Dear Cat
The Tail of the Cat

It's Not Him, It's Me

Birthday parties. What in the world is it about the stupid BIRTHDAY PARTIES?

We've gone to a few very successful birthday parties since, well, the very unsuccessful ones. I've gotten selective about which ones we attend -- if it seems like a low-key affair at your house, yes. If it sounds like something with a lot of structure and set activities, I usually decline. 

We went to a party this weekend. At someone's house. It was big yet fun and low-key and full of general mayhem, in a good way. There was also...a petting zoo. 

It was so cute! So fun! Delightful! Some ducks and chickens and bunnies and a pony whose head barely reached my knee (but whose penis practically touched the ground and I'm sorry I can't help but notice it I mean look it's right there and it's huge OMG). Noah initially resisted the call to round up around the enclosure and meet all the animals, but by the end of the handler's introductions he was begging to have a turn inside. 

He stepped in and accepted a lap-mat of some old carpet and the tiniest baby bunny ever. He held it gently and giggled and declared his love for it over and over again. Jason and I beamed from the other side of the fence and I wondered how much this sort of thing cost, like I do at every party we attend because I guess a successful party turns me into Liz Lemon in Cleveland. This is a great party! ! I want to have this party! I want to live at this party!

And that's about what I was thinking around the time Noah suddenly decided he was done holding the bunny. And...I don't know what happened, except that...one second the bunny was on his lap and then...oh my God...the bunny was on the ground. He dropped the bunny. 

There was a collective gasp from every adult in the vicinity and Jason and I kind of screeched in unison at him and the handler scooped up the bunny and...oh my God...Noah was LAUGHING. 

The handler scolded him. "That's not funny," he said. Jason took Noah inside for a Serious Talking To while I just sort of stood there in the mob of parents and kids, hoping maybe the ground would open up and swallow me up. Oh hi, yeah. I'm the mother of the kid who dropped a baby bunny on its head and then laughed about it. Parenting win! Wanna playdate? 

Noah spent a few minutes in time out and then rejoined the party. Just in time for the animal handler to bring out one last friend: a tortoise. He plopped it outside the enclosure in front of a crowd of mostly unsupervised toddlers and preschoolers and instructed them to only pet its shell, and NOT to touch its head. 

I crouched down with Noah and repeated these instructions. He patted the shell and then tried to get a better look at the turtle's face. I pulled him back slightly because I just had a really bad feeling about this -- there were easily a dozen kids crowding around the turtle and I felt the level of impulse control was collectively dropping.

And then, for reasons I simply cannot fathom, Noah raised his foot and moved it slowly in the direction of that turtle's head, like he was going to kick it.

I had my hands on him again within a millisecond and yanked him completely away from the crowd and the turtle. I looked up and there was a finger in my face. It was the animal handler.

"KEEP HIM," he said, moving his finger from me to Noah, putting much emphasis on the word him, "AWAY FROM THE ANIMAL."

***

When I was in first grade our teacher attempted a slightly too ambitious art project involving covering cardboard stars with aluminum foil. I guess she bought the wrong foil or something, because we all had a terrible time with it. The foil kept ripping and puckering and nobody -- not even The Kids Who Were Good At Art (of which I was one of) -- could get their star looking remotely decent.

The teacher kept giving out new pieces of foil whenever we tore ours, and after having my hand raised for awhile, I approached her in the aisle and requested a new one. 

Instead of giving me the foil, she spun around and yelled at me. She used my full name and told me to go sit down at my desk that instant and use the foil I already had.

I went back to my desk and cried. I remember the sight of that shredded foil and my ugly star blurring up under my tears. I did the best I could to fix it but it still looked terrible -- doubly terrible, now that I was one of The Kids Who Get Yelled At (of which I'd never, ever been). 

I get that my teacher was probably stressed out and thoroughly annoyed, and that my request for a third or fourth or fifth piece of foil simply came at the absolute wrong moment, and I wasn't supposed to step away from my desk in the first place, but oh, to this day I remember everything about that moment -- the tone of her voice and the look on her face. 

She hung everybody's star over their desks anyway, Mine was not a Good Star. I hated it and hated looking at it and when they finally came down I tore it into little pieces before tossing it in the trash. 

***

I guess you can add "birthday party petting zoo animal handler guy" to the list of people I never expected to get yelled at by. But even now, many many hours later, I can still remember everything about THAT moment. The way he instantly singled Noah out as the troublemaker, the way his voice changed from the enthusiastic party entertainer to General Serious Angry Person, and the way he turned the word "him" into something more like "your out-of-control sociopathic kid."

My chest deflated like I'd been punched. I nodded meekly and grabbed Noah's hand and walked quickly and wordlessly back inside the house, where I proceeded to give Noah a verbal dressing down of epic proportions.

Jason -- who hadn't witnessed any of it -- came in and tried to find out what happened. He thought, from the way I was talking to Noah, that he'd actually kicked the turtle. Which...he hadn't. And...I don't think he was really going to. I think maybe he thought he could get around the "no touching" rule if he didn't use his hands? Maybe he was just overwhelmed and weirdly impulsive? Or maybe he wanted to scare the turtle? Oh God, why would he want to scare the turtle? WHAT. THE. FUCK.

Another father overheard my shaky-voiced explanation about what happened and declared it all to be bullshit, there's a good 50-plus kids here under the age of five (many of whom are, BY THE WAY, considered special needs), the turtle shouldn't have been outside the enclosure in the first place. 

And I agreed with that to a point, but still. I looked back at Noah and his mostly oblivious face and got whacked with a huge secondary wave of emotion. He didn't care that I was upset, he didn't care that he might have hurt or scared the animals, he only cared that I was making him sit in time-out. I felt kind of woozy at all the implications of the situation. Where's his empathy? Is this normal? This isn't normal. What have we done wrong? We have pets, we love our pets, his father can't even bring himself to kill a mouse. He laughed that time I accidentally stepped on Ceiba's paw and she yelped, I'm always reminding him to be more gentle. How did I miss this?  I'm a good mother. I work so hard. I love him so much. How did I end up being the mother of That Child at the birthday party?

Or, conversely: How did I end up being the mother who allows six words from a complete stranger to send her into an absolute tailspin of parenting confidence?

I told Jason I wanted to leave, but he insisted we stay. We swapped kid duties so I could watch Ezra and have a break from Noah and my face-melting anger and embarrassment. Ezra watched the ducks inside the pen and tried to imitate the quacking. The handler asked if I wanted to bring him inside. I politely declined, saying I thought he was a bit too young. 

(Fuck you, I also thought.) 

(I'm sorry, I also thought, immediately after.)

We came home and had several more talks about what happened. Noah was able to correctly parrot back what he had done wrong, though I couldn't help but feel that he still wasn't getting the why. Jason Googled some books on being nice to animals. I went through our DVD collection and plucked out anything that presented people or animals getting hurt as "funny." 

