Sometimes, I am the asshole

by Janelle Hanchett

One of my goals in life is to not let my decision to have children ruin anybody’s life.

I talk a lot about asshole, entitled parents producing tiny asshole children, and I work really, really hard not to do that. It’s kind of my claim to fame.

It’s not. I’m not famous, or even special, really.

Anyway, on Saturday, the fruit of my womb (I just threw up a little) ruined a woman’s afternoon. Or a portion of it, at least.

We were in Santa Cruz at the Beach Boardwalk, celebrating Arlo’s 2nd birthday. While walking through the amusement park to get ice cream, Georgia began vehemently asking for “a little bear dessert,” which of course I promptly ignored because that’s the first thing I do whenever any of my kids ask for anything.

But she kept on, and because we had stopped to let the bigger kids go on a ride, I decided to inquire about why child number three was hopping about and begging.

“What the fuck is a ‘bear dessert?’” I asked, but said the f word with my eyes only because I’m classy. She answered by pulling me around to a stand with an Icee ad. She was talking about the bear on the Icee ads. This is totally how they sell this crap to kids.

“Can I please have a bear dessert instead of ice cream?” She asked.

“Have you ever had one of those?” I asked.

“No, but it looks sooooo good.” She answered.

“Dude, they’re super gross,” I said, lying (I don’t remember how they taste). You see, I have a standing rule against sticky shit, particularly if it’s red. I’d like to tell you it’s because red dye number 40 kills people, but actually it’s because I don’t want to deal with the potential mess this  kind of thing brings. Plus, if you start buying your kids Icees and candy, all they ever want in the future is Icees and candy. Not interested, thanks.

But Mac disagreed, saying, “No they are not gross. Why are you ruining our kid’s childhood? Did you not drink those daily as a kid?”

“Well of course I did, Mac, because it was 1989 and all I had to entertain myself was the 7-11 down the street.”

But I realized he was right, and we’re at an amusement park and beach, so what could happen? I bought her one. I even bought a big one because I figured the other kids would want to try it. Plus it was like 50 cents more for twice the size. Why do they do that? WHY MUST THEY ALWAYS WIN WITH THEIR CAPITALIST PROPAGANDA?

So we get our ice cream and return to our spot on the beach. George drank about a third of the red-dye-death drink then stuck the cup with the remaining liquid in  the cup-holder of a beach chair.

Time passes. Arlo discovers the cup, removes the lid, and begins depositing chips in the remaining liquid. Normally I would care about this sort of thing, but I didn’t this time, because a.) he was already disgusting; red sticky shit couldn’t possibly make this worse; b.) he was super annoying at the beach and this activity had no drowning risk, so I could sit down for a minute; and c.) they were “baked” chips. Mac bought them. Who the fuck buys “baked” chips?

Men sent to the store, that’s who.

He didn’t mean to. We aren’t monsters.

Anyway, more time passes. Like an hour, or more.

Arlo saunters over to the chair, and, before I could even notice what he was doing, sits down in just the right way that he flips the chair over on it’s side, launching the melted Icee-chip mixture out of the chair and onto, yep, you guessed it, the woman enjoying herself on the blanket in front of us. Oh, but it didn’t just hit her. It hit her blanket. It went inside her bag. It pretty much doused every single thing she owned, including, understandably, her will to live.

That’s right: Sticky red melted ice drink with chips and possibly kettle corn spewed across a total stranger. My entire family was horrified. We were immediately on our hands and knees helping her clean it up. I’m giving her wipes and offering water bottles and begging forgiveness and she’s looking at me like, “Please die in your sleep” and I’m like believe me I’d like to, but there was nothing I could do.

The damage had been done.

I had become one of them.

I was the asshole.

It wasn’t intentional, and I’m not sure I could have prevented it, but it felt terrible. There was nothing to do but own the fact that my existence seriously inconvenienced an innocent bystander, despite my efforts to not be that person.

As we sat there watching the woman play totally unobtrusively with her son and husband, I kept glancing at the red all over her blanket and realizing, once again, that sometimes I AM THE ASSHOLE. In life. In general.

