Posts Tagged ‘kids’

The couch box

August 31, 2010

Take me out to the…dentist

July 15, 2010

I was having trouble planning what Charlie and I should do tomorrow, so I solicited his ideas.

His first idea was to attend a sing-along with Miss Katie, since we had just seen her in the cafe. I emailed around about her schedule and put it on the maybe list.

His second idea was music class with Gina. Gina’s in Beacon, so that was a no.

His third idea was Sesame Place. Of course. But we have a plan for that, for next week. So, it was out for tomorrow.

His fourth idea was to go to Disney World. Yes, we will end up there. I can tell that already. But some day, not tomorrow; it’s too far away.

His fifth idea, right after Disney World, was…the dentist. You can have the “lady dentist” (i.e., the dental hygienist) clean your teeth while you sit in the big chair, he said, and then pick prizes from the treasure chest. True.

I love that the dentist is on this list and that it comes right after Disney World.

When you pretend to kill someone, please use gentle hands

May 17, 2010

This morning, Charlie wanted me to tell his friend Matt about our bubble gun. It’s a gun; it blows bubbles.

There was a time, not too long ago, when Charlie had no idea what a gun was, or even how to hold one. Yes, we let him watch TV, but it’s always monitored. There is a specific selection of kids shows on PBS or Nick, Jr. on demand, which means no commercials and no violence. He’s also into old movies and YouTube, but again, monitored.

But this year his school friends are older. They know all about killing and guns and squashing bugs. Charlie has come home slashing a pretend sword and making his sticks cut down dandelions. Lately, when he gets angry he sometimes says he wants to cut my head off. (I swear, he’s well-balanced! I can be aggravating at times.)

I was worried about the aggressive talk until I started doing some reading. If kids can’t hit or kick or throw temper tantrums, they need to channel their aggression somewhere–like into words (I am so angry I feel like cutting your head off…you know, for example) or into game play, such as pretending to cut down dandelions or shoot each other with bubble guns.

So tentatively, and mixed with a lot of outdoor running around, we’ve allowed the violent play–as long as it is not rude or physically hurtful. In other words, you can pretend to kill someone, as long as you use gentle hands.

But today, when I told Matt about the gun, he said, “Oh! We’re not supposed to use that word.”

I thought back over what I’d said, thinking maybe he’d heard “sh*t” when I’d said “shoot.” “What word?” I asked.


I was dumbfounded. “Gun? Really?”

I called the teacher over. “They can’t say gun?”

And she explained how the kids had been pretending to use guns and saying they were killing each other. The aggressive language and pretend play was disturbing to the adults, so they’d called a teacher meeting and decided the kids couldn’t use the word ‘gun’ in class.

My first thought was that making guns into something secretive and subversive would only increase their appeal.

My second thought was that this was the exact opposite of all that I’d read. Granted, I’m not an expert in childhood development and supposedly these teachers are. But I explained how we handle it at home, and told her about what I’d read. I said that pretend play–as long as no one was actually getting hurt–seemed to be the safest way to act out aggression and figure out problem-solving techniques. She said the teachers just wanted to promote peace in the classroom, which is understandable with 18 kids.

So now I’m not sure what to think. What about cowboys and Indians? What about robots vs. aliens? What about all those other boy games that I don’t know much about? Are all of these verboten?

I’m thinking of going to the head teacher with my printed-out articles and requesting some sort of compromise. Maybe pretending with guns and swords can be okay when they are outside on the playground?

But what if I’m wrong? What if it isn’t okay for kids to pretend to kill each other? What if that does lead to real-life aggression?

Am I blowing this out of proportion? (I do live one neighborhood away from Park Slope, after all.) Is it a case of, if you imagine it, you’ll do it? Or, is pretend play really what I think it is: an essential tool for helping boys–and girls, too–learn to express and work through their aggression without actually hurting anyone?

Funny words

April 21, 2010

Charlie watching jellyfish on an aquarium trip with his dad a few weeks ago

Charlie said he wanted some chocolate chips.

I said he could have one.

He said, “How about two? Three?”

I said, “One.”


“Okay,” I said. “You can have one or zero.”


Hmm. Zero must seem like a fantastical, foreign word.