And I calmed down. I dialed back the terrible fears that This Was All So Indicative Of Something. Noah is not going to grow up to be a serial killer because he may have almost maybe thought about kicking a turtle at a four-year-old's birthday party. It was not my proudest parenting moment but I must be doing okay if it actually does end up being one of my worst.  I thought about what happened in first grade and laughed at myself, a little bit. Deep breaths, moving on, sack up, ho. 

He's still a Good Star. 

Comments

Megan (Best of Fates)

I think it's generally accepted that children don't get empathy at young ages - that it's something you get as you grow up. And clearly you're a responsible parent who is teaching her children the right way, so he's obviously not going to turn out like a serial killer. I think you're definitely okay - and really? Petting zoo parties are SO Mrs. Doubtfire.

e

When I was little I used to step on ant hills and use a magnifying glass to burn bugs with the sun's glare.

I look back on that and hate myself. As an adult - and even as a child, once I was old enough to actually understand - I love animals and am kind to all living things....even icky bugs and ants that show up in my house.

I would have panicked about my kid in that sitaution too, but I think the previous comment is right that kids at that age just don't get it yet.

caleal

Okay. This is sick, Amy. This is sick. But when my cousins and I were younger, we would find frogs, put them in a lunch box, and throw it up in the air as high as it could, and let it crash to the ground. Over and over. Basically, we killed frogs. Over and over. I think I was maybe 6? at the time. They were slightly older.

None of us it a sociopath. We all had pets, we just... didn't connect those animals to our pets. On the cusp of knowing what true empathy is, and what not. I feel terribly embarrassed admitting this, FYI. But I know that the hurting animals thing, it's a RED FLAG, and it's scary... but it's also... not.

I feel terrible about it now. Not so much then. I'm sure it will be the same with Noah. He just doesn't get it yet.

Jessi

I have felt so much like this. Torn between being horrified that I'm the mother of THAT kid and also enraged that someone treated my kid like THAT kid and also terrified that my kid is THAT kid. I so feel for you. In a clenched up stomach kind of way.

I read somewhere that kids are PSYCHOLOGICALLY INCAPABLE of developing empathy until a certain point (usually right around six) and that they develop it almost magically overnight. Brynna is 5 and half and magically developed it about two months ago. So, I wouldn't worry about that part.

This same place that I can't remember (Parents?, maybe?) said that before that children are basically parroting your displays of empathy, but they don't really internalize any of it. Which leads to experimenting. Which sounds like what this was. Experimenting.

So. Fuck you, Mr. Animal Handler Man, and your complete lack of understanding of the psychology of children, basic safety precautions and special needs.

Emily

Personally, I think it's kind of age appropriate...and he'll grow out of. I completely empathize though - I don't like being yelled at, ever. And I definitely understand the auto-response of "omg, he's going to be a serial killer." Those thoughts plague my mind all the time, mostly when my son hits the cat (I know, not good), or willingly hits someone out of the blue. Then again, I also had the though "OMG, he's going to be pimp!", when he slapped my mother in laws rear end. I guess that's a whole other feeling of terror though.

Noah's most definitely a star - and I'm willing to guess that your readers all agree.

Janet

My first time at camp (8? maybe 9?) we were doing the exciting cookout! And cooking chicken drumsticks over a fire! Using this complicated grate-thing that needed to be closed with teh chicken inside and I dropped the chicken. And my counselor yelled at me "Oh no! Less chicken for everyone! You're fault! (angry noises from an authority figure). I felt awful. Embarassed. Ashamed. And, twenty years later, my rational, grown-up self is just now starting to think "we could have effing washed that chicken off. It was raw. It was going to be cooked." But, I was so embarassed and ashamed and any time an authority figure yelled at me after that I wanted to hid and immediately blamed myself without questioning.

So, I feel you on the star moment. And, also, from one scared kid to the other. Grown-ups can be assholes, too. Even petting zoo ones. Jason and other Dad are right to call bullshit. The turtle is fine. Repeat, the turtle is fine. It always has been fine. The turtle was never in any real danger.

I'm not a Mom so it's hard for me to know what to say here except, I feel you and sometimes, grown-ups screw up and are assholes but it isn't our fault.

Leandra

I think some kids are just more empathetic than others, too. I was a huge animal lover even as a very young child. I can remember seeing a stage production of Little Women when I was very young and crying not because Beth died, but when she told a story about when her BIRD died. Yeah.

However, neither of my kids (ages 4.5 and 7.5) seem to be particularly empathetic when it comes to animals or people for that matter.

And yeah, fuck that animal handler guy. He's an ass.

jodifur

Oh Amy. That Man should not be doing b-day parties with children. You do not speak to parents of children, of a guest of the paying host that way. Ever.

Michael had a terrible, horrible weekend. And I was out of town. And Doug would call me with these reports and I would say things like "typical children do not act like this" and he would say, "are you sure about that?" Some things just are. There are no why.

I wish I could give you a hug.

Jenn

I think Noah was just being a little kid. He's a geart little boy and wont grow up to be a serial killer. :) He was probably just curious about the turtle's face... not trying to kick it. Besides, that animal handler dude was really stupid, giving little kids baby animals to play with and then freaking out at Noah. He had to know someone would drop a bunny. It's okay. My brother used to rip the wings off of flies when he was Noah's age. He turned out fine. It's just a kid thing.

Beth

There's nothing wrong with your kid. Honestly, I had to laugh at Noah dropping the bunny. I think that's hilarious. I mean, it's not like he wrung its neck and then bit into it.

The animal handler was an asshole. That's all there is to it.

Julie

My sister and I used to cut off the tails of lizards when we were little, because we knew they would grow back. As an adult now, and FIERCE animal lover, I cannot believe I did this. My sister is now a vegan, for god's sake. We didn't connect to it, then, even though we had pets. I echo what 'caleal' said, I feel so embarrassed to admit it, but hopefully hearing these stories from your readers will help you to not keep worrying over it. It sounds like you and Jason are handling it just right to me.

Heather

Oh, oh oh, Amy. First of all, hugs to you. This IS normal. Kids don't understand empathy or being kind to animals. My daughter shoves my cat off the chair daily. Compassion is learned! You didn't do anything wrong...he's still learning, you're still learning. It's going to be okay.

CJ

My son is about a week older than Noah and he has empathy when it suits him. Other times he doesn't seem to notice or care. I am told by people who know more than me about child development that this is not unusual. Here's hoping.

Erin

That's actually pretty typical for a child that age. (I also have a four year old with some shall-we-say "empathy challenges." Loves to hit her sister and then laugh and laugh!) Empathy doesn't develop until much later. So no empathy plus poor impulse control (HELLO four year old!) plus overstimulation with animals and party and whatever else. He's not a sociopath. He's a four year old who got overstimulated.

Since we're sharing, I used to pull the wings off of butterflies when I was about his age. And I once tried to set my cat on fire. (W.T.F.???) I ADORE animals and, like Jason, can't kill a mouse. I even feel somewhat bad when I flatten a mosquito in the act of biting me. So despite terrible horrible behavior with animals as a small child, I grew up not to be a serial killer or even someone who harms animals. So will Noah. Deep breath, Mama!

