Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Where have all the fairies gone?

Today is a ranking day of sadness.  There have been worse days, to be sure, but this is a bad one in its own right.  Today I can see the beginning of the end of magic in my child's life, and it makes me want to cry.

Hannah lost a tooth this week.  It's only the 5th one she's lost, so it's still an event for her.  She told all her friends at school, and talked up her personal tooth fairy, Minty Mindy. 

Keep in mind that Hannah is nine.  So all her friends are nine.  Do you remember being nine?  It's about the time for questioning all the myths and fairy tales.  I think that's normal.  But my child has an Olympic-quality ability to suspend disbelief, and she got into an argument with her friends about whether her Tooth Fairy exists.  Then she set about gathering evidence to prove that Minty Mindy is real.

She wrote Mindy a note expressing her incredulity at her friends' disbelief.  She didn't ask for anything, she just wanted to express her solidarity with the Tooth Fairy. 

Dear Minty Mindy,
Some girls at my school say you don't exist.  What do you think about that?  I think it's just insulting...

She goes on to instruct Minty Mindy as to the location of her tooth (inside a small wooden box), and to request she leave the box, please.  She doesn't ask for sympathy, but rather offers it.  She doesn't ask for a way to prove to her friends she is right, nor does she ask for any extreme measures of proof for herself.  She doesn't need that, it seems.  She doesn't even specifically ask for a response to her note, although she told me this morning she had written the note in hopes that Mindy would write a response.  And Mindy did:

Dear Hannah,
Thank you for believing in me for a little while longer.  It's a funny thing about magic-- if you look at it too closely, it slips out of view.  But it sure is fun, isn't it?
Minty Mindy

This morning Hannah was all set to take her note from the Tooth Fairy to school to prove to her friends that Minty Mindy is real.  I had to do something.  This sounded like a serious opportunity for embarrassment, and she's old enough that I'm afraid it might matter.  I quickly consulted with my husband about whether we had to destroy her fantasy world before breakfast, and he suggested just a behavioral intervention.  So we told her she can't bring the note to school, because,  like baseball cards and birthday party invitations, it's too likely to cause distraction.

A temporary stay of execution for magic and make-believe is all I can offer.  It was too traumatic for me to even think of raising the curtain on fantasy at 8:00am on a Tuesday; it's a giant domino effect of disappointment.  With the Tooth Fairy goes the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, and I'm just not ready for that.  I need to believe in fairies a little longer.

Clap louder, children.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Impractical Math

This summer, my husband has Hannah on a daily math worksheet routine.  She objects, naturally, but mostly she does them when he's home, so I don't have to have the weeping and snivelling and flopping around I get with real math homework during the school year.


Today, however, she was working on money math after lunch.  She'd already had her melt-down for the day, and been sent to bed for a half-hour about it.  So, thankfully, with that part out of the way, she managed to get through her worksheets without too much drama.  But it occurs to me that money math must be ridiculously abstract for children in the 21st century.  
"Dara has 5 coins in her purse.  The coins total 50¢.  What coins does she have?"
"What is the easiest way to make 79¢?"
"If Jake uses 2 quarters to pay for an eraser that costs 32¢, what will his change be?"
Sometimes I get out a jar of coins to make it easier for Hannah.  But that usually results in at least 30 minutes of messing around making towers of pennies.  Coins have no practical application for children.

When I was in elementary school, you could buy two pencils out of a vending machine in the cafeteria for a dime, and you had to present your weekly 20¢ to the lunch lady to get your little carton of chocolate milk every day during break time.  Yeah.  Afternoon milk break.  Anyone remember that?  But there is nothing conceivable that Hannah could buy right now using that kind of pocket change.  Not to mention the school actively discourages you from sending cash lunch money with your child, preferring you load your child's lunch account online with your credit card.  I'm obstinate, and usually send a check to school to avoid the $2 fee charged by the company that manages the website.  My husband thinks I'm goofy:  "That's why they call it a convenience fee."  But my real complaint is that children may never learn to manage actual money without the very real possibility of being served a cheese sandwich and white milk for lunch as a consequence for losing their lunch money on the way to school.

