Curative Story: I don't care for cabbage

We've been having trouble with ungrateful children at dinnertime. I'm hoping this story helps... 

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Once upon a time there was a bunny and her name was Molly bunny. She lived in the forest with her mama bunny and daddy bunny. Molly bunny loved to scamper through the woods, hopping over logs and ducking under branches. Now that she was seven years old, she could hop just as high as her neighbor, Jack rabbit, and run just as fast as her chipmunk friend, Agoo, who was very quick and very agile, being as little as he was. Molly spent all day hopping and running with her friends, and was always very hungry by dinnertime. Carrot cakes were her favorite food. She wished she could eat them every night.

But carrot cakes were a special treat. Most nights, Mama bunny prepared meals like beet stew, or cabbage crunch, or bean pudding. Molly didn’t like any of these meals and wrinkled her nose when she saw them on the table. “Yuuuuck”, she whined one night as she pushed her cabbage around her plate. Mama bunny frowned and reminded Molly that she was being unkind. “Eeewwwww”, she protested as she took a spoonful of beet stew and let it drip unappetizingly back in to the bowl. Daddy bunny furrowed his brow and asked Molly bunny to stop playing with her dinner.

“I hate beans!” Molly bunny cried another night as she thumped the table, almost knocking over the candle. Mama bunny raised her eyebrows and Daddy bunny looked very stern. “You may eat your dinner or you may leave the table and go to bed,” Mama told her. Molly scowled back, “I won’t eat this yucky meal. You never make me anything good.” Mama bunny sighed and Daddy bunny declared dinner to be over. Everyone went to bed early that night.

The next day, Molly bunny played hard with her friends all day, and by dinnertime, she was ravenous. But when she got home, the kitchen was dark and the table was empty. Mama bunny and Daddy bunny were sitting in the living room reading. “Aren’t we having dinner?” Molly asked. “I’m hungry!” “There are lettuce and carrots in the fridge, you may help yourself,” answered Mama bunny without looking up from her book. Molly bunny liked lettuce and carrots, so she helped herself and had a nice dinner alone.

The next night was the same: the kitchen was dark and the table was empty at dinnertime. So Molly helped herself, again, to lettuce and carrots. She sat by herself munching her cold meal. The next night, and the night after that, and the night after that, the kitchen was dark and the table was empty at dinnertime. Molly bunny sat by herself eating cold lettuce and carrots while her parents read in the living room.

Molly was starting to feel lonely. She wanted to tell Mama bunny about how she had jumped higher than Jack. She wanted to tell Daddy bunny about the races she had run with Agoo. But she couldn’t because she now ate dinner all alone. Molly was also getting tired of cold lettuce and carrots every night. She missed the warm glow of the candle and hearing about her parents’ day.

She wandered into the living room. “When will you make dinner again?” she asked Mama and Daddy bunny. “Oh, Molly bunny. You are so unkind about the meals we prepare for you that we’ve decided not to make dinner anymore,” explained Mama bunny. “Ever?” asked Molly. “Well, maybe if you show you are grateful for the meals, then we might be willing to make dinner for you again,” replied Daddy bunny. “But what if I really don’t like something?” asked Molly, who really didn’t like cabbage, beets, or beans.  “It’s our job to prepare meals that help you grow strong and be healthy, not to just prepare food that you like,” said Mama bunny. “Yes,” agreed Daddy bunny, “and it’s hard work to prepare dinner. We would like you to be grateful for the meals we prepare.” “Oh,” said Molly. She didn’t know how to be grateful for something she really, really didn’t like.

Then Daddy bunny made a suggestion. “Molly, what if, when we prepare a meal you don’t like, you can say to us ‘I don’t care for cabbage, but thank you for preparing this meal for me’. Then you can chose to eat it all of it, or just one trying bite.” “And,” added Mama, “you stop stomping your feet and whining at the table.”

Molly bunny thought about it. She really hated cabbage and did not want to eat beet stew or bean pudding. But she also missed dinnertime with her parents. “Ok,” she agreed. “I will try.” Mama and Daddy smiled. “Good. Tomorrow night we’ll have a nice family dinner,” Mama declared.

