That Rage You Feel When Other Kids Hurt Your Child? Amanda Peet Knows All About It

by Meredith Bland
Image via Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland via Getty Images

Peet talks about the rage she felt when her child was excluded at school

One of the biggest fears many parents have before sending their kids to school for the first time is that they’ll have trouble making friends and will feel excluded. A feeling we don’t necessarily expect to have, however, is the insane, overwhelming rage we have for small children when they hurt our kids. Amanda Peet knows, though. And Amanda Peet is preaching some truth.

In an interview with People Magazine to promote her new comedy, Brockmire, airing Wednesdays on IFC, Peet talked about when her oldest daughter, Frankie, started preschool. “I thought there were starting to be mean girls already in her class. Really cute, really confident and loud…and all the boys were chasing them, chasing boys against girls, and my daughter Frankie was like, ‘Catch me! Catch me!’ And they all just ran by her. I was like, ‘I’m gonna have to go to therapy about this. Because the rage? I was like, ‘No.’”

Peet walked away from the situation because she didn’t want to make things worse for her daughter and, really, there’s nothing you can do in that situation without being a crazy person. But you want to do something. Oh man, do you ever want to do something.

Most of us like to think that we’re grown-ups, and therefore we would never get into an intense emotional conflict with a five-year-old. However. The feeling that sweeps over you in situations like is incredibly strong and, oddly, incredibly personal. I had a seven-year-old nemesis, once: when my daughter was in second grade another girl lifted her skirt over her head so the rest of the class could see my daughter’s underwear and then pointed and laughed. I volunteered in that classroom once a week and let me tell you, every time I saw that little girl I wished her ill. Very ill. Obviously, I never acted on these feelings because I’m not writing this from prison, but I’m not kidding when I say that I was hanging on by my fingernails.

Louis CK has a great set about this kind of situation in his special, Live At The Beacon Theater. (NSFW)

In this clip, he talks about a boy in his daughter’s class who he hates “with a grown-up, preoccupying hate.” One day at recess he saw the boy (who he calls Jizanthopus) going for his daughter, and rather than rushing in to stop it, “I thought, let him do a little something first. Let him do just a little something because I want this kid in my life. I want a reason.” Yes. Because you can’t get involved in every slight and hurt your child experiences, but sometimes you really want a reason that other adults might accept if you’re forced to make this child cry. Which Louis CK did after Jizanthopus grabbed his daughter’s arm and twisted it. CK grabbed the boy by his shoulders and said, “‘Listen to me, Jizanthopus. If you ever, ever in your life touch her again’ — and as I’m doing this I realize this is not cool that I’m doing this. This is totally inappropriate. It’s really wrong. It’s way over-the-top. It’s too grown-up.”

And parents who have felt this way realize that what they’re feeling is unhinged and not okay, but something primal takes over you in that moment. As Peet says in her interview, “…it’s incredible how juvenile — my feelings are so adolescent…It was just [a] bewildering juvenile response deep inside of me. Like, just ridiculous.” It’s like you get sent back to when you were in first grade or middle school and got made fun of or mistreated by a classmate. You remember how much it hurt, and then you see it happening to your child and that’s when “Mama Bear” kicks in — this blind, irrational rage takes over and even though you know that cougar chasing your cub can’t help it, it’s just a cougar doing cougar things, you still jump up on your hind legs and roar the shit out of that animal because that is your cub and there is no way this is happening and also their mother dresses them funny.

Watching your child get hurt is one of the hardest parts of being a parent — the second hardest is knowing when to get involved and when you need to walk away and let them deal with it. But if you feel the need to give a kindergartener the side eye during snack time, we get it.