By Jeanne Martin

Q: Our three-year-old daughter loves to “streak” through our house and about the yard—to our annoyance and embarrassment. How do we stop this toddler girls-gone-wild behavior?

A: Children love to be naked. I think they adore all of their little parts so much that they want to share this gloriousness with all of those around them... and the neighbors. I say, embrace this free-living behavior. Heck, encourage it even. (Nothing sucks the fun out of an event like parental condoning.) Try saying, “Hey sweetie, let’s take our clothes off and run through the neighborhood!” Follow that quickly with a move like you are actually going to disrobe. I promise she’ll have that Oh-dear-God-no! look on her face no matter what her age and it might not be as much fun as it once was. And what if it is? What if streaking bare-cheeked across the lawn is what does it for her right now? Streaking in itself is really not all that bad, unless you are at a Hornets’ game or over the age of six.

You cannot change the children you have, no matter how many martinis you drink. As I write this response, my six-year-old son, honest to God, is leaping around the living room in his sister’s red leopard leotard and a pair of navy cleats singing the theme song to Goldfinger while doing a frightening impersonation of Flashdance. I have two choices here: Tell him that it is inappropriate for him to dress like a girl, dance like a fairy and sing James Bond songs, or I can simply pull out the video camera and garner myself some future leverage.

Rest assured, the time will come when you will not be able to get her to take her clothes off at all. Even to bathe. She’ll be so shy and protective of her concave chest and nine-year-old boy hips that you’ll be wishing for her carefree streaking days. You’ll be all, “You cannot swim in that sweat suit!” And she’ll be all, “God mom, get off my back. I'm not changing into a bathing suit to swim. Especially not in front of the neighbors!”

 

Q: My son (four) has always said how much he loves me (“this much” with arms stretched wide). Lately he’s pulled his arms in a bit for me, and admitted that he loves the dog “this much more.” Frankly, it upsets me a bit.

A: Oh, silly mom! Of course he loves the dog more than you. The dog doesn’t make him clean his room or pick up toys. Quite the opposite. The dog encourages him to tear things up and pee anywhere with abandon. The dog not only doesn’t make him wash the Cheetos off his hands before dinner, he actually does it for him. What’s not to love?

The fabulous thing about the love of a four-year-old boy is that it is fickle and it can be bought. Cheap. The next time his arms don’t stretch as wide as they once had, just tell him you are taking him to the Dollar Tree this afternoon to buy a cheap plastic piece of junk that was made in China JUST FOR HIM. (Let’s see the dog compete with THAT!) As he is playing with the ridiculously fragile bribe for the 4.5 minutes that it will stay intact, remind him that the dog has never bought him anything. Ever. And when the flimsy dollar toy disintegrates in his little hand, turn around and point your finger at the dog and say, “Bad boy, Fido. I can’t believe you broke his brand new toy!”

Seriously, this particular problem of over-loving a pet is pretty common, and the very reason why I encourage my children only to pick out hideously ugly pets like iguanas and hairless rodents. Really anything physically repulsive with claws and sharp teeth should do the trick. (Although we did have huge rat once named Lacy who had a gigantic cyst under her arm which caused her to limp and her hair to fall out in patches, but the kids still loved her dearly until she met with an unfortunate “accident” that the vet charged me $15 for.)

My point is, it could be worse. He could be crushing on somebody else more than you right now, like your mother-in-law or the pharmacist at Walgreens. Both disturbing, and much worse than his passing infatuation with the pooch. But, if it is really bothering you, I can give you

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