Two Reasons Why My Kids Will Grow Up to Fear New Jersey

Mommy, are you okay?

Yeah, I’m just a little sad.

Why are you sad Mommy?

Well, you know my Uncle Howie? He died, and I’m just a little bit sad.

He died?



He had a heart attack?

Where did he go?

What do you mean?

Where is he now?

Well, he’s in New Jersey.

Oh. Okay.

Have you ever tried to talk to a three year old about death? I mean, I hope you have never had to, but if it comes up, apparently you can avoid the whole discussion on the afterlife by telling the child the deceased is in New Jersey, which in this particular case happens to be true.New Jersey sign

So, I’m in New Jersey right now. Gabe and the kids stayed home. I just think that my kids aren’t ready for a funeral situation. I think it would be different if this were someone that my children were close to, but they didn’t know my uncle very well and I think it would be very stressful for them.

I think they have already picked up on my mood. As a parent I really try to keep all of my personal stresses in check. I try not to let that stuff effect the kids, but it doesn’t always work.

And then there was this parenting gem from yesterday afternoon: I took the kids outside to play and wait for their Dad to come home from work. The love to be out there when Gabe comes home so that they can run up to his car and yell “SURPRISE!”

Not that he can’t see them when he drives up to the house.

Anyway, the Goon Squad knows that they have to stay in the grass, driveway, or on the sidewalk when we are in the front yard, and yesterday Ian was standing at the very bottom of the driveway and putting one foot in the street.

And staring me right in the eye.

Ian. Do not put your foot in the street.

He does it again.

Boy. Get your foot out of the street.

He puts his left foot back on the driveway, shifts his weight, puts his right foot into the road and smirks at me.

Ian. You know you are not allowed to be in the street unless you are holding the hand of an adult.

I see him getting ready to do it yet again.

IAN! if you put your foot in the street one more time I am going to go inside, get Buzz Lightyear and take him to New Jersey with me!

While I admit that I lost my temper and probably handled the situation poorly, I really meant that I was going to bring Buzz Lightyear with me so that he couldn’t play with him for two days. He loves that stupid Buzz Lightyear doll.

What I didn’t take into consideration until about an hour and a half later is that because of our earlier conversation (and also probably things they have head on The Simpsons or Futurama) my kids are going to end up being scared of the entire state of New Jersey if I am not more careful.


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  1. Hehe. Would it be that much of a problem if they were afraid of NJ though? It’s a pretty creepy place. After all, Camden is there :).

  2. Sarah, I’m so sorry. That is tough, to deal with your own feelings and explain it to them. I’m sorry for your loss, too.

    Yes, I’ve had to explain death. It dominated our lives for about a year. Patience drew pictures, asked questions, and so forth. I think she’s as okay about it as a person can be, KWIM.

    You might have created a scary place in NJ thought (lol).

    Using My Words

  3. You clearly need many Bruce Springsteen songs to clear up this NJ thing. My kids at that age loved Workin’ on the Highway, Out on the Street (uh oh uh uh oh), Born to Run – and of course were way overexposed to Thunder Road and Jersey Girl. But the upbeat ones are more effective for your purpose.

    I have two serious suggestions too:
    1. I had a miscarriage and when my son asked me where the baby was I, at that time anything but religious – said “with God.” It was the safest place I could think of – although NJ isn’t bad.. But it DID seem to help.
    2. There is a book called THE TENTH GOOD THING ABOUT BARNEY that my sister swears by. Take a look.

    I’m so sorry about your uncle. Life changes so fast.

  4. Sarah, I’m sorry to hear about your uncle..

    [[As a former children’s book clerk, I also agree with Cindy’s recommendation for the Tenth Good Thing About Barney]]

    Being a New Yorker, your use of NJ is especially amusing.

  5. I think that since a large number of the dead on the Sopranos ended up in New Jersey, it’s as good a place as anyplace for them to fear.

  6. Your street story reminds me of your mother not letting us ride big wheels past the bush because she “didn’t enjoy scraping kids off of the street”.

  7. Hey now… I’m from NJ and it’s lovely here. Well, except for maybe Camden (like Zach said)… and also most of Newark. And I wouldn’t go to Weequahic. Ok, so there are some places in NJ to be quite afraid of. Madison is ok!

  8. Frank Sucks says:

    Wait till you kids meet their other ‘uncles’ from Jersey, like Uncle Frank Sucks for example, but you can think of some others….

