I confess…I lie more often than I want to, and it’s a bad habit. Please don’t judge me. Let me explain. Growing up, I had a very superstitious upbringing (being Filipino). I was fed stories of mermaids who could potentially grab and drown you if you stand too close to the river or monsters who ate only children. A horror movie in the making? You BET, and there have been many made since then. #gottalovefilipinoroots
As I grew older, I obviously saw the intent for these stories and swore to myself I would never use those tactics with my daughter. In fact, I set myself a standard to NEVER lie to my kid. I envisioned my very logical-self being able to reason with whatever my daughter would challenge me with. I swore to myself I would do this with the intent that my daughter would mature. I would use the same logical reasoning with my husband but with the patience of Mary Poppins. And honestly, I did pretty damn well in the first 2 years of Everly’s life.
THE EARLY NON-LYING STAGES
Everly was a smart and balanced little girl. She learned sign language early, and by the time she was 6 months old, she communicated with us. She was mellow andshe took “no” very well. Once she was a little over 1 year old, she was speaking. By 2 years old, she could hold a full conversation. We would go to Disneyland and toy stores where she would ask for us to buy her things. We would say no, and she would simply give them a hug and say ‘goodbye.’ If I asked her to eat something specific, and she originally refused, I was able to tell her WHY this was important, WHY she needed to eat it (logically), and she gave in. Then, something happened. I remember it vividly…
We went on a family vacation to Orlando when Everly was 2.5 years old. In the last few months prior, she had been playing with another 2 little girls at her school, which her teachers at the time warned me they were negatively impacting her. They were a little bossier and one child was physical. That’s another story for another time, but it did change Everly. In addition to that she was also turning into a threenager. She screamed, she didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. It was a challenge, but we stuck to our guns. Sometimes we won, sometimes she was in time out for a long time, but we were getting worn down.
We took a red-eye flight to Orlando (our mistake, which we will never do again). Everly didn’t sleep at all. We went to Disneyworld after we landed, hoping she would crash when she was tired, but instead, she was worse than a zombie. She was a flesh-eating, shrieking zombie who needed what she wanted and needed it now. She needed to see a princess, and if there wasn’t one available…MELTDOWN CENTRAL. The pepperoni on her pizza fell on her napkin…MELTDOWN. She wanted to eat, but she didn’t want to leave the room…MELTDOWN. This all happened before noon.
She was clearly overtired. It was a perfect storm of what she had been exposed to in the last few months, the development that she experienced going from baby to vocal toddler, and the fact that we all had NO sleep. And then it happened…
It was dinner time. We were staying in the Animal Kingdom Lodge, conveniently with animals outside our balcony. She hadn’t had a proper meal all day. She was flipping out with the food that was on the table. She was screaming, pulling her clothes, yelling “NO,” and would just not eat. We were frantic trying to keep her volume down not to bother other hotel guests who probably thought we were torturing our child.
And I blurt out…”Everly, if you don’t eat and calm down the BEARS will hear you!”
And Justin, blurts out…”Yeah, and they’ll EAT YOU.” (as I whispered, “too far, babe, babe, too far.)
And Everly’s response?
She went completely silent.
Looked at us with big, wide eyes with a slight feeling of concern.
“Yes, Bears…” I said in a nervous tone.
“Okay, then we better hurry.” Everly says, as she heads to the table, and complies, without a fight, without tears, and eats ALL her food.
We thought, what are we thinking? Bears??!! WTF – How messed up are we? But it worked… And we abused it. We’ve now taken it to another level.
When she fights sleep or fights eating, or can’t self regulate herself, the bears knock on doors.To this day (a year later), she still complies. She sometimes yells, “BEARS, DON’T COME, I’M EATING, okay?”
Do we feel like horrible parents? We totally did, and then I realized, YOU HAVE TO DO WHAT KEEPS YOU SANE AND YOUR CHILD HEALTHY.
Logic doesn’t always work with a child. When time is limited, reason doesn’t always work, and I don’t have hours to let her figure things out. We use bears. I stopped being critical of myself. I stopped letting judgment hit me on our methods. I don’t use it all the time. I use it when all else has fails and she’s at risk of impacting her health – eating, sleeping, self harm. Sometimes you need to access your crazy imagination to help your kids.
I think of the alternative. I could let her not sleep (or pass out). She will likely not pass out. She will be tired, cranky, upset. I could let her skip dinner, wake up hungry with stomach pains. I could let her cry until she’s done. I’ve tried this before (and she will outlast 45 mins). Her throat hurts and she’s upset.
OR, I can tell her the bears are coming. In the same way parents use Santa Clause, or the Easter Bunny. I chose the mythical creature. One day, I will tell her the truth. Until then, my child is rested, and happy and safe from the bears. Until the next time she decides she doesn’t want to listen.
Share this blog with someone who needs a reminder they’re not crazy…because there are crazier parents like us. 🙂