Parenting 101: How Do You Respond When Your Child Tells You That You Are Dead? (But You Are Not Dead)

If there is a world record for singing a song the most consecutive days in a row without getting any better at said song, I would be in the Guinness Book. Every night at bedtime my daughter requests “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, which her mother sings beautifully, and every night I give it the old college try, and fail. I’m the Cal Ripken of disappointing bedtime songs. A baseball announcer would say, “Now coming up to the plate in his 2,633rd consecutive bed time, he’s hitting zero out of one thousand, I’ll be honest, I’m not sure why they keep putting him in the game… Daddy!”

One night my daughter wasn’t listening to a single word we said in our steady march to bedtime. In a last ditch effort, my wife picked up a stuffed Minnie Mouse doll and in a pitch perfect impersonation said, “Will you show me how you brush your teeth?” Immediately, my daughter perked up. “Of course I can show you.” She took Minnie into the bathroom and taught her the whole bedtime routine she had spent an hour arguing with us about.

The education component felt like a callback to one of her favorite shows, “Elmo’s World”, where Elmo Monster has kids teach each other to do normal things like wash their hands and cut food. The Minnie voice had a shelf life so when it stopped being effective I had to improvise. It was the weeks before Thanksgiving so I said I was Thanksgiving Monster and asked her to teach me her bedtime routine. She was excited at the new bedtime partner and jumped to teach him. She peppered him with questions like, “What do Thanksgiving Monsters eat?” The Monster replied: “Sticks and mud, isn’t that what you eat?” She was amused and soon after, peacefully sleeping.

But once Thanksgiving came and went, she no longer took interest in a Thanksgiving Monster. So I shifted to a more generic Monster. A Monster for all seasons. I called him Donny Monster. My daughter and Donny Monster got along real well. Maybe too well.

It was the week of my birthday and she wanted Donny Monster’s help to draw an invitation for Donny Monster to come to my (Daddy’s) birthday party. It was a real snake eating it’s tail situation. She was explaining to Donny Monster (Me) what Daddy (also me) looks like. I want to clarify that it wasn’t a Birthday Card for me (Daddy) but rather an invitation for Donny Monster to come to my party. Essentially, my daughter preferred a fictional character I play to actual me.

One night as I acted out the character of Donny Monster my daughter got quiet. Solemn. “Donny Monster, my Dad is gone.” This was news to me, her present Dad. “My Dad is dead.” Also, news to me, her living Dad. “Will you be my new Dad?” My portrayal of a fictional nighttime routine Monster was so convincing I lowered my daytime approval rating. I acted myself out of a job. But as my daughter drifted off to sleep, I could think of worse ways to spend my life. I put together a nighttime snack of sticks and mud and settled in for the night.

Greg Tindale is an author, improviser, filmmaker, and entrepreneur. His memoir, “I Guarantee You Love, Fame and Legacy” follows his journey through self-realization as a comedian and father.

This post was previously published on A Parent Is Born and is republished here with permission from the author.

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Photo credit: Greg Tindale