“Is Bob dead?” asked my 3-year-old, poking the housefly on the windowsill.
“Yes,” said his 5-year-old sister. “But there are always more Bobs. Let’s put this one in the trash and say goodbye.”
Bob, in his multiple incarnations, has lived with us since the summer my daughter turned 2. A fly landed on her face, and she screamed. She continued to scream every time she heard a buzzing noise until I introduced her to “Bob the Fly.” Let’s give the fly a name! And a personality! A favorite color, a favorite food, a reason for visiting our house. It was a desperate parenting hack.
When multiple flies visit the house, she tells me Bob has brought along cousins. Sometimes she leaves scraps of food on the table for our guests. Once she caught me with a fly swatter and gave me a stern look. “That won’t hurt Bob, will it? Because Bob would never hurt us.”
So much of my parenting comes down to some version of Bob the Fly: First, you name it. Name the emotion. Name the fear. If we can name it, we can talk about it. Or as Fred Rogers said,…