Q: Our 12-year-old daughter seems driven to run in circles. For years now, every day, often many times a day, she will suddenly start jogging in a big circle around the family room or anywhere else in the house she is when the urge strikes. She stops when one of us tells her to stop, but a bit later she’s off again! We’ve sent her outside to run many times, but that doesn’t help either. While this may sound like a minor problem, it is so very strange and it’s most certainly driving us nuts. Help!
A: Running in circles is a first for me, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it is that human beings are odd. Every single one of us is odd in some uniquely peculiar way. As we age, most of us learn to contain and control our odd outbursts such that they don’t bring attention to ourselves or disturb others or both.
If your daughter’s running-in-circles behavior (that’s the way we psychologists talk) isn’t interfering with her relationships with other children, if she does it only at home and doesn’t spontaneously break into running in circles at school or in other people’s homes, then I don’t think there’s anything to be worried about. That would indicate, in fact, that she already realizes the need to contain and control it.
As for solving the problem, well, it may be one of those things that can’t be solved. One can only hope she will eventually outgrow it. In the meantime, you can give her a “running in circles quota” —a s in “You can run in circles twice a day for no longer than three minutes at a time” — and send her to bed early if she exceeds it. You can tell her that the only place she can run in circles is the basement or her own room. But when all is said and done, I think she’s just a little bit odd, like the rest of us. Besides, she’s probably getting more exercise than most of today’s kids.
Q: My 3-year-old grandson lives with his grandmother and me. He calls me “Poppa” and his grandmother “Nanna.” He sees and speaks to his mother on the phone only occasionally. His birth-father has never been in the picture. In fact, we don’t really know who his birth father is. I know, sooner or later, the children at daycare are going to say “That’s your granddaddy, not your daddy. Where is your daddy?” Children can be cruel, you know. When he asks me about his daddy, what can I say? So far it has not come up and I am not pushing it, but I’m at a loss for what to say when it does come up.
A: I think you’re making more of this than it’s ever going to become. The grandparents-raising-grandchildren phenomenon is so commonplace today, as is the fatherless home, that I can’t imagine children, especially young children, mocking other kids for living in either circumstance. I will tell you that in the course of my public speaking travels, I talk to lots and lots of custodial grandparents. Not one of them has ever raised this issue before.
Nonetheless, your son (you would do well to begin thinking of him that way) may someday ask you something along the lines of “Are you my granddaddy or are you my daddy?” In that event, I believe the simplest answer is the best answer, so try this on for size: “I’m your granddaddy, and since you live with me, I’m your daddy too.” And just leave it at that.