  9. New Jersey for time outs, too?

  10. Tell the kid the truth. It may be hard, and you may destroy their innocence, but it will ultimately make them wiser.

  11. I’m sorry for your loss. But, I’m having a hard time keeping a straight face over the “Budlight” thingy. I probably would have blurted out “I’m going to throw Budlight in the street”. Oh, yeah that’s real mature!! lol….

  12. You can call me, 'Sir' says:

    You’re doing them a great service by implanting within their developing noggins a healthy fear of New Jersey.

  13. Oh man. But, you probably handled the whole “keep your foot out of the street” much better than I would have.

  14. It’s a particularly apt metaphor, really. You go through this long tunnel, you see a light, and then POOF! you’re in New Jersey.

    (Unless, of course, you take a bridge. Then I can’t help you.)

  15. Sorry, Sarah.

    I would tell the truth as simply as you can, and let your child’s questions steer the discussion.

  16. Sarah, I’m very sorry to hear of your uncle’s passing. You’ll be in my thoughts.

  17. You’ve got me going two ways on this. I’m sorry for you losing your uncle, and I think your reasons for leaving the Squad at home make a lot of sense.

    Your threat to take Buzz to Jersey? Hysterically funny. Blast some Springsteen tunes for the Squad. Let them get into Bon Jovi. Show them at least two good things came out of New Jersey. Well, three, as I went to college there.

  18. I am sorry for your loss Sarah, my condolences to you and your family.


    That said, I think you should have taken Buzz with you, and taken photos of him at the Stone Pony and the Boardwalk. I can’t speak for everyone, but that would make me feel better.

  19. Hi Sarah, how are you doing? I have had the death discussion with Zoe many times. It’s interesting how matter-of-fact she was about death until she hit age 6. Sometimes she worries that “daddy will die”. Actually that happened a couple times when Anneka was born – probably some tough emotions she was dealing with. Anyways, we have always been very open about it with her, so it doesn’t become something scary. But still she managed to find it a very sad and difficult thing already. Kids are amazing. As far as Ian in the street, I think that is a perfect time to lose it. As opposed to him spilling cheerios or something :)

  20. Very sorry for your loss, Sarah.

    My father died suddenly and unexpectedly two months ago, and ever since, my 3.5 year old twins have wanted to ask and talk about it nearly daily. Sometimes incessantly. They were very close to my dad, and I’ve been grieving hard, so the intensity of the whole experience has been greater than it may be for your kids. But be aware that, while the New Jersey explanation may be enough for them right now, they may well revisit the question many, many times. I’ve had days when I really, really, really wanted my kids to shut up and stop asking “why did Grandpa Butch die?”

    Art and dramatic play have proven pretty therapeutic for my kids in trying to understand death — I’ve written about it some on my blog (, if you’re interested.

  21. It’s Ok I am scared of New Jersey too.

    My grandmother passed away last year and even though Paige was very close to her, I didn’t think a barely two year old would get anything out of the funeral. She did not attend and I don’t regret that at all. Even now at three I wouldn’t take her unless it was a member of the immediate family, which God willing I won’t have to do.

  22. LMAO! I’m so using that on my kids one day… Or Hoop. Do you think it’ll work for him?

  23. Hope NJ isn’t treating you too badly. I’m very sorry about your uncle.

    Re: the foot in the street thing, my gyno related a story about the time her 2.5 year-old did that. He was out in the yard with his dad, who was washing the car and wasn’t really paying attention. She saw her son stick a toe in the street — something he’d been told numerous times never to do — from the kitchen window, ran outside, and spanked him several times. “If I couldn’t teach him to fear the cars,” she said, “I was going to teach him to fear me.” He never stuck a toe in the street again.

  24. Lori,
    At first I thought your gyno ran out into the street and spanked her husband for not paying attention. Actually, now that I think about it, maybe she should have. Kids sure can test us, but adults need to be paying attention too!

  25. They should be scared of the whole state of New Jersey.

    I told my 3yo that the neighbors were away because the dad’s grandfather had died. She asked “are they going to get a new one?”. I guess a great grandfather is like a puppy?

  26. I’m from Jersey originally; it can be a very nice place. It is the “Garden State” for a reason, it’s just not obvious when you fly into Newark. Head west and you get to God’s Country. The Appalachian Trail cuts through NJ, there are some great ski resorts, and oh the walking trails.

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