Kids for cheese?

I spent last Friday through Tuesday at the largest blues festival west of the Mississippi, aka the Waterfront Blues Festival here in Portland, Oregon. Besides being an incredible feast for blues-loving ears, this event also offers an embarrassment of riches in the people-watching department. With just a quick stroll through the festival grounds, you’ll take in more public drunkenness, ill-advised small-of-the-back tattoos and painfully awkward dance moves than anyone should have to see in their lifetime. This much I already knew from previous years. But it turns out that the Blues Fest is also a great place to glean parenting tips!

So it’s sometime in the afternoon on Day One, and I’m taking a breather by the railing that overlooks the Willamette River, at the outer edge of the festival grounds. Along comes a young mother carrying a very young toddler, maybe a 2-year-old girl. They stop right next to me, apparently because the little girl is crying hysterically and her mom is tired of carrying her and listening to her. And yes, the kid is squalling pretty loudly and appears uninterested in stopping, but then it IS 92 degrees outside, she’s in a very noisy and crowded place, and it’s probably her naptime to boot. So does Mommy try to soothe her daughter or cool her off or otherwise, you know, take care of her? Um…no. She plops her down in the middle of the very dirty sidewalk (covered with cigarette butts, discarded food and other trash) and just stands right up again.

The little girl looks around, probably feels the hot, dirty sidewalk on her bare legs, looks up at her mom (you know, her caregiver) and starts to cry some more. Very possibly louder than before. At which point her mom leans down to her and says:

“Well, that is quite a tantrum! Maybe I should just trade you in for some cheese!”

If this witty little riposte is supposed to defuse the tense situation by tickling the little girl’s funnybone and causing her to giggle at the absurdity of her quest for maternal comfort, it somehow inexplicably misfires. There’s a brief moment of silence while Neglected Sidewalk Girl just stares up incredulously at her bonehead parental unit; then she realizes that she truly is Alone In The World, and resumes bawling. Eventually the Mother Of The Year reluctantly scoops her up and moves on.

The poor kid will probably have a mysterious aversion to blues music for the rest of her life. It’s just so wrong, y’know?

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