The very next night Molly bunny arrived home to a bright, warm kitchen and a candle on the table. As Molly sat down at her spot, her mama served her cabbage crunch. Molly frowned, but then remembered what she was allowed to say. “I don’t care for cabbage, but thank you for preparing this meal,” she said. Mama replied, “You’re welcome.” Daddy smiled. Molly sat straight and tall at her spot and told her parents all about her day. She didn’t stomp once as she listened to Daddy’s stories. She even ate four trying bites of cabbage, and then quickly drank a whole glass of water to help make it taste better.

Molly bunny was happy, and so were Mama and Daddy. They had all missed their family dinners. Molly bunny knew she would never like cabbage, beets, and beans – at least not while she was a kid, but she did like eating diner with her parents. So she tried very hard to behave and be kind about the meals they prepared for her. Even when she really didn’t like it.

Curative Story: Molly Artiste

I just finished reading Bringing up Bébé, which I loved. One of Druckerman's observations is that in American kids' books there is usually a problem, a struggle, and a happy resolution, "Lessons are learned, and life gets better" (p. 162). Stepping back, I see how true this cultural phenomenon is, and I wonder, is this another automatic and empty reflex that has blindly taken over children's literature the way "good jobbing" has taken over parent talk? Do we really want to communicate to our children that life is full of neat and tidy endings? Because I have yet to experience that kind of life and I'm not sure raising our kids to believe it will make it so...

To avoid turning my children into anxious underachievers who will never ever succeed in life because they are wasting away in a neurotic spiral of doom while waiting for that happy ending promised in all the childhood stories I ever told them...  here is my first Curative Story à la française. 

Curative Story: Molly Artiste

Once upon a time there was a bunny, and her name was Molly bunny. Molly bunny lived in the forest with her mama bunny and her daddy bunny. Molly bunny was 6 years old and loved to draw. Every afternoon while her mama was cooking carrot stew, Molly bunny would sit on the stump with her favorite long stick and draw pictures in the dirt. She drew tall trees, little flowers with petals, bumble bees, butterflies, and even her best friend, Agoo the chipmunk. 

One day, Molly bunny was drawing a picture of a tree she had recently discovered in the forest. It was an old tree with many strong branches. One branch held a bird's nest and another had a long rope swing that a little girl would sometimes stop to play on when she took a walk in the woods. Molly bunny was trying to draw the girl on the rope swing. She frowned in concentration as she dragged the stick across the earth to make the rope hang down from the tree. Then she drew a head and a body and arms to make the girl. Molly bunny looked at what she had drawn and it didn't look like a girl on a rope swing at all. She smoothed the dirt to erase the girl and tried again. It still didn't look right. Molly bunny threw her stick in frustration and yelled, "This is NOT working!"

"Molly!" exclaimed mama bunny, looking up from her stew, "what's wrong?" "This drawing in terrible," said Molly bunny angrily. Mama bunny came over to look at it. "Hmmm," she said, "what don't you like about it?" "It doesn't look like a girl on a rope swing. It doesn't look like anything. It's terrible!" And with that Molly jumped down onto her picture and stirred up all the dirt until no picture was left.

Mama bunny sighed. "Well, you could draw something else. Or try it again. But it might not look the way you want it to. Sometimes art is like that." Molly bunny looked at her mama. "I really want to draw the girl on the rope swing," she said, gazing at a clean patch of dirt. She picked up her stick and started over. After a few minutes she stepped back and looked at her drawing. The tree looked good, she thought, but it still didn't look like a girl on a rope swing. 

Molly tossed her stick aside. Her artwork was not working today, she decided. So she hopped off the stump and went to gather stones to play hopscotch instead.

Curative Story: Apologizing

Once upon a time there was a bird called Anna bird. She lived in a tree with her mama bird, daddy bird, and big sister, Millie bird. Anna loved to play with her big sister, Millie. One of their favorite games was to twirl. Round and round and round until they were so dizzy the whole world was spinning. Because their nest was small, there wasn't enough room for two birds to twirl at the same time. So Anna bird and Millie bird had to take turns. Anna would perch on the edge of the nest while Millie twirled, then they would switch, and Millie would perch while Anna twirled. 

