Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Can we play Helen Keller?

Bob and I have worked hard to expose the girls to characters from history, good characters in stories, and just plain people of character. We long ago banned Rugrats from our television screen, and along with them a slew of popular culture characters whose naughtiness is supposed to be cute. I love that Addy is obsessed with Laura Ingalls and interested in Johnny Appleseed.

Right now two sisters, also the children of careful parents, are here playing. One got bored with their activity, so she said, “Let’s play Helen Keller!” Another asked the third, “Can we play Helen Keller?”

They ran upstairs shouting, “Can I be Helen?”

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Does this make me a bad mother?

  • I give my toddler frozen Gogurt and tell her it’s ice cream.

  • When the girls receive new dolls with attached pacifiers or bottles, I break them off and pretend I don’t know what happened. Bob thinks the most recent one now perfectly meets our family goals of optimal infant feeding with appreciation for diversity: The baby has no bottle, but is now an African-American amputee. I didn’t mean for the whole forearm to break off. Really.

  • I’m too lazy put my toddler’s thumb in the thumb hole of her mittens.

  • I haven’t taught my 5-year-old to tie her shoes. And I have no plans to do so anytime soon. Do they make Velcro shoes for teenagers?

  • I feed Dori sunflower hearts to distract her while Addy and I do school — even though I know they’ll just end up wholly undigested in her diaper.

  • Usually I encourage the kids pick out their own outfits. And when I’m the one who picks out something that ends up looking funny, I pretend they did it.

  • I told Dori that Elmo (yes, the Sesame Street character) wants me to brush her teeth. Now she lets me.

Jesus is real. Santa is pretend.

So says Addy.

It’s New Year’s Eve and Addy was mad at me today. Out of nowhere (she often conjures up past events) she remembered that on Christmas Eve when we got home from church I told Dori it was time to get ready for Santa Claus to come, but I didn’t tell her anything about Jesus.

Of course my goal that night was solely to get Dori in her pajamas. After six days to process all this, apparently Addy recognized the whole Santa thing as a farce. Here I was concerned about whether she was really getting that the whole way-overboard gift thing wasn’t the point and she thought she needed to remind me.

I sat Addy on the couch and Dori stood front of me while I told Dori the whole story of Mary giving birth to Jesus, all the way through the flight into Egypt. Dori wasn’t listening. She was traipsing around the living room in the her new high-heeled plastic princess shoes from Aunt Jana. But my attempt was enough to appease Addy and she was satisfied that I had told Dori the truth.

Addy decided that while Jesus is real, Santa is pretend.

I’m still not sure what she thinks of the letter to Santa thing and how we watched his progress around the world through NORAD on Google Earth on Christmas Eve. She hasn’t yet asked what was up with that. Or who is this "Water Lily" elf person who e-mailed a response to her Santa letter.

As parents, Bob and I have never been big on the Santa stuff. When Addy was born we decided not to lie to her, but then strangers in the grocery store blew it up into a big mess of ho ho hos. "What's Santa bringing you, little girl?" "Are you excited Santa Claus will be coming soon?" "Have you been good for Santa?" (Talk about strings attached.)

So rather than burst the bubble, we went along with it. We got the annual picture on Santa’s lap, went to the Santa parades, wrapped presents in special wrapping paper that we had to hide in the back of the closet to pretend they were from Santa.

It really bugged me this year. I asked a like-minded friend how she handled it. She said her parents never lied to her, so she wasn’t about to lie to her children either. As a 4-year-old she asked her mother if Santa was real, and she told her he lives in the land of make-believe. I like that. Have fun pretending, but no lie is involved. Apparently when the grocery-store-Santa-myth-perpetuators ask her 2-year-old what Santa will be bringing her for Christmas, the little girl’s entire reply is, "Pshaw."