Pam

PLEASE tell me you're contacting the provider of these petting zoo services and reporting the hell out of that man! Yes, they have every right to protect their animals BUT he should have KNOWN the ages of the party attendees and NOT brought any animals that could have easily gotten hurt like that. Jodifur is right (love her blog, too!). If you knew there were other kids like Noah there, he should have, too, and been prepared. Publicly humiliating a parent AND A FOUR YEAR OLD is not acceptable!

catherino

Empathy is a learned skill. And you WILL teach Noah that skill because you are an empathetic person and a good parent. I would only be worried if you completely blew it off (like certain in-laws of mine who I am quite sure are raising a textbook example of a sociopath) and didn't use those moments to teach your child.

We're all (well, those of us who care) mortified when our children do something like you described. But you handle it just the way you did and make sure you take advantage of those moments to teach and model empathy. He'll get it. He's a good, sweet boy and you're good parents. You can't lose with that combo ;)

Amanda

The handler was just protecting the animals, and Noah didn't just almost kick a turtle. He dropped a bunny and laughed. I don't think that means he's a psycho by any means, but I also think this was a little more serious than a foil star.

Katie

Animal handler guy? Go sniff some goat butt.

lindsey @ the nosh pit

Oy. I feel your pain intensely. My son does the same "get overwhelmed and act impulsively" and while I know it is that and the people that know us know it is that, the people that don't think he is a total weirdo. He is oblivious to it, but it just absolutely breaks my heart and makes me feel like a total fucking failure.

and yes, the handler was an asshole.

Ris

Oh Amy, this kind of thing happens. It happens with the sweetest, kindest, most empathetic kids. Believe me, I've worked with a lot of kids. You ask them what they were thinking and they freeze up, or cry, or can't explain it themselves. Who knows what Noah was thinking. You're still a good mom and you guys reacted the correct way. Chins up, it'll be ok.

Sundry

You are probably going to get inundated with stories like this, but if I were in your shoes they would maybe make me feel a little better so here goes mine anyway: a while back I was showing Riley a cool bug and he reared up his foot and just stomped it. I felt SO AWFUL, like what have I done wrong that my kid kills something on purpose, etc etc, and I gave him a big crazy lecture about how that bug had a MOMMY and a DADDY and how SAD the bug's parents were going to be (no really, I said all that, which totally bit me in the ass later when he saw me swat a fly in the house and wanted to know what about the fly's MOMMY), and anyway, ANYWAY, it sounds like a purely awful situation for you but I think some kids just Don't Get It at a young age. And it seems like it should just be a natural instinct not to hurt other living things, but I don't think it always is.

lindsey @ the nosh pit

also, to address the issue of laughing. It is very possible that he was embarrassed and didn't really know what to do. so he laughed. my 4-year old does that too. It seems totally inappropriate to laugh, but I catch myself doing it too. not because I actually think it is funny, but because i am nervous and want to lighten the mood around me.

Sarah

When we were kids, my brother used to take the kittens we had, spin them around and let them go flying. He also used to take caterpillars and pull them apart. He is now a fine, upstanding, normal adult. I think that some kids just go through a phase where they experiment with power?

Stephanie

I don't have a child old enough yet to really contribute. But she swipes at our cat all the time and tries to grab her fur and tail and anything she can. We tell her no, and luckily our cat is very sweet and has never lashed out. But you did everything right. Jason did the strong and stern talking to, and you anticipated the turtle kicking just in time. You're not negligent at all.

But I agree with other commenters. This animal handler should not have yelled at you. He's should be well aware of his customer service skills, because yhe should be looking for future parties, right? Uggh.

Sorry you had to go through it, I would have probably burst into tears had it been me. I'm sure Noah gets it. Hugs.

Stephanie

I don't have a child old enough yet to really contribute. But she swipes at our cat all the time and tries to grab her fur and tail and anything she can. We tell her no, and luckily our cat is very sweet and has never lashed out. But you did everything right. Jason did the strong and stern talking to, and you anticipated the turtle kicking just in time. You're not negligent at all.

But I agree with other commenters. This animal handler should not have yelled at you. He's should be well aware of his customer service skills, because yhe should be looking for future parties, right? Uggh.

Sorry you had to go through it, I would have probably burst into tears had it been me. I'm sure Noah gets it. Hugs.

Wendryn

Kids don't get empathy for a while. You, at least, are working on teaching him - I've worked with foster kids who, at 10 or 12, still don't have a clue, and the foster system has to teach them. He'll get it. The animal handler shouldn't have brought babies. Little kids, even when they've grown into empathy, are notoriously clumsy. The animal handler acted like an ass.

You're doing fine. So is he. I've seen a lot of kids and a lot of parents in my time, and you sound like good ones. I don't say that lightly, either.

BunBun

So, actually I place the blame on the petting zoo company. Animals ARE so cute, but, they really should not have had rabbits there.

I own dwarf rabbits. They are SO adorable. But, this kind of commotion scares the s*** out of them. Not to be a downer but rabbits can be, literally, scared to death. Esp. baby rabbits. (For more info: http://www.rabbit.org/easter/ ).

A petting zoo should just have animals who are calmer and are more ok around kids, such as cows, (well-behaved) horses, sheep, tortoises are ok too, etc....not rabbits or animals that are easily scared/not good with kiddos.

So my point is, don't blame yourself!! The petting zoo should NOT have provided "high-risk" animals who can be easily dropped or hurt. (Bunnies are great, just not always the best with kids - special needs or not).

Valerie

My oldest son (now 13) is a lot like Noah. I've found that he often grins or laughs at inappropriate times, like when someone is hurt, because he doesn't know how to respond appropriately. I can't tell you how many times we yelled at him to stop smiling when telling us something bad had happened. He still has trouble occasionally grinning when he shouldn't, but at least now I know that just because he laughs or grins doesn't really mean he thinks it's funny. He just doesn't know how he should respond.

Arwen

Well, see, you're a better human being than I am, because if anyone had talked to me that way I would have been in his face, asking for his boss's name and his business license, and making nasty remarks at him for the rest of the event. In short, I would have totally eclipsed my kid's bad behavior with my own. So props to you for being a grownup.
Also: I think it is funny that we are all sitting here going on about empathy and how little kids don't have it. It is pretty clear to me that even if our kids never develop empathy, they at least will have a head start on the road to a career hauling a petting zoo around to little kids' birthday parties. What a jerk that guy was.

Arwen

Well, see, you're a better human being than I am, because if anyone had talked to me that way I would have been in his face, asking for his boss's name and his business license, and making nasty remarks at him for the rest of the event. In short, I would have totally eclipsed my kid's bad behavior with my own. So props to you for being a grownup.
Also: I think it is funny that we are all sitting here going on about empathy and how little kids don't have it. It is pretty clear to me that even if our kids never develop empathy, they at least will have a head start on the road to a career hauling a petting zoo around to little kids' birthday parties. What a jerk that guy was.

