Fictional ‘Letter From A Toddler’ Is An Insane Passive Aggressive Nightmare


Go read this post entitled ‘Letter From A Toddler: ‘Dear Santa: Ho Ho, NO!” on the Huffington Post. Ok, now come back and try to explain to me what the hell it is we’ve both just read. As our esteemed Maria Guido put it, “I just died of boredom and annoyance.”

I think I think that writer Cate Pane is trying to execute a tongue-in-cheek piece satirizing modern parents’ obsession with technology? Because she’s basically recommending that parents buy classic toys like the Fisher Price popper and a Radio Flyer tricycle as Christmas presents instead of fancy strollers and “some baby super smart-kid music toy.” But I’m so distracted by the weird toddlerspeak that I can barely get through it to understand what it is she’s trying to impart via her “two fingers old” narrator and his pushy grandma.

There’s a lot of talk of “real” books and “classic” toys in Pane’s post. Here, here’s a quote:

The last thing mommy and daddy want me to get is some plastic “tech” book. It sings and has pages. My mommy says it’s just like being read or sung to but I don’t want a robot’s mommy reading or singing to me in a funny voice. I want mommy or daddy or grandma to read to me. It’s better because they talk to me about the pages and I get to sit on their lap!

There’s nothing more annoying than baby talk except for baby talk that’s trying to masquerade as something smart. This post is basically an adult taking on the persona of a child taking on the ideas of a fictional grandmother. If that isn’t enough of a mindfuck, the argument Pane’s making seems even weirder filtered through a child and then filtered through a…grandmother? I mean, why isn’t this pretend grandmother just buying the kid all this shit if that’s what she wants him to have? That’s what grandmothers are for! Buying shit!

Honestly, the post comes off as kind of selfish; Pane is suggesting all the things SHE thinks it’s appropriate for children to have in the exact same way as the pretend parents that she’s satirizing. She’s basically saying “Parent like me, through the goods I would buy my children! The goods you want to buy your children are wrong wrong wrong!” Sanctimommy to the max.

I will admit that I am slightly sympathetic to part of what I think Pane is saying, which is that kids need good old-fashioned toys and personal interaction, not the new hot product that’s supposed to make them smarter and better. But I think she’d have made her point considerably better if she didn’t use this annoying and infantile rhetorical strategy to do so. She has her own blog, The Clear Parent, where she espouses “connecting developmental research to practical parenting in a modern world,” so she’s clearly a smart lady who probably has lots of great, useful thoughts on parenting. This post, however, is not one of them.

Photo: Ariel Skelley/Getty Images

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  • Cee

    Barf! On that note, I hate when parents refer to themselves as “mommy” and “daddy.” You guys have names, fuckers, use them!

    • Evelyn

      I hate that too, although I will guiltily admit to having called my husband ‘dad’ in front of the kids a handful of times when trying to urgently hint to him that he needed to remember he was talking to his kids or they were in the room and modify actions/speach accordingly.

    • AE Vorro

      Well, that instance sounds reasonable (unlike the way she used them in the article).

    • Bethany Ramos

      My Facebook is rife with mommies and daddies – I can’t tell them apart!

    • LiteBrite

      I’m guilty of that. I know I know…I gotta break that habit. It started when the boy was about 1 or 2, stuck, and now I can’t get out of it.

    • ted3553

      Referring to my husband as Daddy when I’m not talking to our son gives me the heebie jeebies. Only 1 man in my life will ever be called Daddy and he had a hand in making me.

    • Allyson_et_al

      I only do that when talking to the kids, as in, “Go ask daddy if he wants another beer” or “Give that chainsaw to Mommy right now,” or whatever. I think couples who call each other mommy and daddy are creepy as hell.

  • Natasha

    I couldn’t even finish reading it, my brain was rebelling. Two Finger? Three finger? I was like, wait, does this kid only have two fingers?! Is that was supposed to be funny……she failed. Honest Toddler does it much better ;)
    I f-ing hate those popcorn pusher things. Ours had one and it wasn’t 2 weeks before that bastard disappeared haha.

    • FaintlyXMacabre

      It probably went to wherever that stupid Dora the Explorer ride-on tractor that we had went–the 6th circle of hell. Where it belongs.

