Lately, I’ve been thinking I should start picking up those parenting books that I tossed aside long ago. To be honest, I haven’t even thought of browsing through one in about two years.
But lately, I’m stumped and I’m struggling to know the right thing to do.
At issue? E’s relationships with her classmates and her non-stop questions about EVERYTHING.
For the most part, we have no issues at school. I don’t think she’s being bullied and I don’t think she’s a bully herself (Lord, I hope not). But sometimes kids are just kids and say some not-so-nice things. Over the past week, two things have really bummed her out.
Last week, she came home all upset one day because one of her friends told her she’s not really a ballerina. Clearly her friend never saw this picture:
That one wasn’t too tough to handle. I asked her where she goes every week (“ballet class”) and what does she learn (“to dance like a ballerina”). She followed the logic and realized that yes, she is a ballerina. Crisis averted.
Lately, E’s favorite song to hum is Darth Vader’s theme from “Star Wars.” She’s eerily good at hitting all the right notes at the right time. Today, though, she came home and said, “Mommy, Sid said this isn’t Darth Vader’s song.” Then, she started with her “dun, dun, dun, dun dundun dun dundun” rendition. Trust me, she sings it better than I type it.
I asked why he said that and she said she didn’t know. I told her that she is right that it is Darth Vader’s song and that she’s singing it right. But she wouldn’t let it go. “But why did he tell me it’s not? What do I tell him?”
Finally, stumped, I just said, “Tell him, ‘That’s just your opinion, man.'”
Yes, I’ve reached a new low. I’m giving parenting advice based on quotes from “The Big Lebowski.”
The thing is, none of my explanations seem to make a difference. Whether I try to keep it simple or, at her insistence, make it very detailed, the “whys” never seem to sink in.
That’s why I find myself having the same two conversations with her almost every day — why do we have to go to sleep at night and why did our dogs die?
Neither conversation is fun and both usually end with her in tears because she either doesn’t want to sleep or she misses her doggies (side note: I can’t believe how strongly she remembers them. She was just over 2 when we put them to sleep yet she asks about them almost every day. The only solution is we’re going to have to get another dog).
So, here’s where I need help:
— What do I tell her when a kid is mean to her or says something mean to her? Are parents still using phrases like “turn the other cheek”? My instinct is tell her to kick them in the shins, but I have a nagging feeling that’s probably bad advice.
— Someone PLEASE give me a good answer for why she has to go to bed. My explanations of restoring energy, brain growth and even “because Santa is watching” are just not cutting it.
— Any tips for the death and dying conversation? I’ve explained that the dogs were sick but now they are happy in heaven. Then, somehow I found myself in an existential conversation about souls and the bodies left behind. Clearly this is not a conversation I should be having with a 3-year-old but I swear, her questions were more pointed than I would have thought … and incessant!
Teach me how to talk to my kid!
I can’t help, sadly, but wanted to tell you that your E is not alone. We had to put our cat to sleep when our daughter had just turned 2. Three months later and she still asks for him as soon as we get home almost every day. I don’t know what to tell her. We told her that he was sick and went to live somewhere where he would feel better. I was afraid to say too much because I didn’t want her to be afraid that she would get sent away every time she got sick…LOL. Anyway, she hasn’t seemed to grasp that yet. Any advice you get would be much appreciated!
When E was still 2 and during the first few months after we put them down, I tried that tactic too. But it’s now been 17 months since we put them down and she just was NOT letting it go that they could possibly be somewhere else.
Thanks to the unfortunate snake incident when my husband ran over a snake with the mower, we had the whole death and dying conversation with her this summer in as simple terms as possible (since she wanted to keep the snake — all 3 pieces of it — as a pet!). After she kept asking about the dogs, I finally told her that they couldn’t come home because they are dead, too. Little did I know the giant can of worms that would open — are they in heaven with my grandma? (yes) did they take their bodies with them? (no) where are their bodies? (at the vet’s) can we bury them (no) will they come back? (no). Every day, she comes up with a new question about it!
I wasn’t ready for all this yet!
Michelle @ Crazy*Running*Legs says
She’s still really young – so I wouldn’t stress about answering the majority of her questions with “Because I said so.” Sometimes that still works with B!
As for why she should go to bed? Because if not (insert her favorite toy) is going to be taken away from her. (and if she doesn’t follow your directions – take it away. It only takes one time before she realizes you are serious, even if the first time sucks).
Death and dying? We took the ped’s advice and watched Charlotte’s Web and explained that nothing bad happened to Charlotte. She was just old and it was time to die. I didn’t think B got it (we were trying to explain Dan’s dad passing away), but now I realize he did. It just took a little time. You could also watch All Dogs Go to Heaven. See – TV does help!!
When the kids are mean? I actually have no idea how to deal with this myself – so let me know how that goes. I do like the advice you’ve already given.
Being a parent is hard.
Why didn’t I think of All Dogs Go to Heaven? Totally Netflixing that. Great call! I also like the idea of Charlotte’s Web, although there’s no way I make it through that without it becoming a sob fest, so maybe I’ll hold off a wee bit longer on that!
Maybe I just get Old Yeller and traumatize her good, once and for all!
For bedtime, we’ve been threatening taking away her one show a morning that she watches and it’s had limited success. Last night was the best — I told her if she got out of bed one time she couldn’t go to ballet today. Worked like a charm! Clearly I’m going to have to enroll her in full-time ballet school so that I can use that threat every night.
The mean kids just make me sad because it always makes her so sad. And I know that’s an issue that’s going to be 1,000 percent worse before it gets better. Yup, being a parent is really hard.