Cassidy

I am going to agree with many others and say that this was not in any way Noah's fault. It feels awful to be yelled at, so I completely understand how you are feeling. Baby animals who need to be treated delicately do not need to be with young children. Preschoolers are still learning about empathy and and how to be gentle. Just keep showing Noah the appropriate way to react, and it will sink in. The animal handler should not be working with young children. He may have wanted to protect his animals, but it is better to show Noah how to be appropriate rather than scolding. This man needs to work in a different field.

lb

The animal handler was out of line in speaking that way to you. However, he was probably right to protect the animals. YOU are a good mom, and were watching Noah like a hawk, and after seeing what was going on, you were staying close and monitoring him/removing him. BUT I bet that guy sees other parents who are not so vigilant. Snapping and finger pointing though, doesn't really cut it in a customer-service job. It does make you wonder what he has seen, though, to make him react that way. A lot harder cases than you and Noah, I bet!

Karen

Amy,
I see the same tendencies in my son. He doesn't understand why we automatically feel a certain way about things. We got a new puppy and when he punishes the puppy, he is harsh. I might hold the dog's snout when he bites, and tell him not to bite. I have to watch my son or he'll press the little pup's snount down. Then the dog nips at him again because he is angry.
I used to get angry when people told me to wait until my son was older to get him a puppy....now I agree.
I don't leave them unsupervised.

HolyMama!

okay, totally burst into tears over those last 5 words. (but it's that kind of day and i needed to because of my own kid - 16 - no empathy, nevermind not the time.)

the ONLY one you described who behaved inappropriately was the handler. Really. He coulda made that request in a way that wasn't demeaning. And Noah is being Noah to the very best of his ability. So are you. And I think that's pretty admirable. :)

agirlandaboy

That's a little bit o' brilliance there at the end. (You're a good star too.)

MommiePie

My son is too young to have any actual experience in this arena. My parenting skills probably also need to be actually put to use before I offer any assvice so I just have a question. Did you ask him WHY he dropped the bunny? And WHY he made that motion toward the turtle? If you did, I imagine his answer was "idk?", but I just wonder. I just wish it were possible to reason with children, but that is probably wishful thinking until they are a bit older...sigh!

Christy

I think the handler was out of line and could have HANDLED it better (fuck you, handler)

When I was about 10, I put my hamster on a ceiling fan with my cousin and turned it on. I was old enough to know better. I laughed. but I shouldn't have. I would never hurt an animal now.

also, I use to cry all the time at any sort of criticism, let alone getting yelled at by an authority figure. shit, I still do.

so yeah. don't feel bad! you are doing great and so is Noah. one step at a time.

Sarah

So mostly I'm just still laughing about the pony's schlong :-) Whatever else you do, don't let that get lost in the less-amusing moments of the petting-zoo party!
I totally feel for you, though- it's awful to be yelled at in public, also awful to feel that someone's angry at your child. The handler didn't handle himself very well, but you did everything right. And Noah didn't do anything out of the range of normal for a bunch of excited kids in a new situation. *Someone* was going to drop that bunny; if it's too fragile to be handled it really shouldn't have been there.

Maggie

That feeling of "is that really who my kid is and I don't know it" is one of the worst and one that you will probably find from the comments many of us have had at one time or another. I just got smacked with one recently when someone reminisced about my son and his behavior from more than 10 years ago and I still felt that "is that who he is and I don't really know him" feeling and had to talk to my mom about it to quell my fears.

Liz

I still cry when my husband, of all people, gets irritated with me. Which happens, like, daily. So don't feel bad about being emotional. It's really okay.

And just a few weeks ago, during a playdate at the park (where my girlfriends and I were severely outnumbered in the parents:children ratio), we observed one of our collective children adamantly poking a frog with a stick until he smooshed him into Oblivion or Frog Heaven or Whatever You Want To Call It. It's totally a boy thing. No worries.

Sprite's Keeper

My three year old shows considerable empathy for our beagle when the dog is in trouble for something, but will turn around seconds later and pull her by the tail, causing yelping from Blue and laughter from Sprite.
I completely get the bad star story. I had a similar experience in kindergarten and remember being yelled at just because the teacher had had enough and I was the one little question that pushed her over the edge. I especially remember the tears and the shame and it took months for me to think she actually liked me again no matter how many times she smiled.
Noah's fine. Just four. You're a great mom, one of the brighter stars out there.
(For the record, I would have hugged the father who pointed out that the animal handler's nonchalance with putting the tortoise out there in the first place.)

JCF

I'm sorry. I would have been an emotional wreck over that one as well.

This weekend, I kind of freaked out at my grandma. MY GRANDMA. (There is all sorts of back story involving my grandma that would explain a lot of it). Let's just let it suffice to say that she was encouraging my 2.5 year old to use his toy hammer to hammer people REALLY HARD and I freaked out. He has a 1.5 year old sister and is about to have another younger sibling in a few months, and so we are particularly motivated to teach him to be gentle with other people/animals/living creatures, especially ones that are smaller than he is or fragile. She was totally out of line (but I probably was too). When it all comes down to it, we don't want our kids to be the rough one/mean one, etc. even if it is totally normal. Ugh.

Dani

It takes years for children to develop empathy. It's not to be expected that Noah be all over it right now.
And I feel like they should have been more considerate about what animals they had children handling. It doesn't seem that unexpected that a 4 year old would drop a bunny. I know mine would.
My awful story, we went to the state fair. The woman in the chicken house asked if my son (2.5 at the time) wanted to hold a baby chicken. As I said, no he's too young, she pushed one into my son's hand and he promptly began to choke it.
She screamed. Literally screamed out loud in my child's face. He dropped the chicken and began crying. Then she began to apologize and ask if he just wanted to pet it. I wanted to smack her. I love my son, but he's not gentle. He's rough, he loves us rough, our cat, his sister, whomever rough.
He would've done the same thing as Noah and I have no fears about either of them.

Jenn

I genuinely feel that petting zoos do not belong at a kid's birthday party. Kids can be rough with animals, animals can bite to protect themselves....there's just no need for that.

Stacey

My younger brother has autism and has a similar laugh-at-animals'-pain attitude. It's strange. He absolutely loves and adores our dog..but he thinks it's hilarious to pull his ears/tail and make him yelp. I think he knows that it's wrong, but he doesn't get that it actually hurts the dog. It just gets a good reaction.

But he would never hurt an actual person.

Except during meltdown mode.

Ivory

My absolutely "normal" 3 year old got caught poking our chickens with a stick yesterday, and i had the same "Oh my god, this is one of those things they always bring up on CSI when they are looking into a serial killer's background!" moments. When i finally calmed down enough to ask her what happened, it turns out chickens make a funny noise when you poke them, and the idea that something so silly couldn't be really harmful.. right? The cognative ability to under stand that "other" actually relates to us and our emotions is a pretty big step, and I don't think it is uncommon for the preschool set to not be there yet. Heck, i laugh when our cat falls off the back of the couch. He's okay, you're okay, the fact that you are this worried about it is a sign that you are tuned in and aware of him in a way that will never allow things to spiral into anything mroe than someone who enjoys America's Funniest Home Videos.

