find that I don't like about 85% of people, regardless of age, and that annoying adults generally have annoying children. Conversely, any adult I truly enjoy spending time with who chooses to spawn generally has a kid I likewise think is awesome. I think it's more than just the parenting (although that's surely the lion's share of it), I think it also has to do with the genetic aspects of personality. It's truly amazing how many personality and temperament traits children have in common with one or both parent.

Posted by: Melissa G at January 15, 2007 6:55 AM

I'm with you on the 85%. My neighbors are amazing parents -- really interesting, nice people, with very nice, interesting kids. They want their kids to be well-behaved, and see to it that they are. That's why I like being around them. They aren't perfect at every moment, but the parents are loving but VERY firm about what is and isn't acceptable. Which is what the lost art of parenting used to be.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 15, 2007 7:01 AM

> I'm so glad I found out what causes
> them and had it FIXED!

Exactly. I warmly remember the day when I was a little boy and learned that you didn't actually have to grow and start a family, that it was optional.

Bill Mahar said it in a TV interview once: "Adulthood is where the action is."

In the October 1990 Spy a guy named Paul Rudnick wrote a brilliant article about how childhood is out of control in this culture. Paraphrase: 'Children are as annoying as adults, but useless after 4:00pm.' And he listed the four adult pleasures to which children contribute nothing: Complexity, sex, conversation and tailoring.

Posted by: Crid at January 15, 2007 7:50 AM

Fran Lebowitz is my child philosopher of choice:

All God's children are not beautiful. Most of God's children are, in fact, barely presentable.

I think many people who have children are secretly very sorry they did. There's no reason fucking needs to lead to that kind of end.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 15, 2007 8:00 AM

I've got three of my own and "tiny tyrants" & "savages" pretty well nails it, Amy. But they know they have to put on the mask of an acceptable personality if they're ever going out of the house with me, and that's about as good as you can do, I think.

Posted by: Todd Fletcher at January 15, 2007 8:11 AM

Todd, I'd guess people see you out with your children and silently thank you.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 15, 2007 9:49 AM

Why is the whole "no children at weddings" even an issue?? The wedding ceremony is about the couple getting hitched, which parents seem to forget. They aren't obligated to invite children. They aren't really obligated to invite anyone! Whoever is sending the invitations gets to say who comes and who doesn't. End of story. Get a babysitter or send regrets. Oh, and that also extends to not showing up with a boyfriend or girlfriend if "and guest" isn't specified or you haven't gotten permission ahead of time. If the recipient of the invitation is displaying such pissy, entitle-bitch behavior, maybe the couple should scratch them off the list altogether. (Incidentally, did my grandmother send that note?? It looks a lot like her handwriting.)

Posted by: amh18057 at January 15, 2007 10:42 AM

It's a testament to how manners are going (or have gone) entirely down the tubes. I like to call this "The ME! ME! ME! Generation."

Your take on it seems obvious, doesn't it? But, from the mail I got, it apparently isn't to a whole lot of people.

If the recipient of the invitation is displaying such pissy, entitle-bitch behavior, maybe the couple should scratch them off the list altogether.

I, too, see this as a great way to get rid of unwanted "friends."

Does your grandma live in or near Allentown, and read the Morning Call?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 15, 2007 11:15 AM

Did anyone notice that "Children" was capitalized the first time she wrote it. Much like "God" is capitalized. Hmmmm.

Posted by: Christina at January 15, 2007 12:26 PM

Ooh, good point. Quite telling. I actually noticed that the first time around, then got too involved in iPhoto-ing it to remember.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 15, 2007 12:40 PM

At least it didn't say it was going to pray for you! (Extrapolating from a recent study, that might cause your advice to get worse rather than better. ;-) )

Posted by: Melissa G at January 15, 2007 2:09 PM

I'm glad someone else noticed that the handwriting example above looks like that of an older woman. My guess is that she recognized the behavior of her children, or more likely grandchildren, (as did the authors of the rest of your hate mail) as well as her own parenting skills in your response. Gee, do you think you touched a nerve, Amy?

By the way, your column runs in my local independent newspaper. I look forward to it every week!

Posted by: Rebecca at January 15, 2007 4:38 PM

Aww, thanks...where do you live?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 15, 2007 7:30 PM

You're more than welcome! I live in Missoula, Montana. Your column appears in the Independent: http://www.missoulanews.com

Posted by: Rebecca at January 16, 2007 10:28 AM

I have a 14-year old stepdaughter. My wife and I also plan on having another child. And no matter how much I would care about my kids, I don't see any reason why anyone should give a rat's behind about my kids unless it's part of their job to do so (daycare workers, teachers, etc). If a child acts out inappropriately in public, it's the parent's responsibiity to deal with the situation, and apologize if it impacts other people. The odd thing, I've seen numerous parents that seem quite content to let their kids act obnoxiously in public, yet would probably be irate if they were having to listen to someone else's child go bezerk. Nice double-standard. If I don't want to hear other kids doing it, I don't want my kids doing it either.

Regarding the "hate mail:" I read your columns and your blog pretty regularly. There are many occasions where I agree with you, and others where I don't. If I feel that I have a good counter-point to something posted, or just something to contribute, I do. Her letter has no "point." It just basically says "how dare you have a different opinion than I do, you're just a big heartless poo-poo head!" The best part, is that she agrees with your advice ("it's their party, they can do what they like"), but doesn't like the manner in which is was given (honestly, with humor, and intelligently). If anyone needs therapy, it's someone that gets so easily offended over something so trivial.

Posted by: Jamie at January 16, 2007 11:45 AM

OH PLEASE!

Several months ago, I was on a 10-hour flight sitting next to a two-year old who threw toys all over the plane, kicked the seat in front of her REPEATEDLY, screamed and cried, and generally made those around her MISERABLE! While all this was going on, her mother sat with headphones on and watched a movie. I did NOT blame this child for her behavior. I blamed her mother for not preparing her for the long flight via books, toys, activities, etc.

I have a 19-month old grandson. I will NOT take him to a decent restaurant nor will I take him to see his great-grandparents because he will terrorize the place! Sure, he's in a "stage". He's in the "destroy everything" stage and my parents have accumulated a number of pricey pieces of crystal, glass, and art that SCREAM "BREAK ME" to children. I don't expect them to pack everything away just so that I can bring my grandchild to visit them for the weekend!

Would I take him to a wedding? HAHAHAHAHA! I'm not in a cloud of denial here. I LOVE that little boy! I ADORE him! I CHERISH every minute I have with him.....but it's his parents' and my responsibility to keep him in an appropriate environment.

I've had my kids and raised them to be people with whom I enjoy spending time. I didn't "inflict" others with my precious darlings unless they asked me to!....and these people have explicitly asked their guests NOT to bring children! It's THEIR party and they can invite whomever they wish!

Posted by: Laurel at January 19, 2007 9:29 PM

Laurel, if all mothers were like you (and my friend Hillary, who only took her "spirited" son out to dinner at a bowling alley restaurant until he was suitable for adult places)...well...can you start a school or something? A reform school for bad parents, that is.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 19, 2007 11:09 PM

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