One day, Anna and Millie were twirling. Millie had just finished her turn when Anna jumped down from her perch. Before Millie could get out of the way, Anna spread out her wings, tweeted with delight and spun herself into a magnificent twirl. Suddenly, she heard a cry, "Ow!" Anna bird stopped twirling, and there on the floor of the nest was Millie bird, crying. "You hit me!" she cried. "I did not!" said Anna bird. She had been twirling so fast that she did not even realize she had bopped Millie, who had not had time to hop up to her perch. "You did too and it hurts! Mom! Anna hit me!" Anna bird frowned as Millie cried.  

"What is going on girls?" Mama bird asked as she came fluttering into the nest. "Anna bird hit me," Millie said, still crying. Anna bird just stood there. "Anna," said Mama bird, "did you hit Millie?" Anna did not answer. She had not meant to hit Millie, she felt sad that Millie was hurt. But she did not know what to say to her mom or her sister. Mama bird wrapped her wings around both of her little birds. "Anna, you may give Millie a hug and ask her if she is ok. That will help her to feel better." So Anna took a step closer to Millie and looked at Millie's feet, "Are you ok Millie?" she asked. Mama bird said, "Millie, you may tell your sister that you are ok." "Yes, Anna, I'm ok." "Good," said Mama bird. "Now, you birds may twirl in the grass below the tree, not in the nest. It is too small and someone will get hurt." 

Anna bird and Millie bird looked at each other and smiled. They were ready to twirl again. They hopped out of the nest and fluttered down to the soft grass. Under the tree, there was plenty of room for them to twirl at the same time. They twirled and twirled until they fell in the grass laughing. "I am sorry I hit you, Millie," Anna bird said. "That's ok," answered Millie. "I know it was an accident and I'm ok." Anna gave Millie a big hug, she was glad that Millie was ok.

Twirling2.jpeg
Twirling.jpeg

Curative Story: Kindness

Once upon a time there was a bunny, and her name was Molly bunny. She lived in the forest with her mama bunny and her daddy bunny. She was a good little bunny, cheerful and kind. But sometimes she lost her kindness. Usually, when she lost her kindness, she found it quickly, under her bed or behind the couch. But sometimes it would take a long time to find it. Those days were not fun for anyone.

One day, Molly bunny was playing in the garden, jumping rope, and climbing trees. When she went inside for lunch, she realized she had lost her kindness. She was not cheerful and kind. She felt grumpy and mean. Her eyes did not sparkle and her hop was slow and sluggish.

At the lunch table, Molly bunny frowned at her sandwich, “Yuck. I don’t like this lunch!” she said ungratefully. After she had picked at her sandwich, she demand more water in an unkind voice. “More water!” She didn’t even say “please.” 

Later, when she was playing with her friend Agoo the chipmunk, she didn’t feel like sharing her chalk. “It’s mine and you can’t use it,” she said sharply, and then added, “All you do is scribble scrabble anyway.” 

Before dinner, Mama bunny asked Molly bunny to put away her toys and books. “No, I won’t do it. I don’t have to!” said Molly bunny, stomping her foot. 

Mama bunny looked sadly at Molly bunny. “Molly bunny, you need to find your kindness. Come. I will help you look for it.” Together they looked for Molly bunny’s kindness. They looked under her bed and behind the couch, but it wasn’t there. They looked behind the front door and in the closet, but it wasn’t there. They looked outside, up in the tree and in the bush branches. They couldn’t find it anywhere. Finally, Molly bunny gave up. “I’ll never find it, and I don’t care!” she exclaimed, sticking her hands in her pockets. But her fingers felt something in her pocket… she pulled out her smooth, soft, shiny kindness! It had been in her pocket all along! Suddenly she smiled. Her eyes sparkled and she hopped high into the air. “I found it!” she shouted with delight.

That night at dinner, she thanked her mama for dinner, “Thank you for preparing this nice meal!” The next morning, she ran to Agoo’s house and gave him a box of chalk. “Agoo! Come draw with me, let’s draw something beautiful together!” And before dinner, she put away all her toys and books while singing her favorite song. She was a happy bunny, cheerful and full of kindness.