ElizabethZ

Oh, please don't stress - I agree the handler has probably had one too many experiences with parents who DON'T monitor their kids behaviors and needs a vacation AND is an asshat on top of it. I hate to think his comments upset you so much! It's no big deal really! Noah is fine!

Also - I have one of those getting yelled at type memories too. I was maybe 4 or 5 at Montessori preschool, we had little plants we were putting in water to grow roots and then plant in soil. Well I got my plant and it had a little black slimy piece on one of the leaves, I didn't realize it wasn't part of the leaf and pulled the leaf off. Well the teacher made this big deal out of it, how I killed the leaf and wasn't careful and on and on to the whole class and I don't remember any of the teachers' faces at that school but I rememeber everything about hers because of that day. Her voice, her hairdo, what she said, everything. It is weird how those kinds of memories imprint themselves like that. I still think about it, often. I wish I didn't, I think it's about time to move on 30+ years later. Geesh.

Sherri

From a different perspective: I used to run a petting zoo. I know what it's like to watch a child hurt/potentially hurt one of my animals and it is REALLY HARD to work in a pen full of children. You run around all afternoon yelling "Child! Get your finger out of that chickens ____!!!" You can fill in the blank and I've seen it. HOWEVER...I never embarrased a 4 year old over something that minor! I never would have pulled bunnies out, they stay in cages to prevent being scared to the point they die...and little kids (under 6) tended to try to push turtle heads and legs in because they think that's where they go. So, they also stay in cages. We never let anyone pick the animals up, and there were always group lessons about how to pet. Your handler was frazzled and didn't know what he was doing. That being said, there's no excuse for how he handled the situation and if I was you I would be traumatized too.
As for Noah...He's FINE. I have seen SO MANY children do the same thing. They don't often get to handle such "exotic" animals and they don't know what will hurt them. Rabbits hop, does that mean they don't bounce when they fall? They don't understand that chickens can't fly either. Petting zoo animals can only work in a zoo for so long before you retire them because children are brutal. Noah's actions were VERY tame. No worries.

Dona

Oh jeez what an upsetting experience for both of you.

Kerry

Amy, I want to preface this by saying I'm a mother of an almost 3 year old boy who is concerned by his development so I've been reading a lot and I have appointments lined up with developmental pediatricians, occupational therapists, etc, so I'm coming at this from a place of similarity.

I've been reading your blog since Noah was born. I love it. I love your family. I feel like I know you guys. I'm just curious as to why you're not seeking an Autism Spectrum Diagnosis? It sounds like he has symptoms in all areas, communication, behavior and social. Is it because you're already receiving enough services and you don't need a diagnosis to get more? I'm just wondering the reason why you've chosen not to lable him because I'm trying to decide right now what to do about my son.

It's just that every time I read a story about Noah and the struggles and victories he has, they all seem so much like ASD issues. Do you think your son might be on the spectrum? At one point I thought I had read that you ruled it out but from your postings it sounds like he may really have at least pdd-nos?

I have no business in your business, I know. So please totally disregard if you think I'm a nut who's trying to telling you what to do with your child. I'm just curious to know if you think Noah is on the spectrum or not?

Lyndsey

Parenting is a tough, gruesome-on-the-psyche business sometimes. But he is your son, you're raising him the best you can (super-great, by the way), and you've just gotta take a deep breath, throw your shoulders back, and tell yourself that YOU're the parent, he's the child and you're equipping him with everything he'll ever need to have a successful life as an adult. Sometimes kids make weird choices that have us scratching our heads and asking "WTF?!" but this is how they learn. By making mistakes, stretching boundaries, etc. You can't let this beat you up, ok? You deserve better than to feel badly about this. He's a preschooler. You can't be afraid of him, or how he might challenge your rules for him. You know what's best for him!! And you're doing a super job!

helene

I find it shocking just how many comments support that the handler was out of hand. Really? That you don't think the parents/organizers of the said party didn't specifically seek out a birthday activity meant for children of a specific age, that they didn't notify the company what the event was for and who'd be showing up? As much as I think the handler was more than necessarily rude, I think he was justified in keeping Noah away from the animals. Children seem to turn from being angels to devils in a split second. I'm less shocked at Amy's reaction and the lack of empathy in children than at the number of comments advocating taking down the name of the animal handler and reporting to his/her boss.

electriclady

We were just at a birthday party yesterday at our local nature center, and the park ranger in charge of activities brought out a snake for the kids to pet. Imagine 15 3-year-olds all trying to grab a snake at the same time...not pretty. My daughter wrapped both hands around the poor reptile, as did another child, and the park ranger still managed to keep calm while extricating the snake from their love squeezes. That animal handler guy could have been a lot more professional.

And I am ALWAYS worried about my kid's lack of empathy. (Especially when other people tell stories about how "sweet" their own kids are, always going up to other children who are crying and hugging them. My kid sometimes asks, "What's wrong with her?" but usually ignores.) I suspect this is another modern parenting tic--we've heard so much about the importance of empathy that we freak out about it. I don't think our parents worried much about this particular topic.

Mel

Developmentally, most four year olds are not capable of empathy, as most commenters have pointed out, and this is not a sign of something worse.
However, I don't understand the vitriol aimed at the animal handler. He may have overreacted but I don't think he was rude or out of line in his request. Those are his babies, after all.

bethany actually

Oh man, I have a foil-covered-star story too! I was also the kid No One Ever Yelled At, and I have a clear, vivid memory of this one time the school principal yelled at me for something I didn't even do. I still remember every detail, almost 30 years later.

Everyone who's said that empathy develops later is right. Noah was being a normal,possibly slightly-more-mischievous-than-usual-because-of-the-crowd-and-unusual-stimuli, 4-year-old boy. I would have reacted the same way you did. You were doing exactly what you were supposed to do in watching him carefully and pulling him away when you saw danger approaching.

The Animal Guy was sort of doing his job in protecting the animals, but...he's also there for the kids. And he failed at his job there. He should have been more aware of the ages and number of kids, and been appropriately prepared. I would call the company (or maybe write a letter) and just share your concerns that this person maybe needs a bit more guidance in how to do children's parties, or if he IS the boss, maybe express that you were upset about your child's behavior already, and that his yelling at you about it didn't help and made you want to spread nasty rumors about him to all the moms you know. Only, you know, actually stated in a polite and professional way.

Tell Jason he was a good husband, trading kids with you and giving you a break. :-)

Anna Marie

Oh, Amy, he's ok. Like some of the other commenters have said, empathy doesn't develop until 6 or so. That being said, my 3 year old is That Kid at the beach that stomps other kids' sand castles and throws shells at their heads. I'm so proud.

jive turkey

I would have reacted the exact same way as you (and probably will whenever something of this ilk happens down the road with my own kid), but I have to add my voice to the chorus of "this is totally normal." I used to nanny a little girl who was downright cruel to other kids (she was waaaay beyond messing with animals), and I am happy to say she grew out of it completely and is now the caring mother to a special needs toddler.