I can think I’m not. I can deny it. I can try to wish it away. But the time will come when I’ll have no choice but to face the truth. Will it set me free?

I had to leave. Fuck freedom.

On the off chance Arlo flung sand from his shovel or threw up and it hit her or some shit, I had to get out of there. It was time to leave anyway, maybe.

As we were leaving, I saw some grown ups and kids having a grand old time throwing sand at each other. Yes, you read that correctly. Literally engaging in my idea of hell, gleefully. My first thought was, “What the actual fuck. What kind of monster throws sand at a beach? What if that gets on ME?”

Then I thought: Well I guess it’s their turn to be the asshole.

But I looked at my kids anyway and said, “DO NOT EVER THROW SAND.”

Because we can’t avoid being the asshole all the time, but we sure as hell can avoid it most of the time.

This is my deep learning message for the day.

Have a nice afternoon.

Hey, hiiiiii! Fuck your pleasant life!

Hey, hiiiiii! Fuck your pleasant life!


  • Daphne

    I beg to differ. Assholes a.) generally do things on purpose to annoy or offend others, and b.) do not feel remorse or shame. So, sorry Janelle, you do not qualify for the title of asshole. Trust me on this, I lived with an asshole for years. I know.

    • Debra

      I have to agree. Assholes are the people who just shrug and walk away when their kids accidentally or maliciously ruin someone’s day.

  • Amy

    And why, when I’m around my parents and attempting to keep my kids from being assholes, they tell me I’m being “too hard on them” and “strict” and I’m like, “look I know I was the same asshole to you guys 30 or so years ago and you were ALLLLL over me about these same things, but now I’m just being neurotic.” Tough shit, I’m still not going to be an asshole… raising little assholes. That whole scene… been there… love this

  • Paige Wallace

    whatever, dude. I like baked chips.

    yes, that’s mostly what I got out of this post. I’ll probably change my tune once I have kids.

  • Kate W

    The photo + caption with this article made my day.

  • Alisa

    1) Your child did NOT ruin that woman’s life. Sure, everyone (not just you and your children) should try to be careful to not spoil or disrupt someone’s day, but accidents like this do NOT ruin lives.

    2) You seem to be helping your children learn the difference between ruining someone’s life and someone’s moment. Teaching them to handle actually either with grace and forgiveness is the sign that you care about them being well-adjusted, adaptable human beings who understand we all live on this planet together.

    3) Yes, red dye sucks for all the reasons you mentioned. Congrats on now having a story by which you can remind your children that enables you to say ‘no’ simply because you don’t want to deal. Every parent needs to have a few ‘no’ cards simply because you don’t want to deal.

  • Lou Taylor

    Yes. What Daphne said.

  • Emily Donahue

    Love you more today than yesterday

  • Jane

    I really have to disagree with this! We live in a community that includes people if all ages, including children who do not understand the consequences of their actions! As a Mum, you can attempt to mitigate disasters and any negative impact your kids have on others, but you can’t control everything. You’re not an asshole and neither is your 2y old baby who was exploring his world. The woman who got splashed might relay this funny thing that happened to her today. Life’s a blast living in a diverse community! 🙂

  • sarina

    At that same beach, my toddler threw sand on the heads of a couple lying on their towel, in a “romantic embrace. “

  • Melissa

    i’m with daphne – sometimes shit happens…it might be melty, red, sticky shit with greasy treats floating in it, but it doesn’t make you an asshole.

  • christina ihloff

    This is horrible! It can be so hard to handle so many kids when in public (I have four myself). My mantra every time we wander off the farm is “please do not let me be humiliated today.” I will have to add in “do not let my spawns humiliate another person.” Thanks for this post. The message also smacks of the recent “gorilla incident” in which all the sacti-parents and non-parents believe that something like that could never happen to them. I social-media-ed the message “If you have never lost sight of your child in public then unfriend me, because you are a fucking liar.” Warmest wishes on getting over this mortification.

  • Rebecca

    Nah, assholes don’t care. You care. The fact that your whole family immediately jumped to help just shows that you aren’t.

    But I get your point, sometimes we make life harder for others, whether we mean it or not.