Curative Story: Helping out

Once upon a time there was a bird called Anna bird. She lived in a tree with her mama bird, daddy bird, and big sister, Millie bird. Anna bird loved to fly among the trees. Early one morning she was flying around a tree when she saw Mrs. Robins fluttering around her nest. “Tweet tweet,” Anna bird called to Mrs. Robins, landing on a branch.

Mrs. Robins was always very kind, but today she looked distracted and very busy. “Oh, good morning Anna. I am very busy today. I have many things to do and I don’t know how I will get everything done.” “What is on your list?” asked Anna, always curious about what other birds were doing. “Well,” said Mrs. Robins, “I need to tidy up the nest, hunt for some fresh worms before the puddles dry up, and find Squirrel Nutkin to ask him to carry some large nut shells up to my nest for me. But I can’t leave my eggs alone in the nest.” Anna bird thought that was a lot of work to do in one morning. She peered into Mrs. Robins’ nest. Sure enough the twigs and grasses were all over the floor and three little eggs were tucked in the corner. “Can I help you?” Anna bird asked. “Oh, Anna bird, that would be wonderful.” “Maybe I can tidy up the nest and keep an eye on your eggs while you run your errands,” said Anna bird. “Yes,” said Mrs. Robins, “that would be very helpful.”

So Anna bird tidied up the grasses and twigs and kept an eye on the eggs while Mrs. Robins hunted for fresh worms and talked to Squirrel Nutkin about the nut shells. When Mrs. Robins came back, her nest was all tidy and her eggs were safe. “Thank you for helping, Anna,” she said with a big smile as she sat down comfortably on her eggs to warm them. The she gave Anna bird a big, juicy worm, fresh from a puddle, to take home to share with her sister, Millie bird.

As Anna bird flew home carrying her big juicy worm, she thought about the work she had done that morning and felt happy. Mrs. Robins did not seem distracted or busy anymore. When she arrived home, she showed Millie bird the worm, and while they shared their special treat, Anna bird told Millie bird all about helping out Mrs. Robins. “Maybe we can go help her together tomorrow morning,” suggested Millie bird, who also wanted to help out. “Yes,” said Anna bird, “that is a good idea.”

Curative Story: Holding still while brushing teeth

Once upon a time there was a bunny and her name was Molly bunny. She lived in the forest with her mama bunny and her daddy bunny. Molly bunny was five years old and had just lost her first tooth. Another one was loose and two new ones were coming in. Every night Molly bunny looked in the mirror to inspect her new teeth. She also had to brush her teeth every night. Sometimes this was difficult because Molly bunny was very hoppy and bunnies have to hold still while brushing their teeth.  

One night Molly bunny was brushing her teeth. But she was hopping up and down at the same time. “Hold still Molly bunny!” her mama said. But as much as Molly bunny tried, she simply could not stop hopping. “How are you going to get your teeth clean if you keep hopping up and down?” her mama asked. Then she said, “I have an idea.” Mama bunny went into her trunk of special things and brought out a small yellow box. “Here,” she said, opening the yellow box. “Put all your hops into this box. We’ll keep them in here at night and in the morning we will open it and you can have them back.” So Molly bunny put all her hops into the box and closed it. Then she held perfectly still and brushed her teeth.

Now, every evening before Molly bunny brushes her teeth, she takes out her yellow box and puts all her hops into it. First thing in the morning when she wakes up, she opens the box and her hops are waiting for her. And her teeth are always very clean.

Curative Story: Eating healthy food

Once upon a time there was a bird called Anna bird. She lived in a tree with her Mama bird, Daddy bird, and big sister, Millie bird. Anna bird loved to fly through the air and hop from rock to rock by the stream. She loved to splash in puddles and bathe in the fountain. But she did not like to eat seeds, and that is what her Mama and Daddy bird gave her for dinner every day. Seeds.

One day Anna bird looked at her plate and saw a big pile of seeds. “Ehh,” she said, “I don’t like seeds.” “Anna bird,” replied Mama bird, “seeds are good for you, they help you to grow.” “But I don’t like them. They don’t taste good,” whined Anna bird. Daddy bird said, “Little birds who eat all their seeds grow strong wings and long, soft feathers.” “And little birds who eat all their seeds can fly very high and very fast,” added her Mama.