Kate

Oh, so sorry. I doubt it means anything. Sometimes animals (especially the kind they haven't seen up-close before) are just a mystery to children. I'm sorry the handler made you feel that way. I remember feeling like that as a child. Yuck.

Theresa

Like others who have commented here, I was downright cruel to the ants that invaded our house every summer when I was a child. But I wanted to comment on inappropriate laughter.

Once my sister and I were old enough to carry on conversations, our family dinners would often dissolve into fits of laughter. My family liked nothing more than sitting at the dinner table for hours cracking each other up. During one of those laugh-fests, my mother started to choke. Really choke. Turn red and gasp choking.

And I? Continued to laugh. I was about 15 or 16 and could see very clearly that she was in trouble, but I continued to laugh...because I didn't know what to do. Eventually my dad ALSO stopped laughing and gave her the Heimlich. I say eventually because it felt like hours, but it had to have been under a minute.

Anyway, what I am so ineloquently trying to express is that laughing out of fear or stress is something I've done too. It does not make you a sociopath.

Kristin

If that handler came from MD and had glasses and a cowboyish hat, he is scary. At a party I took my kids to, I caught him lowering his voice, getting down in a little girls' face, and growling at her to wait her turn in line because she was impatient. He's creepy!

Julie

Let's hope, for the handler's sake, that you caught him at a bad moment, too. Because if he can't deal with kids, he's in the wrong business -- the animals are only half his job.

You were handling it, and he overreacted. I'm sorry he was mean to you. I have three "normal" kids (for lack of a better word), and I've had plenty of these moments -- there is still time for Noah to learn empathy; we're all still working on it.

Christina

I actually covered my mouth reading this story. Not because I thought OMG he kicked the turtle because even if he had it is what kids do. I am sorry but kids do not know any better. They are impetious and think differently, outside of the rules. No matter who your kid is.

I found myself literally berating my VERY SHY son for not joining into a party immediately recently. I was so annoyed with him for being shy. How did I get a shy kid!? I was a shy kid and for the love of gawd my kid was NOT going to be shy. I was pissed about this like it somehow showed something about me, my husband, our parenting and it galled me for days both that he was shy and how I reacted to his shyness.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be such a bitch to my kid about being shy... WHEN I WAS A FREAKING SHY KID MYSELF. I should know how he feels and all that jazz...

I just vowed that next time I would approach things differently because shit happens and who gives a damn what others think and dude my kid is the greatest kid on earth and he is human and will make mistakes and it is okay that he is the shy kid.

Noah is a pretty kick ass kid. He did nothing wrong and maybe the petting zoo dude did something wrong and really seriously do not let it get the best of you.

I think parenting is the most earth shattering life altering job anyone can do. Hang in there.

anonymous librarian

That sounds awful - I'm sorry it happened. I second all the folks who've said they don't think it's a big sign that Noah is THAT KID. And it sounds like turtle and bunny both came away unscathed.

But as someone who has worked large, chaotic events with kids, I have to put in a mild word or two on behalf of the petting zoo dude.

I'm willing to be that the "keep him away" thing came out more harshly than he meant it to, and that he didn't intend to embarrass you or Noah.

He shouldn't have had the tortoise outside the enclosure in the first place. But once he did, he'd kind of painted himself into a corner. And if it looked like a kid was on the verge of harming the tortoise... well, I can see how petting zoo guy might lose his nice for a second.

anonymous librarian

That sounds awful - I'm sorry it happened. I second all the folks who've said they don't think it's a big sign that Noah is THAT KID. And it sounds like turtle and bunny both came away unscathed.

But as someone who has worked large, chaotic events with kids, I have to put in a mild word or two on behalf of the petting zoo dude.

I'm willing to be that the "keep him away" thing came out more harshly than he meant it to, and that he didn't intend to embarrass you or Noah.

He shouldn't have had the tortoise outside the enclosure in the first place. But once he did, he'd kind of painted himself into a corner. And if it looked like a kid was on the verge of harming the tortoise... well, I can see how petting zoo guy might lose his nice for a second.

Bobbie

My brothers once tied firecrackers to a bullfrog. Got in trouble for that one (I did not participate because I was/am afraid of frogs).

My three year old son came to the hospital to meet his younger brother. Held him on his lap (we got the sweetest picture), then promptly stood up because he was "done"! Thankfully my mother-in-law was right there and caught the baby....

Being a mother means feeling guilty for everything. Let it go!

And that guy was probably super nasty because I don't imagine that traveling around to birthday parties with a petting zoo is the best job in the world.

Stephanie 2

Seriously, baby rabbits and preschool aged kids doesn't seem like a good mix, in my book. Kids that age are clumsy and impulse-driven, and shouldn't be expected to understand how to properly handle a baby rabbit (I'm not sure if even early elementary school aged kids could do it, either--trust me, I was a school lunch aide for a few years). I'd bet that Noah laughed when he dropped the rabbit because he was nervous, not because he thought it was funny. I'll repeat what's already been said by many others: kids don't develop true empathy until about age six, sometimes later.
And seriously? That handler is an ass. And the way he "handled" the situation with you and Noah was completely wrong. And I would have reacted exactly the same way you did. Even as an adult, it's horribly embarrassing to be yelled at, especially in public.

MichelleH

I'm so sorry you had to go through that. That really sounds like quite the emotional rollercoaster.

I haven't read through ALL the comments but I'm pretty certain I can't be the only one who thinks a petting zoo is a little (more like A LOT) over the top. That sounds like the perfect storm, really.

I would be like you and have so many worries and fears about why he wanted to do it and what does it MEAN. But I think your conclusion is right. It will be ok and he is ok. And you are doing all the right things. Isn't that what parenting is, anyway? Noah's situation being what it is adds that extra layer of worry but in the end, no matter where your child is on the spectrum, there will always be things to "address" and you are addressing it.

I guess animal handler guy's protective instincts got the best of him. Maybe he was being nice to Ezra because he felt guilty. Here's hoping... ;)

Kari

This post is precisely why you are such an amazing blogger/writer.

Being able to describe and express such intensely complicated feelings around such a delicate topic - and to do so humorously? That is a tremendous gift.

Susan

One of my earliest memories, earlier than most people's memories from what I gather, is of being at daycare and standing in a baby bed while listening to one teacher tell another that "Susie is being BAD." Seriously.

elsimom

Regarding the turtle: Curiousity. "What will happen if?" "What will happen if something gets too close to the turtle's head?" I could see an argument that Noah was actually pretty smart not to put his finger, but instead to put his shoe, so if the turtle bit him, it wouldn't bite his finger!
We see this in our kids (up to the age of 8)all the time. Sometimes it might be intended to push limits ("don't touch your sister's arm" leads to fingers 1/4 inch from sister's arm but NOT TOUCHING) but other times it is genuine curiousity. My (then 5)nephew stood in a hospital room and asked what would happened if you squeezed the IV bag so the water squirted into Grandpa faster. Then childless, I thought he was a raving maniac. Now a parent, I've realized he really was genuinely curious - how the heck would a five year old know that something like that could kill a person? Maybe it would work BETTER if you squeezed it . . .you'd get the medicine faster, right?

