Family

Dear Mother Goose

An advice column for children’s book characters.

Goose wearing a bonnet consoling a stressed rabbit wearing a dress and apron.
Lisa Larson-Walker

Dear Mother Goose,

My husband recently passed away (killed by our next-door neighbor, baked into a pie, and eaten), and now my son Peter is acting out. He keeps sneaking onto this neighbor’s property and stealing his vegetables. I sent him to bed with chamomile tea.

His three sisters don’t misbehave this way. Is this just an instance of “boys will be boys,” or are there deeper issues here that I should be concerned about?

—Mama Rabbit

Dear Mama Rabbit,

This is a behavioral problem that demands action far beyond chamomile tea. Peter sounds very troubled—understandably so, given what your family has been through. I realize that money may be tight, but you should consider looking for a new place, or perhaps even find friends or family to crash with temporarily so that you don’t have to keep living directly next door to the people who ate your husband. That must be very upsetting for all of you.

Dear Mother Goose,

I am being aggressively pursued by someone (I’ll call him S.I.A.) who is bizarrely obsessed with getting me to eat “green eggs and ham.” He has offered no explanation of where the ham and eggs came from, why they are green, or why he cares if I eat them. I have calmly and clearly turned him down, but he is following me everywhere, carrying a plate of food, which by now is cold, dirty, and wet as well as green. Nevertheless, S.I.A. thinks I might like the food. He has brought a mouse, a fox, and a goat to me, as if that would change my mind. We were even involved in a boating accident because of his behavior.

I am at the end of my rope. I considered going to the police, but S.I.A. has never threatened me—he is always polite and friendly. Still, this experience has been very stressful. Am I being unreasonable? Should I just eat his food to get him to go away?

—Anon

Dear Anon,

No, you are not being unreasonable. In fact, if anything, I think you are downplaying the gravity of this situation. S.I.A.’s behavior is extremely disturbing, and you absolutely should not eat this man’s food. This is a person with extremely unhealthy—perhaps even dangerous—boundary issues.

You describe S.I.A. as “polite and friendly,” but there is nothing polite or friendly about stalking you and insisting that you try a mysterious meat product after you have repeatedly declined. (This would be true even if the ham and eggs were not green). “No” is a complete sentence, not an opportunity to bring goats and boats into a debate. Sure, you might like them—so what? Even if you did, it wouldn’t justify his creepy overinvestment in what you eat.

If you haven’t already read it, consider picking up a copy of The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. I am not saying that S.I.A. will necessarily turn violent, but there are red flags here, and the book offers strategies for dealing with overly persistent individuals. Block S.I.A. on your phone, email, and all social media platforms, and remain firm if he turns up again, with or without a mouse or a fox. If you turn down his green ham 27 times but then cave in and try it, all you are teaching him is that he has to pester you 28 times to get what he wants.

Dear Mother Goose,

I am friends with a wonderful Boy whom I love very much. We used to spend lots of time together, but as he’s grown older, our relationship has become more one-sided. I was delighted to offer him all my apples and branches for his own personal profit, and even to be chopped down for his sailing hobby. I just want to make him happy. But is a “Thanks” or a “How are YOU doing, tree?” really so much to ask?

—Tree

Dear Tree,

This may be hard to hear, but while you see yourself as a giving tree, at this point you are more of a codependent tree. I am not excusing the behavior of this Boy, who sounds like a selfish jerk, but you obviously get something out of being a martyr too.

I won’t recommend therapy because it sounds like you are, basically, already dead, but you can still focus on your own well-being. Set some boundaries with the Boy, and then enforce them. That isn’t selfish; it’s just learning how to take care of yourself and breaking this unhealthy dynamic. Think about what would make you happy outside of this relationship—yoga, painting, decomposing into food for fungi and insects—and then pursue that. I think you’ll find that healthy boundaries are truly the best gift you and this Boy can give each other.

Dear Mother Goose,

My wife and I recently settled in a new city to lay our eggs and raise a family. It took us a long time to find a place that was safe and quiet enough to please Mrs. M, but we eventually did and had eight beautiful, healthy ducklings. Shortly after they were born, I took a trip to see what the rest of the river was like further on, and agreed to meet my wife and our ducklings in a park across town a week later.

Now I find out that she led our children across dangerous, busy streets. The police had to be called, and traffic was snarled. It became a public spectacle, and they could have been killed. I’m furious at her. She says she didn’t have an alternative and that, anyway, the police thought it was cute. That is not the point! How can I make her understand how unacceptable her actions were?

—Mr. M

Dear Mr. M,

You need to take a good look at yourself and decide what kind of partner—and father—you want to be. You left a new mother alone with eight newborns? Not to return to work, but to go gallivanting down the river? You’re lucky Mrs. M is still speaking to you at all. What on earth possessed you to leave her at such a stressful time, with such a flimsy excuse? And then you have the nerve to critique her travel methods? She managed to get everyone there safely, and for that, she should get a statue.

—Mother Goose