What to do when your nice neighbor has a rage-filled child and she needs a break?

I grew up with very confusing imagery and thoughts of babies. I can recall The Shining where twins warned of impending murder (“redrum”, that is). The Omen warned us of little boys named Damien. Lest you lose focus at the delivery room you could end up with Satan’s baby.  Children of the Corn sounds like a nice Midwestern idyllic scene, but psychotic is more like it. Then you have the classic film “The Bad Seed” which demonstrates how evil can take root at a very early age.

My mom loved the movie Rosemary’s Baby.  Mia Farrow has never truly looked better since. She rocked that pixie cut way before it became the “it” thing for precocious actresses who were trying to look grown up to do. I digress. Rosemary’s baby was no heartwarming being.  My mom would point to those fictional kids and note that was why all kids needed to be baptized by the age of seven.  Don’t ask me about her leap. My mom, a devout catholic, was also extremely superstitious and fond of the mythical. That has always stayed in the upper part of my consciousness. Not the baptism thing, silly one.  Rather, the “thought” that kids can be evil has always lingered in my being.

See, popular culture has inculcated in us the notion that the worst and creepiest evil that can be perpetuated is that by a child. Of course, most of us do not whole heartedly believe children are evil.  Many of us may find children annoying. Many of us may not find their inquisitive nature to be charming.  Many may never want to have a baby.  Many may be driven mad by the constant interaction.  I for one, love (absolutely adore) my son’s endless chatter about the game Garden Warfare. However, I do not expect anyone else to love that chatter, let alone like it. Yet, many, if not the majority of us, believe in the innocence of children. Popular culture and its demonizing images be damned.  You can’t look at a child and not feel the need to protect him or her from the world. Since giving birth, I can’t watch the local news anymore because of the horrible images of children being abused or killed.

But then you meet a rage-filled child. I don’t mean the cute meme driven baby rage.  The first day I met my neighbor’s son, I got an odd vibe from him. Little boys normally like me. There is something about my round face, my curly hair and my tone of voice that somehow endears me to the little ones–particularly boys. My neighbor’s baby, however, just stared at me with cold, cold eyes. He has come over to my house many times since that initial visit to play with my son. My baby boy looks like an absolute angel compared to my neighbor’s son.

My neighbor’s son barely acknowledges my presence or my greetings.  He is not autistic. He can read situations and the emotions of others.  He just chooses to disregard all others.  He readily notes that he does not need to heed my guidance or directives.  He stands unflinchingly on the couch, with his cheeks bright red, and stares me down. It is almost as if he is mumbling some incantation. After which, he goes into a full-blown rage. All this quite often unprovoked. He purposefully knocks over toys and household items. He loudly and willfully declares his hatred of all surrounding him. He notes how we will all pay.  Whoa! It is a very disconcerting interaction to experience–particularly when the child is 4 years old. It is almost as if he were a tween already.

He brought me a bright sunny flower the other day. Actually, he shoved a flower at me and walked away mumbling about how he hated something.  Now, the parent and social psychologist in me does not believe he is evil. Let me just state that outright. He most obviously has a challenge that needs to be addressed. I try to be supportive and talk to him. The pop culture fanatic in me of course cannot help but call him Damien. He even looks like the character.  This kid may very well outgrow this. It very well can be an extended terrible twos phase or mightily prolonged temper tantrum.  I feel badly for the parents who have been embarrassed at the playground. I understand temper tantrums in children. Heck, I have dealt with many tantrums in adults at the workplace.  But can I ask what do you do when the parent of said tantrum-prone kid needs a break and asks if their kid can come over for a playdate? My son is an only child. Even my good-natured son who tries to comfort the kid repeatedly and find something fun for him, asks “mommy what’s wrong with john” as he wonders whether the playdate is worth it.



Every so often I see the neighbor out in front of her house smoking.  It’s great that she is not smoking inside the house. However, when I look at her puffing away out front I see a bit of desperation. She looks over at me with grand hope in her eyes that I will offer to host a playdate.  The good neighbor in me wants to help her out. An hour of reprieve for her is not that long for me in the grand scheme of things. Such an hour can be her grand moment of zen. I’ll entertain the rage-filled boy in order to be a good neighbor and help a fellow mom out. I’ll just have a cocktail before and after the playdate.