too much information

June 29, 2010 at 6:06 am 4 comments

We’ve been doing a lot of wave jumping and froth riding, loving every minute of our seaside vacation. But guess what I read in the paper?

It seems one of the problems with oil spills is that it deprives the water, and the fish that live in that water, of much-needed oxygen. So what sea animals do to combat this is congregate in the shallows, where the waves churn and gather oxygen from the air. Apparently fishermen have seen sharks near shore, lots of sharks, big sharks.


This is not the kind of thing I like to hear. Tar globs, 80% humidity, scorching heat, and hurricane threats, big whoop, but SHARKS?

It’s funny because our usual parenting strategy is to meet each situation with empathy and information. When our children fret over something we first listen closely and carefully to their feelings, repeat it back to them and rub their backs until they feel completely heard, then we follow through with information that might be useful, or might open up the child’s perspective just a little bit.

For example:

Echo: Papa! Bella hit me! Grrrrr!

Papa offers empathy until Echo feels heard. Then offers:

I think Bella was trying to squeeze past you to get out of the door. Did her goggles swing into you when that happened?

Echo: Yeah and I didn’t like it.

Papa: No you didn’t. She didn’t mean to hurt you, are you okay?


Echo: Mama! Aaaaah! There is a fly near me!!!!

Me: Oh shoot! Are you scared? Want me to hold you? That really startled you huh?

Echo: Yeah.

Me: Did you know that house flies don’t bite people?

Echo: No. What do they eat then?

Me: Oh, things like poop and rotten things.

Echo: Oh.

That being said, when the girls, floating about in their fluorescent green and pink tubes, worriedly asked Nathan if there was anything in the ocean that could hurt them, and his mind screamed SHARKS!, he gave them lots of information about tides, and waves, but not a word about aquatic predators.

I guess some things are best left unsaid.

In any case, so far so safe.


Entry filed under: parenting principles. Tags: , , , .

bikini shopping wordless wednesday

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Annie  |  June 29, 2010 at 9:48 am

    oh goodness… i’m sending shark preventative energy your way. so much of it in fact that my chest is bursting!

  • 2. Myers  |  July 1, 2010 at 9:45 am

    I really loved reading through the dialogue you took the time to write out … it helped SO much in being able to envision how you practice loving empathy with B, X and E. My little guy is only eight months old, but I have been working through Alfie Kohn’s Unconditional Parenting on your recommendation and it’s a mind-expander. Thank you a hundred times over! I always knew I wanted to do discipline and even just regular ol’ responses to my kid(s) differently than my parents did — I just didn’t know how. His book helps and your site helps.

    I would love to know more about the specific, play-by-play interactions you have with your girls, if you would like to share (at some point) — even the part above where you wrote, “Papa offers empathy until Echo feels heard” — what does that sound like? When one has no models around of this kind of interaction, it helps to be able to read through what sorts of approaches one can take in one’s words.

    Thanks again for your example — you’re a mentor!

    • 3. nataliechristensen  |  July 1, 2010 at 1:35 pm

      Oh, I’m so glad the dialog is helpful Jennifer. Thanks for the feedback. I’ll try to keep more examples coming. That book is truly amazing isn’t it?

  • 4. angela  |  July 6, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    this post moved me. lately, there is a lot being left unsaid around here to the littles, although i know they are picking up the information. like oil entering the loop current which would bring tar balls to our beaches on the east coast of florida. like dispersants entering the water column, and fear for our water and air quality, as we live downwind from all of the mess in the gulf. and, alas, it is hurricane season and the water temperatures are at record highs.

    just so glad your trip has not been impacted by the oil or sharks! so hard to live with uncertainty and use every ounce of your mama energy to speak truthfully to the littles, but at the same time, make sure they aren’t aware of the real dangers.


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