All this a long way of saying that curiousity shows up in places that seem weird to adults - but we have to remember that kids just don't know everything . . . they don't see it as scary or threatening - they just see it as "what if?"

Tracey

I feel for you so much here - I have had several of these moments with my oldest son. He's almost 8 and seems to be finally turning a corner over the last few months.... (although I don't want to jinx it by writing that out loud - fingers crossed!).

Anyway - I always kind of thought that my son laughs in inappropriate situations because he's embarrassed, too. Mom's grabbing him, he's aware that another adult just singled him out - you know? Maybe it's his escape to just laugh and pretend it's not happening. I don't know - but hang in there. You're a devoted mother and the petting zoo guy is an ass.

Ellie

The animal handler was absolutely not out of line (in response to the handlers, and not to you Amalah) - intentionally or not, Noah was posing a threat to the welfare of the animals and he was protecting them. I don't think this necessarily means anything ominous for Noah but it is definitely something to follow up with.. laughing when you drop a bunny, and not exhibiting empathy overall, could be an indicator of something more serious. Or it could be nothing. But it sounds like you are doing what you can to address it in case it is indicative of a larger problem.

nosaby

When my friend's daughter was 3 she killed her goldfish with a toy hammer. Just because. Had no remorse and really didn't see what all the fuss was about. Today she is 8 and one of the sweetest girls who loves her dog and the babies her mother keeps at home during the day.

Amalah

Kerry: Noah has been thoroughly evaluated for ASD. There was a time when I really thought a PDD-NOS diagnosis was coming, and I really was okay with that...IF IT WAS THE RIGHT DIAGNOSIS. But after a lot of evaluations and observations and lord-knows-what-else, Noah's doctors and therapists are convinced that he is not on the Spectrum. We're Sensory Processing Disorder, specifically Dyspraxia.

This doesn't mean that Noah doesn't occasionally exhibit very "autistic-like" thinking and behavior though -- he definitely dances on the edges of Asperger's and PDD sometimes, but...I dunno. If you met him you'd know that he's not. Hard to describe. He's on the Noah Spectrum, which seems to be his own whole other thing. :-)

And to the commenter who described the petting zoo guy with the hat and glasses: UH-HUH. OMFG. YES.

Brandi

I'm so sorry this all happened Amy. I think the guy was a real jerk to talk to you that way. And as for the star story, well story of my life. I have so many memories like that as a kid and even as a teenager, so I know that terrible feeling when something like this goes down.

Noah spectrum. I like that! And how strange is it that this is the same guy someone else posted about?! Small world I guess.

schoolofmom

4-year-old boys are kind of swaggery frat boys because their testosterone levels all of a sudden double (and then level out around their fifth birthday). I speak from experience; my now-11-year-old (with issues very similar to Noah's) boy was so incredibly rough when he was that age. He'll outgrow it. By adult standards I think most preschoolers are pretty sociopathic anyway. I know you probably stopped reading the Ames & Ilg "Your __ Year Old" books when it got too depressingly divergent, but sometimes they can be very affirming about age-appropriate behavior like this. (I know, you're probably thinking, of all the things he could've been typical in, why this one?)

Megan

I can't say that I wouldn't be on edge if a kid had just dropped my baby bunny, but I also probably wouldn't put baby bunnies at the mercy of kids, because they do that.

I think I would react the same way you did - I even had a flash back to when my teacher yelled at me (never forgave her BTW). But don't panic. Kids do that kind of thing.

So it's maybe time to look for ways to drive home that baby bunnies have mommies and are like baby brothers in that they need to be protected and touched gently. That's ok and not an indication of serial killerism.

Becky

I'm going to side with the other posters and say this is totally normal for the age (and you're a totally responsible parent for being alert and aware and trying to teach Noah the proper way to behave around the animals.)

This is another reason why I think kids' birthdays have gotten a little over the top. I've seen a lot of parents plan these parties that are "fun" -- but they're nothing but overwhelming for the children (whether they're special needs or not.) Mix a bunch of overexcited 4-year-olds and baby animals and you're just asking for trouble. (Especially with a poor handler.) Maybe I'm just getting old and grumpy, but at the age of 4, most kids aren't socially or emotionally mature enough for the parties I see being planned for them.

Amy in StL

I just want to add; thank you for being vigilant of your son. Last week, a bat (the furry kind) flew onto our softball field and landed during the game. A guy came and picked it up and placed it on the tree. Later that inning; I heard adults laughing because someone's kid was poking it with a stick making it shriek.

What kind of adult thinks that's funny?

So thanks, for being the adult.

kris

See now I'm thinking at least you and Jason were dealing with the problem and when the next petting adventure started you were right there in case it did not go well. Which it didn't but since Mom was right there..crisis averted. My boys are pretty good with the petting zoo thing when we go to such places but I do hover just to be safe and keep saying "gentle" 5 million times. But they have very little empathy when they hurt each other so there you have it.

kris

Amy in StL - Warped adults. I really hope someone yelled at that kid to stop. And the so called adults.

Bren

I haven't been reading very long to have the whole history of your son - but I think empathy comes with age and I would have been worried with ANY young kid handling young animals. Isn't it weird though how we always seem to flash back to that one horrible experience we had as a child. I don't know what I'm trying to say except screw the animal guy and move on! How's that!

Amanda

After reading some of the comments I am going to also admit I was a frog killer. Hey, there were only boys on my block....we all turned out fine and we were all involved in the frog murders. I think I was probably 6 or 7.

On another note, I have several moments from elementary school that I recall just like you. I was scolded by a teacher because my bow in my hair was too big that the person behind me couldn't see the chalkboard. She singled me out and I took my bow off and cried.

I think the bow incident probably affected me a lot more than the frog murders.

Merry

Look I have to put my hand up here. My boy is "THAT KID" too. He doesn't get it. He doesn't understand when he hurts our pets (not seriously hurt thank god) he just loves the squeaks the cats makes when he pokes them.
I just keep the best eye on him I can. He is HF autistic, has many sensory issues and bottom line....he's just a kid.
I know it wears you down though. I am mired in resentment and pain at the moment because I have decided that his special ed teacher doesn't like me. this is madness and not based on reality...but I get the emotion....anger and pain and a deep urge to just hold onto my boy and hug him forever and ever.

Tina C.

i don't think it's animals per se. it's just typical 4 year old bullshit not listening and testing limits. I so want to throttle mine when he does that kind of shit.

