I got a nifty birthday present – A 1957 McCalls magazine Amid all the ads for the miracle inventions of the time – washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, carpeting (carpeting?) – there was a little gem of an article about how to handle your child’s temper tantrums, complete with photographs.
Allow me to describe:
First we see mom trying to do her family’s grocery shopping – along with her infant son and 2-year old daughter Betsy – while wearing a dress and high heels. I don’t even know where to start pointing out all the mistakes this idiotic mother made from the get go; 1) a baby, 2) a 2-yr old, 3) a dress, and 4) high heels. What was she thinking???
In frame #2, mom puts the baby in the only available baby seat in the cart. That’s when Betsy starts to freak out. Why? Because SHE WANTS TO SIT IN THE SEAT, GODDAMN IT! And who can blame her, really? Everything was probably perfectly fine in Betsy’s little world until her stupid parents decided to have MORE CHILDREN and ruin EVERYTHING. Stupid 50’s parents.
For the next couple of frames mom ignores Betsy, as if this will actually help. Betsy then rightfully escalates the madness. She throws herself on the floor, kicking and screaming bloody hell, proving to the world that she has been SCREWED OUT OF WHAT WAS RIGHTFULLY HERS. And who hasn’t felt that way a time or two in their lives? Hell, I feel that way nearly every day when thinking about all the good stuff that I have been denied – long legs, sparkling personality, a trust fund. It’s enough to make you want to rip your hair out.
Anyhoo, the kicking and screaming part is always the pivotal point in any tantrum held in a public place. This is the part when all the other shoppers start to notice that your child is behaving like an out-of-control Red Howler monkey, and all eyes are on the mom to see how she’ll handle it. which is what happens to the mom in this story. With her back up against the wall and feeling really freaked out and exhausted from trying to control a screaming 2-year-old while wearing a dress and high heels, the mom attempts to shut little Betsy up by buying her a toy. Brilliant! I think, because there’s generally nothing like bribery to shut the mouths of your enemies. But does Betsy cut her losses, suck it up and take the stupid little toy? No she doesn’t. Betsy is single-mindedly bound and determined to complete her infant-seat coup, oust her little brother from power and rule the world. At this point, I’m thinking Betsy must have some sort of brain dysfunction or be borderline retarded because she still wants to sit in the fucking infant seat, but Betsy is a genius compared to what her mother does next…
Now this is where our story veers off to a place that we cannot begin to imagine in this day and age of carjackings and kidnappings and sex offenders. Ready? Mom asks a stranger in the store to watch the baby, while she takes Betsy to the car and leaves her there. Did you get that? At this point in the story, I’m throwing up my hands and screaming at the magazine “You idiot! You don’t wear a dress and high heels to grocery shop with your baby and toddler, then leave the baby with a stranger so you can take the crazy toddler out to the car and leave her there alone!!!” The last frame shows a tearful and clearly pissed-off Betsy with her face pressed up against the car window, begging to be released. The text says “Mother should not have left Betsy in the car, as this only makes her angrier.” Nowhere does it say that it might be dangerous to leave your child in the car alone, only that it could make the tantrum worse. Even if the world was void of child molesters back then, what about the heat? Didn’t little brains fry the same way then that they do now?
Now, who among us hasn’t secretly wanted to march our little hellions out to the car and leave them there? Sure you want to, but common sense and fear of child death prevents you from doing so. Was the world so much safer in the 50s that you didn’t have to worry about baby kidnappers? What about Communists? What about The Bomb? I asked my mother, who in 1959 had a 2-year old and an infant. Did I ever have tantrums? (doubt it) Did she ever take me to the car and leave me there?? Mom says no, she never left any of us kids alone in the car. In fact, she didn’t have to because my mother understood the value of a really good bribe. Just the thought of getting that candy bar at the end of every shopping trip was enough to keep us all in line. But most importantly – and I think this is key – my mother knew better than to wear a dress and high heels to the grocery store. That’s enough to make anybody just a little crazy.