Care and Feeding

I’m Tired of Being My Kid’s Clown

I really cannot do that silly thing five more times.

Young boy laughing and pointing at a man rolling his eyes.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Ranta Images/iStock/Getty Images Plus and AleksandarDickov/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

How do you navigate that time when children find something hilarious and want you to repeat it a thousand times?

For instance, the other day, my 3-year-old laughed hysterically at something silly I did while we were playing. I do love the sound of his laugh, and it makes me so happy when he finds joy in such little things. But, well, I’m over it after like five times. I can distract him quickly with something else, but he’s also at that “has the memory of an elephant” stage where an hour later, he’ll ask me to do the silly thing again.

I know I’m being dramatic, but I feel like I’m hurting his soul when I tell him “no more.” Am I damaging my kid by depriving him like this?

—This Is Getting Old

Dear TIGO,

Have you ever watched a children’s show together and found it to be deeply annoying, despite how delightful it was to your son? Remember that the things that small (and large) children are entertained by are not typically the same things adults are entertained by. Furthermore, children themselves can be deeply annoying, no matter how much we love them, or how much slack we try to cut their behavior for being age-appropriate.

Being annoyed is part of the job. You need to suck it up and make that funny sound two, three, five more times. That doesn’t mean you lose an afternoon to performing the same silly routine over and over again (well, maybe once in a while!), but you can and should give your child the satisfaction of being able to ask his parent to do something that brings him joy.

Be patient with your child, but also yourself. Don’t beat yourself up just because you get bored or aggravated by your little one’s very normal requests. Just take a breath and remind yourself how short this time in his life is, and how much these little moments mean to him.

You can also use these moments to talk about boundaries. Say you’ve done the funny cartoon voice for five minutes and have had absolutely enough. Explain that your voice has gotten tired and that you need to rest it if your son wants you to be able to use it in the future. Be reasonable yet generous here, for it costs you very little. You are fortunate that his sources of happiness are largely free and easy to access at this point in his life; one day, you’ll pine for the day in which a silly face could turn his frown upside-down and allow you to hear that musical laughter. Suck it up, buttercup!

—Jamilah

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