Why My 3-year-old Can’t Play With The Kids

I had a three-year-old at home and he’s very bright and energetic. His enthusiasm always gets him in trouble. He will “play” with all kinds of objects, some of which he knows aren’t safe, and some of which can cause serious injury.

He will chew through any piece of clothing that’s loose and will pull out clothing and then not replace it. He’ll suck his thumb with his lips, or make a loud, “guttural” squeak like a puppy, and then pull out the offending item to show that he is upset and hurt.

You may have noticed that he’s also pulled out a large book or magazine he thinks is a toy, and he’s “played” with the entire book as an article of clothing.

When my daughter was younger I didn’t tell her to stop playing. She was just interested, and her enthusiasm was always welcome.

At school he didn’t just sit at the back, he was the only child in the class talking and talking and talking. His loud, “guttural” voice was the loudest sound in the room. I can’t help but cringe in sympathy at his antics.

At home, I made her wear the same clothes as all the other elementary schoolers but she always wanted to wear something else. She’s never given a convincing reason for what she wanted to wear but I knew her reasons. Then one day, without warning, my daughter announced that her mother was coming home that afternoon. She never gave a reason, only said she was sorry and wanted to talk. I said no, she came home alone, so she wasn’t to come back. I was angry at this because I knew she loved me, but I never would have given up on her, but the fact that this was the first time she’d really broken down to me after her “talking” incident made me cry.

That evening, while the two of us were out to dinner, she asked if she could come out to the living room and talk with me. She then pulled out three-years of her notebooks, and I asked her what she knew about her mother. This was a first, by her own admission. She said she didn’t tell me anything before; that she only knew what the other children in her class knew. She was angry and sad.

She explained to me that she was so proud of her mother that when she got home she sat down and wrote about her every step of the way (which I have read so far, in her notes). She then told me that when she was three, she found her mother dead on the roof of her house. (Which is why she was so distraught that evening.) My daughter said that she was very afraid of this woman and had never even seen her before, so she couldn’t have known what was actually killing her. She cried her eyes out for an hour before she could stop sobbing. I did my best to comfort her during this long period of weeping, but as often happens with a mother I began to doubt the sincerity of her tears.

That week I went out of my way to be a parent, and in my view my daughter needed a mother in her life who could teach her right from wrong so she could build a positive relationship with her mother.

I explained to the school counselor that that was what had happened to my daughter, but I could not help but wonder if she was being punished for having the audacity to question the way her mother taught her! I told her that my daughter did exactly what I was trying to help her do — she talked with me about a painful and terrible mother and told me that she needed to come talk to me.