  • EmmaFromÉire

    I hope every single one of her relatives buys her kid the ‘wrong’ toys.

  • TngldBlue

    I feel dumber for having read that.

  • Rachel Sea

    It’s such a coincidence that Noah’s developmental and consumer theories align perfectly with his grandmother’s! I’m sure she wouldn’t put words in his mouth, because that would be a raging dick move, and not even remotely beneficial to a developing psyche.

  • Kelly

    dafuq did I just read?

  • Megan Zander

    Ugh. I get annoyed with santimommies trying to speak like a child as though they alone have unlocked some sort of mystical porthole into a kid’s head and are a conduit for translation. If you think non electronic toys are better, then just say that and own it, don’t beat around the bush. We go for moderation in this house, mostly because it’s nice to get a break from that poor Fisher Price voice. Sometimes I feel bad for the actual woman who sings all those nursary rhymes, I don’t think belting out ” hey, diddle diddle” is where she thought her vocal career would end up.

    • FaintlyXMacabre

      Right? 4 years of Juilliard for THIS shit?

    • Megan Zander

      Exactly! Sometimes I think I should clap for her, just to be polite.

    • pineapplegrasss

      that was actually so fucking funny, I just spit my tuna salad on my keyboard

    • Megan Zander

      Oh no! 5 second rule!

    • Justme

      I feel that way about the “train” girl on Disney Junior in the morning.

      “All aboard the choo-choo train, all aboard the choo-choo train, all aboard the choo-choo train! All aboard! Choo-choo!”

    • Jessica

      That’s stuck in my head now. Thanksgiving is ruined.

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      I used to feel sorry for the poor woman who sang the Victoria Sponge Birthday song.
      Used to laugh my head off imagining her curled up under that table

    • lyzl

      I think about that girl a lot. Does she have kids and a family? Does she have to listen to her own voice on her kids’ toys?

  • Pervery McMindinthegutter

    Yeah, when I read “two finger friend,” I thought of something a little more adult than I think the writer was going for.

    • Andrea

      Well I didn’t before, but now I do! LMAO you perv!

    • Carrie Murphy

      OMG LOL

    • pixie

      Yeah, I had to re-read that a few times because my mind totally went there, too, and it took a minute to realize what they really meant.

    • G.E. Phillips

      Yeah, make room in that gutter for my mind, because I totally went there. Poor choice of words, author.

  • FaintlyXMacabre

    This is horrible because it reminds me of the people that speak to you THROUGH their kid. That is the worst ever.

    • Maria Guido

      Like my mother is doing at this very moment.

    • Mel

      My mother does it to my sister all the time. She plants things the girls’ minds for them to repeat to Sis or sometimes just lies about them having said it. I know they’re lies b/c I’m usually in the room. Mother has a lot of nerve pulling that shit. Sis handles it much better than I do when Mother gets all passive aggressive about my pets or my home. So sorry you have to deal with it Maria!

    • FaintlyXMacabre

      That sounds super sucky. I meant more the people that are like, “We’ll never come back to a playdate that doesn’t serve free range organic chicken nug-nugs, will we, Prius? Will we? No, we won’t!” While you’re in earshot.

    • Mel

      Yeah, those people totally blow, too! It’s super-gross.

    • pineapplegrasss

      Oh thanks, you just gave me some sort of guilt, or something. Last night I got pissed at my husband and took my 2 yr old and my pillow out of my bed to go sleep in the toddler bed (ok, to put the baby to sleep in his own bed, don’t ask why the little guys in my bed, that’s what started the argument) and he grabbed his dads pillow too and I said all loud ‘Oh no, we don’t want that one, leave it here, it stinks, its gross’ over and over until the confused little guy dropped it, because I knew my husband could hear from the other room, and then I left his pillow on the floor in the hall. I knew it was wrong when I was doing it, I just couldn’t help myself.

    • Natasha

      Prius (snicker) bet his big sister’s name is Quinoa ;)

    • pixie

      My dad’s sister likes to make things up about my family. Like my grandmother (dad’s mom) taught my mom to sew pleats and at night my mom went home and made her wedding dress (my mom did sew her wedding dress, but she knew how to sew pleats and everything else looonnggg before she started dating my father). Or will speak two sides of the conversation and no matter how many times you tell her not to do something, she’ll do it and then insist it was your idea when it blows up in her face. Sadly, though, I think she actually believes the things she says/claims.