I'm all for children, even mine, learning about natural consequences, especially when the stakes are low.  Hannah has known since she started school that if she brought a toy to school, and it was taken away by her teacher, I was not going to school to get it back.  Luckily, she actually did lose a string of parade beads in kindergarten; I was perfectly comfortable letting those go into the trash beside the teacher's desk.  Thank goodness that happened before she was carrying things like iPods or cell phones around.  The idea that if children learn their lessons on a small scale, they will translate them into larger terms later is my guiding principle here.  I'm willing to lose $2 of lunch money a couple times to help my daughter learn how to handle money, and to understand that it has value and importance.  A couple cheese sandwiches along the way won't hurt her.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Doin' it wrong with sex education

Hannah's birthday is tomorrow.  She's uber-excited.  She makes a ferret in a hall of mirrors look subdued.  At dinner tonight she was talking about the girls who are coming to her birthday party on Saturday, and the possible gifts she might receive.  What started out as a predictable discussion of stuff-I-want turned quickly sweet.  And then disturbing.  Observe:

Hannah: There are so many things that I want that can't come in a package.
Husband: (off-stage) Like pizza sauce?
Hannah and Me: Eww!
Hannah: Plus, pizza sauce might be in a jar, so it could be in a package.
Me: So what do you mean?
Hannah: Like you.  And Daddy.
Me: (kind of melty) Oh, sweetie, you have us anyway, so you wouldn't need a package, right?
Hannah: And love.
Me: (still melty and now beaming)
Hannah: And a baby.
Me: (now blanching) Um. You're a little young for babies.
Hannah: But I love them.  Besides, I meant for you to have a baby.
Me: Oh, I'm all done having babies.  Sorry.
Hannah: (pause)
               Anyway, how do you keep babies from just popping out all the time?
Me: Well.  Uh.  Moms and Dads have to do things to make babies happen.
(at this point I know I'm on thin ice)
Hannah: (here it comes) Like what?
Me: (pause)
        Like plan for a baby.  And Daddy and I aren't planning any more babies.  We're all done.
Hannah: Well I'm planning them for you.  Let's see, if it's a girl... but if it's a boy... (trails off theatrically)

You'll notice that the Husband was decidedly absent from the whole conversation once the discussion of pizza was clearly off the table.

Mind you, I've already told Hannah how the baby comes out, and she found the idea disgusting.  But she asked.  I'm just not ready to talk about how they get in there in the first place.

Yep. Still procrastinating.  She's seven, people!  At least until tomorrow she is.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Doin' it wrong-- with making a cotton-picking decision for once!

Although I may not always appear that way, I am hard-wired to care-take.  I have a strong tendency to refuse to say what I want in order to protect the feelings of others.  Also to avoid the crushing experience of rejection when someone tells me that, now that I've asked for it out loud, I still can't have what I want.  I've made this tendency into a way of life, so much that I routinely drive my husband up the wall with my fishing for the "right" answer to questions of opinion.

Husband: Where do you want to go for dinner?
Me: Well.  Last time we went out we had Italian food...
Husband: ...And...
Me:  And we haven't been to the barbecue place in a while...
Husband: ...So...
Me:  We could just go to Chili's; that's easy...
Husband: ... (blank stare)
Me: Or we could go down to Paul's for beef sandwiches...
Husband: (wanders away to find something productive to do)
Me: I might want Chinese...
Husband: (starting the car and pulling out of the driveway)
Me: Or maybe we should go to that place I like downtown and sit on the patio...

Really, I'm hoping he'll give me some clue as to what he wants as I'm listing the options.  Once he actually told me he didn't need to hear a list of the restaruants in town, he just wanted me to pick.  But if I come out with a firm choice, sometimes he does say "No, I don't want to go there," which does NOT reinforce my choosing behavior, I'll tell you that much.

We generally eat out only on Thursdays.  This ensures at least one night a week I sit with my family instead of messing around in the kitchen all night.  We rotate from week to week who chooses the restaurant.  When it's Hannah's turn to choose, it's invariably Steak-n-Shake or McDonalds.  She needs her milkshakes, people.  And on one of my recent turns I emphatically declared that we would try the Red Robin that opened at the mall near us last year.

Oooh!  Red Robin.  It got a lot of hype when it opened, and it seems to be regarded as some kind of wonderland of American fare.  When we walked in the decor reminded me a little of Ed Debevick's in Chicago.  Fortunately, the wait staff isn't encouraged to be a bunch of jerk-faces at Red Robin as they are at Ed's.  The menu offered, among other things, a selection of $10 hamburgers that didn't seem to me to justify themselves.  I liked the sweet potato fries, though.

