Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Three Year Old Meanie Made Me Cry

There’s a back story to this.

In the days before Em discovered Dora the Explorer (or as I like to call it, “Dora the Explorah,” temporarily adopting my dad’s New York accent), my daughter’s favorite program was “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.” It’s a great show, if you haven’t seen it. Basically, it’s an animated spin-off of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, which focuses on the characters from Mr. Roger’s Land of Make Believe (because, let’s face it, those of us who grew up watching Mr. Roger’s TOLERATED the rest of the show but LOVED the part that took place in the LoMB).

Each episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood focuses on very real toddler issues, and addresses the issues through well-written dialogue and catchy musical numbers. For instance, in the episode that deals with Daniel Tiger’s fear of his parents’ leaving him, he is reassured that “Parents Always Come Back” – a sung mantra that is repeated through the entire episode. In the episode about dealing with anger and disappointment, Daniel’s mom sings, “if you feel so mad that you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four.”And the sentence is sung about 18 more times during the remainder of the half-hour program. In one of our favorite all-time episodes focused on going potty, Daniel’s teacher wisely instructs, “if you have to go potty, stop and go right away. Flush and wash, and be on your way!”

Em’s obsession with Daniel Tiger resulted in our whole family singing many of these simple tunes as a means of remembering how to deal with our real life toddler issues. So, for instance, when Em doesn’t want to go potty because she is too busy playing with her toys, we sing the “if you have to go potty” song, and she GETS it. If, on rare occasion, Em throws a fit when I drop her off at daycare in the morning, I sing her the “Parents Always Come Back” song and it calms her down a little.

There is also an episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood that focuses on the concept of sharing toys. In it, in true toddler fashion, Daniel and his friends are hesitant to let each other play with their most prized possessions. They learn to share through a little song that goes, “you can take a turn, and then I’ll get it back.” This assures the children that even though they are being kind and letting another child play with their favorite toy, after the friend is done playing with it, it will be returned so they can hold it and play with it once again.

That’s the back story.

So yesterday, I dropped Em off at daycare. Em’s been really great about drop-off recently, which I am supremely grateful for. Em took off her coat without fuss, and we walked over to one of the classroom’s play areas, where she started looking for something to play with.

One of her classmates, a bigger boy with a really cute smile AND a slightly aggressive manner, came over to Em with his plastic dinosaur and started roaring at her in a rather intimidating way. Em sort of backed up against a wall, and giggled in a semi-frightened way.

I wanted to step in and tell Em not to be scared of the boy or his plastic dinosaur, but I figured I’d be hovering, and she would be okay without mom’s help. So I went to put her lunchbox and jacket in her cubby.

When I came back to kiss her and hug her goodbye, the little boy was grabbing a toy out of Em’s hand. And my beautiful little girl responded by singing, in a very soft voice, “you can take a turn, and then I’ll get it back.”

The boy didn’t pay any attention to her song. He just took the toy away from her and ran to the other side of the room.

At that point I DID try to intervene a little. I gave Em a hug and told her that maybe when the boy was done playing with the toy, she could have another turn with it. But I didn’t want to scold the boy because there was already a teacher in the room, and I didn’t want to make it seem like I was doing HER job. I was also just totally emotional about seeing my daughter deal with the issue, and try to reason with her classmate, by singing her little song. I had to get out of the classroom before I started crying in front of the toddlers and making a fool of myself.

Luckily, I held it together long enough to get out to my car before bursting into tears.

I don’t know exactly what made me so SAD about the situation, but it totally hit me right in the gut (and it still makes me cry when I think about it). Maybe it makes me sad because I think it is naive that my daughter believes that conflict can be resolved through song, just as she’s been taught on Daniel Tiger, and I wonder how much longer she’ll believe that singing is a means of resolution. Maybe it makes me sad that the boy DIDN’T stop and listen to her song, and it made me feel my daughter’s vulnerability in the situation, and it made me realize I won’t be able to protect her forever.

But maybe I should look on the bright side. After all, I am proud of my daughter for trying to reason with the little boy, even if it was unsuccessful. I am proud that rather than pushing, or screaming, or grabbing the toy back, Em has learned a different coping mechanism.

I guess I should learn a lesson myself, from yet another Daniel Tiger episode. When Daniel Tiger is sad about his beautiful birthday cake getting smushed, his parents comfort him by telling him, “when something seems bad, turn it around, and find something good.”


  1. Aw love. I'm sorry the little boy was so mean. Again Em has shown how graceful and wise she is as such a little girl. I'm sending you both mental hugs!

    I'm not sure what the good thing out of this would be other than being proud of Em for not having a fit, but I bet we could figure something out if we had cupcakes.

    1. Well, the boy wasn't really being so mean, he was just being a toddler boy :). But I was proud of Em's grace (a good way of putting it!) - she definitely wasn't as affected by the situation as I was! She just moved on and figured out something else to do, whereas I went out to the car and cried. :) Who me, emotional? Naaaah.

      Did someone mention cupcakes?

      Love you!