Katie

I'm so sorry about the mean animal handler asshole. He sounds like he definitely is one of those people who is good with animals and not so much with people. Don't worry about Noah being a serial killer...he just didn't understand. And maybe that bunny looked really, really funny when it flopped to the ground? Or, he thought he'd get in trouble and was laughing nervous-like? Some kids do that as a defense mechanism, especially if they're stressed out. Or who knows, but really, don't think he needed to get The Pointing of the Finger. It'll be ok :)

Liz

I totally sympathize. My guy is only 20 months old, but had an experience like @sundry's where I was showing him a roly poly and his first instinct was to crush it with his finger. When I stopped him from doing that, he immediately tried to stomp on it. What! Of course he loves dogs and pets his stuffed animals and says, "Nice, nice!" So there's no accounting. But I had the same concerns, so it's good to hear it sounds pretty normal.

Jane

RE: the kid poking the bat that had been placed in a tree - WTF? That bat sounds like it could have had rabies. Those adults should have gotten that kid away from the bat STAT. Rabies is not funny.

A lot of people laugh when they don't know what else to do with strong emotions (I, unfortunately, usually just cry). I remember laughing uncontrollably when my mom and I got into a car accident when I was a kid. (We were both OK, just scared.) I didn't find the situation funny, but I couldn't stop. In fact, it scared me that I couldn't stop laughing. One of the first ladies to come to the scene treated me like I was some kind of sociopath.

Swistle

It's not you, it's him. You were way attentive, paying close attention and removing your child before anything even happened. You were perfect. I hate the animal handler.

Lucy's mom

You know, I think you are absolutely correct about Noah using his foot to manage the "don't touch the turtle's head" dilemma. And as far as the bunny goes, children under 6 shouldn't be handling small, fragile animals at all but if a zoo handler decides to allow it, the handler should remain close enough to manage any accidents. Children are little scientists, thay are always looking for cause/effect relationships in their worlds. You and Jason handled it fine, you talked to him and made sure he knew he had to be careful with animals in the future. Forget the handler, he may have been frazzled by dealing with 50 children, he may have been new to the job or he may have just been an asshat. But in the scheme of things he really doesn't matter. I feel your pain, I went through similar situations with my son that you go through with Noah - you are doing an excellent job on a day-to-day basis raising your son with love and care, that's what really matters.

Kimm

That is typical kid behavior. Delicate baby animals are poor choices for a kid party!!! and I think boys develop empathy later than girls, from my vast experience of my niece and nephew:) Niece, 2 years old: gently touches my chihuahua with 2 fingers and giggles. Nephew, 4: picks doggie up by his collar to see what happens.

Virginia

You need a hug.

As many have alreadystated - the petting zoo thing is just kid-ness and/or boyness. He will be O.K. Noah will probably be more O.K. in the empathy department than a lot of "normal" kids because he has parents who are training him to understand and think about how others feel so early on. It will take a while, but he will "get it" logically, even if his emotive response lags behind a bit sometimes.


Thanks for your posts - especially your"OMG the universe is about to end!" posts. They help me see my own struggles with my needy boy in a more realistic light.

Trista

I think you are overly sensitive to Noah's public behavior because nobody wants to have "that" child. You know what I mean. The kid that parents cringe when they are coming over. We all have those friends. Friends we adore but absolutely can NOT stand to be around their kids because of their behavior problems.

What I gathered from this was an overwhelmed Petting Zoo attendant who has probably dealt with parents unwilling to control their "Little Darlings" before. Sure, he could have handled it better but it is what it is. His opinion of you or Noah is unimportant.

Noah is four and probably looked uninterested during time out because after the first minute or so of your "dressing down" all he heard was BLAH BLAH BLAH and all he was thinking about was doing something more fun than time out. Totally normal behavior for a four year old...even the kicking of the turtle thing.

Don't let your worries over the possibility of Noah being "THAT" child make you into mom-zilla. He made a mistake. You corrected it. Don't let the fact that Noah has other issues make you constantly question total normal behavior. You're a good Mom. OWN IT! :)

BTW..A parent who actually parents their child never has "that" child. Just saying....

z

I think you're right to pull back the DVDs/animal-hurting presented as entertainment. In the animated cartoons animals do tend to get smacked around quite a lot, probably because doing that to animated people is less acceptable now, and it's not really an appropriate message to send to a kid who is now old enough to actually start interacting with animals.

Also, baby bunnies, wtf. Those things do die of fright very easily, and have an awesome time explaining Baby Bunny Heaven to all the birthday party guests.

Kate

Here's the thing...sometimes kids do stupid things. I was a VERY empathatic child: at the age of 2 I cried when watching Tom and Jerry because why, why, why did they keep trying to hurt each other? I was always highly sensitive to others around me...and then one day when I was 8, we were living in England and went to a castle and there was a peacock milling about, and...I threw a rock at the peacock. I have NO IDEA why even now. My mother quickly grabbed me and yelled in front of the other horrified parents, "WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?" and all I could say was, "I don't know." Sometimes kids just don't think things through--there's an impulse, and they act. He'll get it. Just keep doing what you're doing. (for the record, I am not a serial killer and have thrown no rocks at any animals or people since)

Samantha

The animal handler was an asshole to you.

My son shows deep empathy and compassion, yet still tries to kick our beloved cat all the time. I feel tremendous shame when I remember how mean I was to our cats growing up.

Your kid is okay. Really, it was that guy who was the asshole.

Plus, kids often laugh when they feel embarrassed.

alison

The animal handler needs to chill out. Like the father at the party said, the turtle should have been kept inside the enclosure.

Also, maybe Noah thought the turtle was Yoda. He was just trying to get a better look. :)

Lindsay

I don't think Noah's behavior is all that unusual- it's totally regular kid stuff. When I was a baby my parents took me to a petting zoo and I squeezed the baby chick so hard it couldn't breathe. Also, I stuck my finger through my pet goldfish at probably four or so and was totally unfazed.
I am not, nor have I ever been, a serial killer. In fact, I haven't even killed one person. Hope that helps!

amy_in_oz

Dude. For the longest time, kids have no (or very little) idea about the implications of most stuff they do.

Don't forget they have the LEARN ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING!!!! Can you imagine!? And it's up to us grown up folks to guide them. Things that seem like the most obvious *OMFG what were you thinking???* situations to us, are just part of the learning process.. Cause & Effect experiments are a big part of it too, Foot + Turtles Head = x

And sadly for you, the Petting Zoo Guy just has to nip potential 'incidents' in the bud, imagine if a sweet baby animal died in front of all those adoring kids. Ick. Just sorry it brought back horrid memories for you..

Noah's fine (& the turtle's fine), he IS a star and so are you. Don't let a minuscule moment in your lives tear you up into tiny shiny pieces.


Cara

He's four. In fact, with all he's juggling, there are probably areas in which he's a little less than four (jut because he has so much more to process). Google some information on developmental stages, including moral development. You'll feel better. And, while I get why the animal guy was protective of his animals, he had no business getting in your face. You were reacting appropriately - alert for the possibility after the rabbit, stopping the action before any harm was done AND you had pulled him away from the animals and the crowd. So, he was being reactive, not reasonable.

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