    I once opened a coke in a movie theatre and it sprayed all over everyone within a two metre radius. I was mortified and after one man stomped off to the bathroom, I said to his wife “I’m so very sorry, he seems really upset” and she said “No, it’s okay. He’s just wet and sticky. He’d only be mad if you weren’t sorry”

    A week later I did the same at a friend’s house and got coke on her ceiling (yes, I have to be more careful opening a coke, clearly). Thankfully, she was drunk and thought it was hilarious. I’m sure it’s still there.

    Keep teaching your kids to not be assholes, and keep showing them how to make things as right as possible if they accidentally stuff up.

    That’s all we can do 🙂

  • Rebecca

    Oh, and now you have a very good reason to never ever allow that red stuff anywhere near your family ever again. Winning!

  • Amy

    My 15 month old vomitted all over the back of a woman and her very expensive looking coat .. There were no words to describe the situation .. He’s now 23 and we still talk about it monthly .. A truly once in a lifetime horrifying experience .. Sadly that was just the beginning of a week long saga of the dreaded Rotovirus .. Had I been the recipient of some one else’s rug rats vomit I don’t think I could have been nearly so gracious ..

  • Rose

    Agree with Daphne. Assholes do shit on purpose and just don’t care.
    Again thank you for helping know I am not alone in this madness!

  • Miriam

    One time, when I was just learning to wait tables, the mayor of our small town came in and sat in my section with his family. You would have thought he was the President, that’s how nervous I was. So naturally, when I delivered a plate of French fries to his table, the small dish of ketchup that comes with every plate of French fries slid right off the plate, bounced once, and splattered all over Mr. Mayor’s face and white shirt. I’m really not sure what this has to do with your post, other than red sticky stuff and feeling like an asshole. But you took me right back to that day.

  • Carolina

    I beg to differ. You guys helped her clean up 🙂 Even if it sucks, that’s human decency that’s lacking a lot of the time.

  • Alexis

    Every day someone is an assault
    That day it was you’re turn
    I guess the best we can do it try to make it as long as possible between our turns

  • Sarah

    You aren’t an asshole. I have felt shame/embarrassment during moments like these with my kids and it takes a lot for me to breathe through it. It was nobody’s fault and since she’s a mom I’m sure the karmic wheel had landed on this type of moment for her as well. If he was grabbin handfuls of excrement out of his diaper and giving beach go-ers kitty high fives with it that’s another story….

  • Steph

    That pic is adorbs enough that it excuses your said assholery. Happy Birthday Arlo!

  • Erin

    I read some of the comments and I do agree you are not an asshole and at the same time I totally get what you are saying and do not disagree that in that moment you tally feel like an asshole.

    Good read!

    My kids Cannot consume red things or blue things… Well just one of my kids and I thank baby Jesus for that everyday. I love that it’s a hard and fast rule! My kid turns into an aggressive shit when he consumes food dye.

    I have a good one for you.

    My 2 ish year old and I go into a wine tasting room. Live in Walla Walla wa, a million tasting rooms and good food here. I’m not a wine person, don’t know anything about it or give a shit about it. Anyway we go because a friend is having a farewell art show combination Party thingy. We had been in the car for an hour after a trip to the closest big city so we were totally exhausted. And my son, the one who can’t eat colored food or gluten because he gets aggressive and insane (didn’t know that then by the way), is high energy and moves so fast you can see smoke under his feet. We go in and I’m on him and one lady stops me for one second. No shit one second. And I don’t even answer her question because I just know the kid is already on the other side of the room. I make sad sorry face at her and I bolt. And CRASH BOOM Aaahhh!! I’m running now. He was across the room in another room and had just tried to touch a $3000 piece of art with a glass frame on a rickety wooden stand and you got it knocked it the fuck down. He was not injured but the broken glass from the frame pierced through the painting and destroyed it. I apologized 1000 times and they shooed us out. I couldn’t even drive home I was so embarrassed and freaked out and felt so bad. We sat on a hill across the street and I cried and cried while my son happily played.

    I was def the asshole with the little asshole kid during the 5 min it took to cause such chaos!

  • branjo

    You are SUCH an ASSHOLE!

  • Claire

    But you cleaned it up! And said sorry! And she has kids too…