Dear Care and Feeding: Please, Please, Please Let Me Throw Away My Daughter’s Filthy Toy Monkey


By Nicole Cliffe, Slate

Dear Care and Feeding,

Can I throw out the filthy toy monkey my 4-year-old daughter lugs around 24/7 and tell her he ran away? I know you’re going to tell me I can’t, but I’m just so tired of frantically searching for the thing and reaping the whirlwind when it gets left at her sitter’s by mistake.

—I Dream of It Falling Into a Well


Dear Monkey’s Unwilling Grandmother,


I feel your pain. You absolutely can’t throw him out. You can put him in a mesh bag and wash him on cold, but that’s still risky.

The slow fade is your best bet, and it’s usually good to tie it to an outside goal. “We cannot take Mr. Chuckles to kindergarten with us, so we have to get him ready to be on his own during the day.”

Mr. Chuckles can practice being on his own while you go to the store or to the library! Ideally, you can work out a little putting-him-away routine where he gets settled with a book and a “snack” and you sing a goodbye song to him.

She will not be holding Mr. Chuckles as she accepts her high school diploma. This is my promise to you.


Dear Care and Feeding,

I have an almost 5-year-old son, who I suspect is a pretty normal kid. He has his good moments and his bad moments, but the good mostly outweighs the bad, and his bad is never that bad. Except this morning we took him to the dentist. He’s been going every six months since he was 2, so this isn’t completely new to him. All they do is brush and floss and look at his teeth. But this time my husband compared him to a feral cat: high-pitched screeching, running away, having to be physically restrained, all-around freakout.

This is abnormal behavior for him, though I have seen muted versions before, specifically when he gets his hair cut and at the doctor’s office. Last time he was at the doctor’s it was for a flu shot and I had to use my whole body to hold him still while he panicked. He’s gotten his hair cut a zillion times and every time there is a fair amount of panicking at the beginning. He’ll sit for a minute or two and then declare he’s done. In the moment we go through a variety of techniques—soothing, bribing, ignoring—but nothing works and at some point we just have to physically force him.

Within 10 minutes afterward he’s back to normal, though my husband and I are scarred! I never really worried that something might be wrong until this dentist appointment and he was just berserk. Any thoughts?

—Where the Wild Things Are


Dear Where the Wild Things Are,

In an otherwise developmentally normal 5-year-old, this is probably an occasional behavioral issue, which I would usually suggest handling by “practicing” at home (have him “check” your teeth with toothbrush and a baby spoon, do the same to him), let him watch you trim some split ends, give a toy some “shots” with a fake medical kit, etc.

This, however, is the first time he’s been like this at the dentist, and he goes very frequently, so I would try to ascertain if some actual mouth pain got missed in the feral incident. Talk to your pediatrician and dentist about what they recommend in terms of preparing for an appointment after the last one has gone badly. (If he were a dog, I would suggest you stop by the vet’s with him for a freeze-dried liver treat and then hang out for a few minutes before going back to the car. It works great!)

There could be a sensory issue at play or some anxiety problems, which you would want to talk to your pediatrician about anyway. But these are scary moments, and they’re hard to watch as parents! (Some kids know this and act up on purpose, but I am not suggesting this is the case for your kid.)

Five is also old enough to talk a bit about what happened, so find a quiet moment and ask him— calmly, no hint of being “in trouble”—about why he found it hard to go to the dentist this time. Talk to him about going back. Just probe the issue a bit. Let me know what he says.


Dear Care and Feeding,

I just moved in with a friend and her 3-year-old. My decision has gotten a few funny looks from my single friends, but the kid himself is great, the house is great, the rent is great. My boyfriend lives nearby so I am sure I will have plenty of chances to escape to a childless existence when I need to.

My only real concern is me: I babysat in my early teens through mid-20s, I am the oldest cousin, I’m both very used to and very fond of kids. However, in all those situations my role (authority figure, fun older relative, etc.) was clearly defined—and for relatively short periods of time. I wouldn’t be worried about living with a toddler if I was ambivalent to kids and mostly kept to myself, which is what the last tenant seemed to do. I’m instead worried that if I follow my kid-loving urges to play or hang out with him I’ll be setting a precedent I might inadvertently not follow through on. In other words, is it nicer to set boundaries and be a friendly, distant adult in his life to avoid confusion? Am I overthinking this?

—Sending Mixed Messages


Dear SMM,

Yes! You are overthinking this. But what a nice thing to overthink! Just don’t make promises you won’t keep, do not allow yourself to become a free on-call babysitter, and live your life with a few more cartoons and talks about construction equipment than before.


Dear Care and Feeding,

For my 2-year-old daughter’s birthday earlier this month she got a musical birthday card (it plays “Tequila” when opened) and she absolutely adores it and I cannot stand it for another minute, what can I do?

—TEQUILA!


Dear Tequila,

I am delighted this came up in the same column with a toy you can’t just quietly toss in the trash. I have a great workaround for you: Open the innards of the card, safely dispose of the watch battery inside and then put the card back where you found it. The problem will solve itself very shortly afterward.

I am also happy this came up because my own kids love getting musical greeting cards and it’s important for people to know that a) tiny kids almost universally enjoy receiving them and b) tiny kids cannot be left unattended with them because watch batteries are dangerous and extremely easy to ingest. When you leave the room, the card should go with you, to be fished out of your purse when you need to buy a (loud, admittedly) minute to yourself.

—Nicole

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