Here's my other problem with making a choice: sometimes I make a lame one.  Not bad, per se, but a bit disappointing. Then I spend the rest of the day thinking about the other choices I could have made.  I know it's a waste of time, but since when does that stop me from doing stupid things?

This Choosing Disorder seems to have some kind of genetic basis, as my mom demonstrates the same tendencies.  When faced with this in my mother, I just go ahead and make a decision, but that is, technically, to protect her from feeling put on the spot.  So I'm not so much choosing a restaurant as I am choosing to avoid a socially awkward situation.  And it's still kind of care-take-y.

There may be no hope for me.  But there might be a $10 cheese burger.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Doin' it wrong with the purchase of goods and services

I'm reflecting on the futility of work lately.

My boss made a comment one recent Saturday (our busiest day of the week!) that work was getting in the way of his not-working.  I disagreed, and said:
"If not for work, I'd never get anything done."
He looked at me like I was making a stupid joke or something, so I clarified:
"No, no. I mean, often on my actual days off I get relatively little accomplished.  But if I also see clients on a given day, I'll probably get a load of laundry done and the floor mopped, in addition to making dinner and helping Hannah with her homework and piano lesson.  If I'm just home all day, I'll probably play Solitaire on the computer or watch Dr. Who."

I do like my job.  And I have several clients who believe they would not function without seeing me regularly.  We're working on that, incidentally.  But I also notice that I, along with everyone else, expend a lot of effort to earn money in order to NOT do work.  You know, the hard stuff.

Today I have scheduled some people to come remove a metric boat-load of leaves from my yard, and am pricing service providers to have my trees trimmed.  There are seven of them; that's gonna be steep.  I also scheduled an appointment to have my dog bathed and groomed, and a second one for his vaccinations.  Then I went to two different stores to buy ingredients for stuff I want to cook, most of which is extravagant, and some of which is chocolate.  That stuff's totally critical.  But seriously.  Gruyere is twice as expensive as Swiss cheese, and no one in my family will notice besides me.  And still I shell out.  Can they see me coming or what?

I've recently been reading some Charles Dickens, and I've read Terry Pratchett's new historical novel that utilizes both Dickens and Henry Mayhew as characters.  I got on the internet to find out whether I could find a copy of Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor.  I uncharacteristically read some folk stories and poems edited by W.B. Yeats, with lovely depictions of rural subsistence farmers.  Then I put some dirty laundry in a magic box that washes it, and subsequently into a different magic box that dries it, and try to make room for all of this sparkly clean clothing in our overflowing dresser drawers.  My life is so full of ease and excess; but I often forget, because my luxury is a Ford instead of a Jaguar.

I own property, but I'd never be able to make a living off if if suddenly Publix Supermarket ceased to exist.  So I'll keep showing up for work at a job where I feel like I can do something useful for others, and where my boss just keeps signing my check to verify that he values what I'm doing.  

On the other hand, I did feel pretty good about turning over some of the maintenance of said property, at least for this month, to a couple of guys just trying to make their own living. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Doin' it wrong... with first aid

Everyone thinks their child is unique.  But on a couple of issues, mine is down right weird.
Like Band-Aids.  She's afraid of Band-Aids.

Less so now than when she was a toddler, but she still gets a little freaked out when she has an injury that might require parental attention.

A lot of kids, when they're small, will insist on a bandage for every little bump and scratch.  And they want you to buy the cartoon character bandages so they can be festive.  Not Hannah.  She had no interest in Dora or Backyardigan bandages when she was a munchkin, and actually applying a bandage to that child required a brief wrestling match.  Most small cuts and scrapes were left to the open air, on the premise that the emotional trauma of applying the bandage was far worse than the injury itself.  

Hannah is now 7, and tolerates a Band-Aid now and then for real injuries, but still isn't a big fan.  On Friday she was outside playing with a neighbor, when she slid down the side of one of the trees in the front yard.  She came in, looking contrite, to show me her injury.  Since she was playing with an actual friend (as opposed to her regular retinue of invisible ones), I figured she must be really hurt.  She doesn't abandon actual human playmates lightly.  She had found a scrap of the kind of fabric that sometimes is used to line camp-chairs or thermal windshield screens, and, for some reason, placed it over the rather mild abrasion on her rib cage.  The wound, on its own, really didn't require any attention to speak of, but the filthy scrap of fabric that she had applied to the broken skin was what concerned me.  I told her we would have to clean that up, and I sent her friend home, knowing that Hannah would be too frantic by the time we were done to want to play anymore.

