Pages

Monday, April 20, 2020

Quarantine Questions with a 4 Year Old

(Blubbering) "But WHY can't I go play with Sarah??"


The extent of our current outdoor adventures

How's everyone doing in the era of COVID and shelter-in-place? I, for one, am having a difficult time parenting my 4 year old daughter. Overall, I can't complain; we're happy together as a family, and we're all healthy. Despite changes in work volume, we're secure. Finding ways to balance our time with her needs, as well as physical exercise for all, is going alright. But explaining complex concepts to a 4 year old has been... challenging.

Being that she's 4, her world is pretty small. We've talked about the virus. Why our travel plans for the end of my sabbatical from academic anesthesia have been cancelled. Why Nana and Papa can't come visit this spring. Why we can't go to our gym or her gymnastic classes. Why only Mommy or Daddy goes to the store when we need things. But even a month into staying at home, she doesn't quite get why she can't play with other kids.

It's been easy with friends she's made through her preschool classes, since they're just not nearby. But little friends in our neighborhood are another story. We're in a condo complex, and for the most part, people are doing their best to remain active but socially distant. Dog walkers shift to the other sidewalk when passing. People wave hello, some wearing masks and some not. And as with any neighborhood, there are a few odd ducks. With kids.

Of the similar-aged children in the complex, I've seen the spectrum of parenting styles... made fully obvious now that everyone's home all the time. There's the child who's outside all the time, garage door open and toys strewn about the driveway. She's scootering up and down the roads, calling out for other children. She's wearing her pajamas and eating candy, all day. Mom is young and single, but three other men seem to be living in the home as well. Cigarette smoke wafts from the windows. On the flip side, there's the child who parts the drawn blinds and peers out the window longingly as we take our multiple daily walks. Her parents keep the house dark and quiet. Despite our previous evening chats and child exchanges, I haven't seen any of them outside for weeks - only glimpses of their silhouettes at the dining table when passing by.

My child desperately wants to play with both of these kids. The one is unavailable for even a distant hello. The other is too available. And the "family" is too tricky... When she asks why she can't see the one friend, or why I won't let her play with the other, I have a hard time coming up with what to say.

We definitely believe in authoritative vs. authoritarian parenting. I never want to say "because I said so" as a response to "why". At the same time, I want her to understand that we prescribe the boundaries. So I guess what I'm wondering is, how do I talk about these decidedly complex issues? Mamas of older kids, what have you done? What would you do differently if you could go back?

8 comments:

  1. Glad you are staying safe! I have a 7 and 5 year old. Especially since im back at work, we r pretty strict because we dont want to be a vector and we have a lot off immunocompromised family. We explained about the virus and that we need to keep away from other people for a bit, wear masks, and most things are closed because germs spread super quick and some people's bodies cant fight germs the same way. So to keep other people safe and our family Safe, we need to hang out with only ourselves. We have beeen writing letters to my nieces who live 2 blocks away and hand delivering them to their mailbox, which has been a lot of fun. Its definitely been lonely for them, though. Zoom school helps too because they can see their friends. We also have been facetiming with some of their best friends while doing a project together, which feels more like a playdate. They are definitely craving more peer interaction though and its so so hard.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love that you're hand-delivering letters! We've been drawing chalk pictures on our elderly neighbor's sidewalk. He loves it.

      Delete
  2. Explaining why isn't the same as expecting agreement. I always explained why, and I also made it clear when the decision wasn't up for negotiation. I was willing to negotiate many things, or simply back off and let her decide. That gave me the relationship capital to sometimes say "Sorry, this is a health or safety issue and we are going to make this decision. It's not up for negotiation." She might complain (OK, she did complain!) and that was OK. She has every right to complain. It didn't change the decision.

    My best advice is choose your battles and when you have chosen one, do not back down. That's why it's important to choose them carefully and not choose too many. I didn't go to the mat with her about her clothes or her hair or her choice of friends or how much she ate or how she did her homework. I saved "we're making this decision" for things like car seats, seatbelts, bedtime, and other health and safety issues. "Not up for negotiation" was rare enough that she respected it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. I agree with the idea of letting the little stuff slide and saving veto powers for the big stuff.

      Delete
  3. I understand the reasons for social distancing, and I agree with those reasons, and I'm still disappointed and sad about the loss of connection with friends and family. No explanation will make it OK.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely. We're all in mourning for different reasons right now.

      Delete
  4. Love this glimpse into your life. You are such a great mom. One thing I did wrong when they were little, and hiccups along the way, is to hold them too close, like they were under my microscope. Freedom goes a long way in development. C, at 17, has a couple of friends she hangs out with. Jack is a gamer introvert who plays with his best friend online. It's scary, but we are doing ok.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aww, thanks for this comment! I think we're all doing "introvert" things right now. For some of us, it's more natural :-).

      Delete

Comments on posts older than 14 days are moderated as a spam precaution. So.Much.Spam.