    • Mel

      My mother does the same to all of us in the fam. She rewrites history and sometimes just makes things up out of nowhere. It’s gotten worse over the years but has always been part of her deal. I wonder if her advancing age is a factor. Maybe sometimes she’s a liar and sometimes confused? I don’t really know. I want to give her the benefit of the doubt, but since the untruths always tend her way and try to make her look good and the rest of us look stupid, it’s curious…..

    • pixie

      Yes, it’s hard to tell sometimes.
      My aunt has always had the mentality that she’s better than everyone else on her side of the family (she likes me, but I think that’s because I’m a girl and have blonde hair like her) and married into a wealthy family. I swear one of her favourite things to do lately is basically call my dad a monster because he told her off for doing something she had no right doing and then in the next breath say how concerned she is about his arthritis. She’s 61 this year, so starting to get a little older and perhaps losing her memory a little.
      I feel your frustration and wanting to give her the benefit of the doubt but also being super skeptical.

    • Say it to my face, biach

      My younger sister pulls this crap with the kids she nannies–kids I’ve never met or spoken to. When I got engaged a few months back she would call me and say things like “I’m watching Malachite and he’s only three, but even he says he can’t believe you’re getting married before I am.” If it wasn’t so completely absurd, it would be insulting. Do people just not realize how utterly ridiculous they sound when they do this?

    • Carrie Murphy


    • What’s wrong with Tom?

      Yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuup. I sincerely hope that kid grows up to be a genius or else it’s going to be way too easy to make “dumb as a rock” jokes at his expense.

    • Evelyn

      There is a Malachi in one of my kids classes, that is a real name and rather biblical. Any chance your sister got the name of the kid she looks after slightly wrong?

    • Spiderpigmom

      I thought the same thing, but probably we underestimate people’s “creativity” with names.
      Also, I had a “Name of the Rose” flashback.

    • Justme

      Oh. So that time I told my daughter to go ask my husband to take us to Sonic for ice cream because I know he won’t say no? Like that? Whoops. I guess the “ice cream, ice cream” dance we did around the house when he said yes didn’t help things either.

    • pineapplegrasss

      oh yay! its not just me!

    • pineapplegrasss

      I don’t know why I’m reading back through my own posts, but I just said ‘just me’ (about ME) to justme (someone else) and I guess now I’m replying to myself too..

    • pixie

      My boyfriend’s parents speak through their dog. It’s amusing the first time, but it’s pretty constant. *sigh*

  • pineapplegrasss

    Im still trying to figure out a ‘two finger’ could possibly choke of those wooden blocks?

    • Tinyfaeri

      I was wondering that – are they micro-mini or does the kid just have a ridiculously large mouth and/or throat?

      Also, wtf is up with calling them “two finger” or “three finger” kids? That’s not actually a thing, is it?

    • M.

      yeah, this confounded me too…my kid has those exact blocks and i got them for him for his first christmas when he was 6 months old. i guess i’m a bad mom? or maybe my kid has an abnormally small mouth? cuz he’s 2 and a half now and still wouldn’t be able to fit one in his mouth…

    • Ddaisy

      Hey, I got almost the same blocks for my first Christmas too :) 23 years later, I am alive and well. (And would still have a tough time fitting one in my mouth…) Your kid is fine :)

  • Justme

    Grandma sounds like someone I don’t want to invite over for Christmas. Judgy little sanctigrammy.

  • Mel

    Um, you could have just summarized this for us but NOOOOOOOOO, you just had to drag us down with you by sending us to read the article. Thanks-a-lot ladies! It’s like when my Sis says “OMG that’s the grossest thing I’ve ever tasted…. here you have to try a bite” LOL

  • Evelyn

    That seemed to me a rather twee and patronising way to shame parents for not raising kids the way she raises kids. I would not want to have a woman like that as my mother-in-law and the grandmother of my kids.

  • brebay

    Yeah, I’m all in favor of paper books for kids too, but I want to smack this chick.

