Only on Vashon- The Weekly Rundown 9/2/2022

We start with a rant about how best to raise children, which always goes over well. An anonymous islander says, “Please teach your kids about the boy who cried wolf. I hear kids screaming/shrieking like they are in trouble or hurt and they aren’t.”

Children have a plethora of screams, from the quick shrill shriek of being surprised to the long “aaaaa!” of your friend putting a spider in your face, to the “wee!” of spinning around so fast that you throw up, to the sharp cry of pain. As a parent, you become fluent in the language of screaming, knowing what emotional tenor each change in pitch translates to. But each child has their own idiolect, and one child’s happy scream may be another’s cry for help. So how do you manage the screams of other people’s children? 

Clearly, you tell them anonymously online to teach their children the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, so that in a moment of exuberance and joy, children will be reminded of the predator always lurking in the bush, and will refrain from expressing themselves and instead remain calm and quiet. An excellent solution. 

Some islanders disagree with the anonymous poster’s gripe. They say, “Be more patient and less judgemental with children who are learning how to be in the world.”

Is the post judgemental? Is telling people that their children’s screams are distressing a judgment? I think it’s a valid concern, but I also think that scolding parents isn’t going to work. It’s the kind of thing you just have to let pass. 

Did the original poster mean we should squelch all childlike joy in the world forever at all times, going so far as to prevent our children from making noise as they sullenly roll down hills? We assume they did indeed mean exactly that and berate them for it.

The original poster says they have children, but their children never scream like that. They used to, when they were little, but not anymore. And besides, the problem isn’t their children, it’s other people’s children. 

We discussed this topic for a while, then typos and autocorrect led us to believe that a group member ate their children, which I guess might solve the problem of the noise, albeit by creating a much, much worse problem. 

To this typo someone responds, “who ate children? I suppose if a child is being eaten, it’s ok for them to scream, to a point.”

Another islander points out an important cultural context that may be related to an uptick in screaming. “Have you heard the garbage TV that they are watching and emulating? It’s all screaming and it’s really gross.”

Ok, I actually kinda agree with this one. Kids’ cartoons are full of screaming. Rather than talking, the characters screech their sarcastic and wry observations at an alarming speed, and I wonder how children can process that much language that quickly, especially when it’s accompanied by flashing lights. 

This is my inside voice.

One islander notes, “Pretty sure neither the screaming nor the complaining about the screaming has changed much in thousands of years…”

Another responds, “No they’re louder now. Thousands of years ago they would have been devoured by animals going for easy prey.”

I don’t think screaming would have been a safety issue thousands of years ago. If predators chased children, they could just climb a pyramid to get away. And then when it was safe again, they could roll back down the pyramid, squealing with laughter the whole way. 

One islander brings in this wisdom, “It’s a child’s dharma to scream and yell, as it is a fly’s to buzz, etc.”

Another responds, “not mine.” Which begs the question, how did she get her flies to stop buzzing? I’d love to learn that life hack.  

Others maintain that screaming is a uniquely American problem. “In some cultures the kids don’t scream. Kids in America do, for some reason.”

Another responds, “My fiance always wondered how other countries/cultures/era’s handled babies/children if they are always so noisy.”

We get this explanation: “Babies or children making noise could have been life threatening under certain circumstances, so I imagine they were taught harshly and soon not to do it. They’re not entitled, like we Americans.”

This is an amazing look into how Americans view other countries, which are all so dangerous that everyone is always silently hiding from roving bad guys. Even the cry of a child could endanger them. 

One islander points out: “This is a slippery slope, island neighbors. One day they’re complaining about children rolling down hills and screaming, next thing you know, they’ll be complaining about roosters crowing and dogs barking.”

One parent points out a truth I know in my soul: “I’d be more worried if they stopped screaming.”

And finally, we have the best piece of advice, “Maybe we should just scream back.”


Grocery store flyers have been collecting at the post office. Most of them expired and were delivered late.

Someone says it’s “Like an episode of Stranger Things.”

I’ve never seen Stranger Things, but I’ve watched the Twilight Zone, and I imagine they have a similar vibe. In the Twilight Zone, an aspect of society gets exaggerated in a way that grows increasingly distressing. I wonder what it is about those flyers that feels so off-putting? Is it that the messy collection presents a small divergence from normal behavior- people leaving them around to be someone else’s problem- that is the first move in a longer slide toward people not concerning themselves with each other at all? 

Thank goodness, the answer to that question is no. I know this because a couple of islanders teamed up to bring donuts and orange juice to the post office workers because they’re so swamped. You guys are the best. You’ve restored my faith in humanity. 

Anna Shomsky
Author: Anna Shomsky

I'm a former teacher and a data engineer living on Vashon Island. My writing has appeared in Five on the Fifth, Women on Writing and on the Post-Culture Podcast. I wrote and produced the radio show Whispers of Vashon for 101.9 KVSH. I’ve had short stories published in the anthologies Island Stories and Chicken Scratchings, as well as through the Open Space Literary Project.

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