“I wouldn’t let him play in the knife drawer.”
“I closed the refrigerator door.”
“Buzz Lightyear’s knee is bent.”
“He saw a beetle.”
“We took the core out of his apple.”
The result: Tears, snot, screams, anguish, all-out nuclear fits.
This dark side of toddlerhood, consistently and accurately documented by New York dad Greg Pembroke on his Tumblr page, “Reasons My Son Is Crying,” has gone viral the way honest portraits of parenting tend to do.
Because we’ve all been there.
We’ve all seen it, the way your kid can be happily bobbing along with a red balloon one minute and then – horror of horrors, it pops! or it escapes into the sky! or Mommy tries to make sure you don’t strangle yourself with the string! – and all of a sudden, the world is a cruel and soulless place.
Pembroke’s blog has garnered national attention and inspired a global photo contest, in which other parents have submitted snapshots of their own children in the throes of despair. They’re doing this for a shot at winning a new digital camera, of course, but also because these photos are funny.
Wait, what? Did I just admit that I laugh at kids having temper tantrums? What kind of inhumane person does that?
And lots of people, apparently.
Scrapbooks of both my kids’ toddler years include a least a few photos of them in the midst of tantrums – on the front porch, in their car seats, at the kitchen table, on Santa’s lap.
To me, those portraits capture the raw emotion of those Terrible Twos (and Threes, and Fours …), when the underdeveloped prefrontal cortex behind those furrowed little brows makes your child a virtual bundle of kindling primed to ignite at the slightest spark.
We didn’t let her play in the street.
His train track didn’t have enough “switchy pieces.”
We made him wear shoes.
Several years ago the Internet erupted over a photo exhibit that featured crying tots: “End Times,” a collection by California photographer Jill Greenberg. It featured images of toddlers in various states of despair, from quiet pouts to open-mouthed rage. (To see some of the photos, go to www.art.jillgreenberg.com/tagged/end-times.)
Like that exhibit, Pembroke’s Tumblr page has prompted some criticism and backseat parenting, which the dad blogger so far has shrugged off.
“I want everyone to know they can stop diagnosing the boys now, they’re fine,” he told the Christian Science Monitor recently.
“Charlie’s not autistic, there’s no weird food allergy causing their noses to run. Oh, and no, William’s not dehydrated and that’s not what’s causing him to cry. Wow! They’re just normal kids crying over normal things.”
That’s right, normal. And volatile. And often hilarious, at least in retrospect.