    • pineapplegrasss

      I seriously got all jealous that I don’t have a robot to read to my kids for me.

  • Kay_Sue

    The worst part of reading things like this is agreeing with the idea–because I do–and hating the pretentious tone entirely.

    • Evelyn

      Yes, some of what she says is true, but the way it is presented is appallingly twee, patronising and snide. However a lot of what her fictional grandmother writes about the fictional parents of a fictional toddler is completely exaggerated at best. I don’t know any parents who would buy all of those things for a two year old. Also, if I had friends who raised their kid like that while I would see that their mum had a lot of sense in some of the things she said (although again takes it a bit far) I would sympathise as they moaned about how awful and judgy she was being to them.

    • Kay_Sue

      I worked in a baby store for three years, and a toy store for two more, and I am here to say, there are absolute droves of parents who think exactly like this. There were so many times that I wanted to say, Dear God, step away from Baby Einstein and just talk to your kid! My mother is a first grade teacher who actually had to alter the way she teaches because kids motor skills are developing differently because of the amount of time they spend playing video games.

      I do believe parents have a responsibility to educate their children on technology…but there are many parents that don’t understand the development of young children, and it is affecting kids in a myriad of ways.

      So yes,I agree wit the intent of this author–a lot of parents don’t realize how important open-ended play is, or how much just talking to and interacting with their child helps them learn…ESPECIALLY parents living at or below the poverty line, a subset of kids consistently identified as most at risk for crazy things like learning disabilities and obesity.

      I think she was stupid with the way she wrote it, and it makes me want to punch her in the face (I wouldn’t, but I want to), because what folks need isn’t derision and pretension, but guidance and encouragement.

  • pixie

    Just. No.
    I really can’t get past the adult speaking as toddler as dictated by grandmother. And the “two-finger/three-finger” thing. Books are good. Blocks are good. Tricycles are good. If you want your kid to have them, you’re both the parents and Santa. If family members ask for suggestions, then it’s not hard to tell them books or blocks if that’s what you want your child to play with. (My family usually asks different members for suggestions for other people because we like to get people things they’d like or need, along with a couple little fun and inexpensive surprise things to go along with it).
    Also, maybe it was just my grandmother, but my grandmother LOVED buying my small cousin very noisy toys (which he then insisted on playing with the one day he was with us at the apartment when we were trying to start emptying it after she died…it was all sorts of hell, and it took multiple attempts to get him to stop). Maybe that was because in her mid-80s she was starting to lose her hearing and it didn’t bother her.

  • JadePanda

    So much wrong here…the baby talk, passing judgement through kids. Ugh.

    Also, I call bs on a two year old preferring picture books to tech toys. My infant daughter loves her some “Goodnight Moon”, but if she even catches a *glimpse* of a tablet or smartphone, she could give a damn if the book burst into flames. My friend’s toddlers are the same way. I hope she appreciates books as she gets older, but under a certain age, bright lights and noises win everytime, regardless of what “Grandma” says.

    • Evelyn

      Not only is the toddler fictional but so is the grandmother. I got nosy after reading that letter and checked her other articles. The author is the mother of teenage boys, so she doesn’t even have an adult son and daughter-in-law upsetting her by raising kids the ‘wrong’ way yet. She is however in child development education. She is actually passive aggressively ranting at the parents of kids she used to work with (unprofessional) before she has moved entirely to writing.

  • scooby23

    The “letter” sounds less like a piece about bringing classic toys back and more like an advertisement for the Fisher Price Brilliant Basics Corn Popper, Radio Flyer tricycles, soft, colored blocks, Uncle Goose alphabet blocks, and childrens’ books. Why don’t we bet how much she was getting paid per toy mention?

  • Cate Pane

    I recently found your review of my Huffington Post article. It is very difficult for me to take your criticism seriously when you lower the level of the post by swearing. I spent 8 years working with developmentally delayed preschool children and I spent at least 10 hours researching for this article. I was not PAID to recommend the old-fashioned toys. I believe in them and have witnessed professionally and personally the positive impact that these toys have on child development. Your criticism of my style of writing the piece is definitely well-taken but would not be at the level of professional discourse.