I won’t be much help, but my mom always says that kids will keep asking a question until you give them an answer that satisfies them, ie i kept asking her if she was going to die and she would just tell me that no, she wasn’t going to die any Time soon, but i kept asking, until she told me that IF she died, i would be OK because i would go live with my Godmother. I guess that’s what i was looking for because I stopped asking… So I guess you have to keep trying until you find out what is really troubling E …. Good luck!
That is an EXCELLENT way of looking at the questions. And it makes so much sense now that I think back on the answers that have actually satisfied her. Thank you for this perspective!!
Paula @ Eat: Watch: Run says
I’m trying to remember what my mom told me and I can only remember one thing. Sometime called me something and I don’t remember what it was now, but I told my mom and she told me to tell them they were “a generic” and that they wouldn’t understand it anyway and that would shut them up. LOL And I did call them that. I remember that clearly. Can’t say it shut them up though.
How about “I know you are but what am I?” – man, I’m not helping am I?
I agree with Michelle’s bedtime answer. Anything being taken away from me as a kid worked like a charm. And my mom didn’t even threaten. She just took something away the first time and I knew what would happen the second time.
LOVE both the generic and “you can’t lose the ugly” comebacks. I’m banking those in my memory for elementary school.
Dude, your mom didn’t mess around! I just said to my husband last night that it’s time I turn into Mean Mommy for awhile because clearly my threats and commands aren’t cutting it at bedtime.
Watch out Noisy Pink Baby — you’re mine.
Paula @ Eat: Watch: Run says
On a related note, when my neice was 12 she was telling me how she was upset that some boy called her fat. I told her to tell him “I can lose the weight, but you can’t lose the ugly.”
Theresa @ActiveEggplant says
Oh geeze – the things I have to look forward to whenever I (hopefully someday) have a child!
To think that kids start being mean to other kids at THIS early of an age is scary – I mean, I remember being picked on in like 3rd grade…but at age 3 or 4? Come on!
I think the way you handled the ballerina question was perfect – she IS a ballerina! Maybe the other little girl is just jealous because she’s NOT in ballet class and was trying to make herself feel better?
In my opinion, the simple fact that you are worried about finding the right answer for all of E’s questions is exactly what makes you a good parent! So even if you don’t have the answers that satisfy her now, I say keep at it!
p.s. I’m STILL traumatized by Old Yeller – so that’s definitely the way to handle her “why did our dogs die” question!
deva at deva by definition says
The phrase “you grow tall while you are sleeping” always worked on me…
Caroline Calcote says
As far as the mean kids go, we have just always told them that sometimes people are just mean. We tell them that they should feel sorry for the mean kid because nobody has taught him the right way to behave and in the end that person will be unhappy. The kindness you give is the happiness you receive. We tell them to “kill them with kindness” (that’s what my Dad told me) because that will drive them crazy. We tell them that if you let mean people affect you then they win. If you just say to yourself, “Whatever, I am awesome, I don’t care what you say” then you win. Obviously we have told them a ton of things to deal with this situation. Now that they are older it is gratifying to see that some of it has sunk in. Mean people just suck. Even mean little kids.
I am totally on board with Michelle about the bedtime stuff. We did the same thing at that age. Now if there is an issue (almost never) we threaten to take away computer time. Works every time.
The other kids issue is tough. We have said there are just mean kids out there, but we haven’t come across any real bullies yet. Don’t know what to say when that time comes.
The pet one is hard (sorry about your doggies). We have lost 4 cats since Kiddo was born. He only remembers the last two, and one of them he will still get teary-eyed about, even though it was 2 years ago. We aren’t religious so I haven’t gone the heaven route. All our pets are burried in our yard (hey–it’s cheap–not pet cemetery) and we would plant a tree or something for them so we could remember them and their spirit would be with us forever. We’ve had to explain how everything can only live so long (esp after his grandpa passed) but we will always have a little piece of them in our hearts. Oh, and it’s okay to be sad and miss them–that just means they were loved.
Good luck. We all need a personal Yoda. Heck, I’d take Obi Wan (esp. in the form of Ewan M.)
1) Meanies – keep talking with her at home but she will have to find her own way – very important in her building social skills. Her trial and error will allow her to discover what works, what doesn’t, and will allow her to hold her own self confidence. My son had a bully on the playground who used to scare him by growling at him… My advice? Growl back. Good in theory but my son had to find the will power to stand up and growl on his own since mommy wasn’t on the playground at school with him.
2) Coming from a teacher who sees tired kids every morning because they couldn’t get to sleep, I cannot stress enough the value of setting up a bedtime ritual and stick with it! If not, it very well may haunt you through high school! (Truly!)
3) On your own wih the death thing – I am sure I screwed that up with the number of small animal accidents that occurred in our household!
Hey Jackie! Just saw this post and have to comment on the bedtime argument. We have found that our kids don’t fight as much with uswhen we just say, “Because that’s the rule. We didn’t make it, but we have to follow them too.” We blame the government and the elementary school on implementing bedtimes and simply say it is out of our hands. It actually works! They are mad at the government and realize we can’t do anything about it. You’d be surprised as to what you can blame the government for!
As to the life and death comments, you know I have been having this discussion with my kids for a while now. I really think they can handle doses of complete honestly (most kids anyway – ask Neil about Morgan’s stunning realization that she would also die one day – she was traumatized for weeks) spoken to them at their level. Connor is fascinated by heaven and what and who will be there. Good luck!