Now comes the Keystone Cops portion of our story.

Hannah doesn't really like to be handled, as I mentioned in this post last summer.  So the idea of sitting still for me to douse her mild abrasion with hydrogen peroxide and Dermaplast spray was too anxiety provoking for Hannah, and she started backing away from me like I was holding a blow torch.  I tried to get her to sit on the couch, and she would briefly perch on the edge of the cushion, only to spring up, landing 2 feet away, every time I approached her with the brown plastic bottle of torture-liquid.  She was crying, and trying to convince me that the wound wasn't so bad, as well as trying to calm herself down with some cartoonish deep breaths.  I'm trying my best not to laugh, because Hannah is clearly distressed, but I'm losing the battle and I keep making that snorty nose laugh sound, which only upsets her further.  After about 10 minutes of what would surely have resulted in hyperventilation for most humans, I got Hannah to sit on a kitchen chair for a moment.  It occurred to me that the bottle of peroxide I was holding has a silicone seal that allows you to squeeze out just the amount you want, rather than the regular open-neck bottle that I'm used to.  So I decide I'll just squirt her with the stuff and be done with it.  From about a foot away from her I squeeze the bottle, shooting enough to make her scream at the contact with her broken skin, and to cause some to splash back and hit me in the eye.  Which hurt.  Kind of a lot.  Who knew?

Now Hannah is sobbing, and I am grumbling about my eye and holding my hands over my face.  Hannah then wants to know, between wails and sobs, if I'm okay.

The torture victim wants to check on the collateral injuries of the torturer.

I could not possibly love that kid more.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Doin' it wrong... with holiday spirit!

I hate the Elf on the Shelf.

My daughter, a typical little girl in every way, dearly wishes we had one. 

My grandmother had one of those things when I was growing up.  It sat in the shelf of the built-in hutch that was part of her Cicero dining room.  Hanging above it were a giant stuffed buck's head and a couple sets of antlers that my Papou had brought home from hunting trips in years gone by.  The disembodied deer head was less disturbing to me than the damned Elf.

First of all, the deer was a handsome example of its breed.  The elf is a creepy, leering, fingerless mongrel crouching in a corner beside some plates we never used.  The antlers held no particular malice, despite their forcible removal from their original host.  The elf was silently judging me every time I went past. 

Those little buggers scare the crap out of me. But wasn't this their original intention?  Did I mention the absence of fingers?  How is an elf supposed to function without fingers, anyway? I thought their whole existence was based on their ability to make toys and do Santa's bidding.  Perhaps that's why this goon was relegated to the shelf, perfectly suited, as it was, for scaring children, and lacking the opposable thumbs required for building a toy train or a doll house.

I always just associated that elf with the vaguely tacky 50s-based decor that characterized my grandparents' house.  You know: the plastic carpet runners everywhere, the carnival glass ash trays, and colored-pebble-lined candy dishes.  Oh, yeah, and the empty wine bottles turned into dolls with plastic heads and crocheted dresses.  Remember that stuff?  No?  What about the padded toilet seat and the fuzzy rug that fit right around the base of the toilet?  The plastic-canvas yarn-embroidered tissue box covers?  Come on, I can't be the only one whose grandmother made this stuff.

Anyway.  One thing that I did NOT miss when my grandparents moved to Florida was that stinking elf.  Then, a couple years ago, Hallmark or some other bunch of jerks starts marketing those things again, and presenting them as an essential part of the Santa Claus myth.  Dude.  It's not bad enough that he sees you when  you're sleeping; now he leaves his creepy minions around to scare your mother.

I didn't buy one.  Hannah wistfully says now and then "I wish we had an Elf on the Shelf," and I remind her of how their lack of extremities is deeply disturbing to me.  But I do feel the guilt of disappointing my child by not providing her with the delight of finding her Creep on the Shelf doing something mischievous and clever every morning.  I would really expect any Elf that infiltrated my home to behave more like the Bloggess's elf than any of those sweet mommy-blogging elves I see tagged now and then on Facebook.  And I'm pretty sure our Elf would terrorize me and give me nightmares.

So.  No dice for Hannah on this one.  I'll have to think of something equally creepy for her. Preferably something with fingers.