Anna bird looked at the seeds. She wanted to be able to fly very high and very fast. So one by one she ate all the seeds on her plate. When she was done, she smiled. “There! I ate all my seeds. Soon I will be able to fly way up high and very fast.” And the very next day Anna bird went flying through the air… a little higher and a little faster than she had the day before.

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Curative story: Tantrum-free park departures

Once upon a time there was a bunny and her name was Molly bunny. She lived in the forest with her mama bunny and her daddy bunny. Molly bunny loved to play with her friend Agoo the chipmunk. They loved to go to the play tree together and chase each other around the tree in circles, dig holes in the dirt, and jump from root to root.

One day Molly bunny and Agoo were playing chase around the tree. They played for a long, long time. When Molly bunny’s mama called to her, “Molly bunny, time to go home now,” Molly bunny didn’t want to leave, she was having too much fun. So she ran around to the other side of the tree and hid. “Molly bunny,” called her mama, “it is time to go home now. Please come now.” But Molly bunny stayed behind the tree, hiding. Finally, Molly bunny’s mama came around the tree, scooped up Molly bunny and took her home. “You need to come with me when it is time to go home. Bunnies who don’t listen to their mamas don’t get to go to the play tree,” said Mama bunny.

The next day, Molly bunny asked, “Mama, can we go to the play tree today?” “I’m sorry Molly bunny, but we can’t go today. Last time you didn’t come with me when it was time to leave.” “But I really want to go!” cried Molly bunny.  “We can try again tomorrow, but today we stay at home and play,” replied her mama. Molly bunny was sad. She wanted to go play with Agoo at the play tree.

The next day, Molly bunny asked again, “Mama, can we go to the play tree today?” “Yes,” said Mama bunny, “today we can go to the play tree, but you must come with me when I tell you it is time to leave.”  “Ok, I will,” said Molly bunny. Molly bunny and Agoo played for a long time, running around the tree, digging in the dirt, and jumping from root to root. And when Molly bunny’s mama called out, “Molly bunny, time to go home now,” Molly bunny hopped right over to her mama. Together they hopped home happily.

Curative story: Sharing

Once upon a time there was a bird called Anna bird. She lived in a tree with her mama bird, daddy bird, and big sister, Millie bird. Anna bird loved to fly from branch to branch and land on the greenest leaf she could fine. One day, Anna bird and Millie bird were flying around in their tree. They both landed on the same green leaf at the same time. “My leaf!” said Anna bird. “No, MY leaf!” cried Millie bird. They both wanted the same leaf but only one of them would fit on it. Anna bird looked around and saw another green leaf, just as beautiful as the one she was on. She jumped up and flew over to it, and landed softly. “Helloooo over there Millie bird!”, she tweeted to her sister. “Hellloooo!” Millie bird tweeted back with a big smile. The two sisters tweeted back and forth happily all afternoon, each on her own green leaf.

Curative Story: Loud Shrill Voice

Once upon a time there was a bunny and her name was Molly bunny. She lived in the forest with her mama bunny and her daddy bunny. Every morning when she woke up she hopped out of bed and ran outside to play. Molly bunny loved to sing and she always sang in a loud, clear voice. One morning, bright and early, she hopped outside and started singing one of her favorite morning songs. “Good morning, good morning!” As she sang she noticed a chipmunk peek out of his home, rubbing his eyes and yawing. The chipmunk did not look happy. Then she saw a squirrel scowling down from his tree branch. A deer rustled in the woods, she too looked unhappy. Molly bunny continued signing in her loud clear voice, but she wondered why all the animals seemed so grumpy. Just then her mama came out. “Shhhhh! Molly bunny, all of the animals in the forest are still sleeping. They are not ready to wake up and your signing is waking them. If you want to sing you need to find a quiet voice.” Molly bunny looked around and sure enough all the animals seemed sleepy. She quieted her voice down so that only someone right next to her could hear her song. The deer smiled and closed her eyes, the squirrel settled back down on his branch, and the chipmunk disappeared back into his home, yawning again. Molly bunny tiptoed through the forest, singing quietly. Everyone was content.