Charlie was riding on his dad’s shoulders. The wind blew hard against us.

“Daddy,” he said, “the wind is having a party in your hair.”

Playing with a box

April 12, 2010

A preview

March 16, 2010

You might remember that Charlie and I talk about our favorite parts at the end of each day. This is something we started after I read about ways to cultivate gratitude, and it has become one of the best parts of my daily routine.

But over the last few weeks, focusing only on the good stuff became frustrating. First, Charlie often had a hard time differentiating between “favorite” and “memorable.” (Seeing the swans = favorite; when a younger classmate bites you = memorable.) Second, though the exercise began as a way to encourage optimism and gratitude, it was stifling to ignore our other emotional, but not necessarily positive, experiences.

So we started including bad parts with our good parts.

This allows Charlie to talk about all of the things that capture his attention. As a result, our evening ritual feels more and more like real conversation.

But last night, the conversation took a philosophical turn.

We had a nice day. We saw Charlie’s old music teacher at a sing-along; we had brunch with close friends; we napped; we bounced and ate pizza with other friends. As we were reviewing our day, neither of us could immediately think of a bad part. No one had gotten in trouble, or hurt our feelings or anything else. (We did eventually decide that our bad part was missing Daddy all day. He’s in Austin for five days!)

Once we concluded that neither of us had many bad parts, Charlie asked, “Mama, are you happy that I don’t have bad parts today?”

I was thrown for a loop. Of course I was happy that he’d had a good day. But how do you explain empathy to a four-year-old without placing the burden of your happiness on his shoulders? Should I say, “I’m happy that you had a happy day.” Or, “When you’re sad, it makes me sad because I hurt for you.” Neither felt right.

I stumbled around a bit, stalling for time as I tried to think about how I should phrase my response. It came out as something like, “Everyone feels sad and has bad parts. I know bad parts can make you feel sad…” I was losing him with babble.

Finally, I stopped. I took a deep breath. I looked at him directly and said, “It makes me happy that we can talk about our day, bad parts and favorite parts. It makes me happy when you can tell me what you feel.”

He nodded and snuggled closer.

Maybe I said the right thing. I don’t know. It felt like the weight of all our future conversations were hanging on this answer, on the words I chose. I could imagine him as a teenager saying, “I didn’t want to tell you how I really felt because I didn’t want you to be unhappy with me.”

True, he’s only almost-4 and not 16. True, he’s not on the verge of suicide or drugs. But it’s also true that the question was a hard one.

And, I’ve heard the questions only get harder over time.

A future Olympian

February 20, 2010

Last night, while we were watching Evan Lysacek’s magnificently graceful Olympic performance, Charlie woke up to go to the bathroom.

As he headed back to the bedroom, the TV caught his eye.

“Look, he’s ice skating,” Charlie said. “Just like us.”

A New Yorker on the potty

February 4, 2010

nyer dogs

When this cover came in the mail today, boy was Charlie excited. Funny dogs! Wearing coats! Upstairs, he wanted to take the magazine into the bathroom while he pooped.

He never reads while he poops!

Nice that his first potty read was oh-so-sophisticated.

new yorker on the potty

Back and forth

January 28, 2010

When Charlie gave me a hug tonight and said, unprompted, “You are the most best Mama in the whole wide world,” it was almost enough to make me forget my aggravation this morning when he rolled on the floor screaming instead of putting on his clothes.

One day he’ll understand that putting clothes on now means getting to work on time 40 minutes from now. But probably by that time, he won’t think of me as the most, best Mama any more.

So, I will focus on the positive and be happy that I can sometimes walk fast enough to make up the lost time.

What do you call a fishing rod?

December 4, 2009

When Kylie and Kathryn came for a visit right after Thanksgiving, they brought a gift from Nanny and Pawpaw–a magnetic bird puzzle that included a “fishing rod” with a magnet at the end.

Charlie has been fascinated by puzzles recently, and he loved this addition to his collection. He has two other magnetic puzzles, one of cars and one of birds, and we’ve been calling the magnetic stick a “fishing rod” for a while now.

The other day, though, when Charlie was playing puzzles with Jesse he called that piece a “fetching rod.”

Makes perfect sense to me!