If Mother Goose Could Give Advice to Story Characters, Here’s What She Would Say

A fine-feathered friend advises some real characters.

Dear Mother Goose,
My husband recently passed away (killed by our next-door neighbor, baked into a pie, and eaten), and now my son, Peter, is acting out. He keeps sneaking onto this neighbor’s property and stealing his vegetables. I sent him to bed with chamomile tea.

His three sisters don’t misbehave this way. Is this just an instance of “Boys will be boys,” or are there deeper issues here that I should be concerned about? —Mama Rabbit

Dear Mama Rabbit,
This is a behavioral problem that demands action far beyond chamomile tea. Peter sounds very troubled—­understandably so, given what your family has been through. I realize that money may be tight, but you should consider looking for a new place, or perhaps even find friends or family to crash with temporarily so that you don’t have to keep living directly next door to the people who ate your husband. That must be very upsetting for all of you.

Dear Mother Goose,
I am friends with a wonderful boy whom I love very much. We used to spend lots of time together, but as he’s grown older, our relationship has become more one-sided. I was delighted to offer him all my apples and branches for his own personal profit, and even to be chopped down for his sailing hobby. I just want to make him happy. But is a “Thanks” or a “How are YOU doing, Tree?” ­really so much to ask? —Tree

Dear Tree,
This may be hard to hear, but while you see yourself as a giving tree, at this point you are more of a co­dependent tree. I am not excusing the behavior of this boy, who sounds like a selfish jerk, but you obviously get something out of being a martyr.

Set some boundaries with the boy and then enforce them. That isn’t selfish; it’s just learning how to take care of yourself and breaking this unhealthy dynamic. Think about what would make you happy outside of this relationship—yoga, painting, decomposing into food for fungi and insects—and then pursue that. I think you’ll find that healthy boundaries are truly the best gift you and this boy can give each other.

Julia Rothman for Reader's Digest Mother GooseJulia Rothman for Reader's Digest

Dear Mother Goose,
I am being aggressively pursued by someone (I’ll call him S.I.A.) who is bizarrely obsessed with getting me to eat “green eggs and ham.” He has offered no explanation of where the ham and eggs came from, why they are green, or why he cares if I eat them. I have turned him down calmly and clearly, but he is following me everywhere. Nevertheless, S.I.A. thinks I might like the food. He has brought a mouse, a fox, and a goat to me, as if that would change my mind.

He is always polite and friendly; still, this experience has been very stressful. Am I being unreasonable? Should I just eat his food to get him to go away? —Anon

Dear Anon,
This is a person with extremely ­unhealthy—perhaps even ­dangerous—boundary issues.

You describe S.I.A. as “polite and friendly,” but there is nothing polite or friendly about stalking you and insisting that you try a mysterious meat product after you have repeatedly declined. “No” is a complete sentence, not an opportunity to bring goats into a debate. Sure, you might like the green eggs and ham—so what? Even if you did, it wouldn’t justify his creepy overinvestment in what you eat.

If you haven’t already, block S.I.A. on your phone, e-mail, and all social media platforms, and remain firm if he turns up again, with or without a mouse or a fox. If you turn down his green ham 27 times but then cave in and try it, all you are teaching him is that he has to pester you 28 times to get what he wants.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest