Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Tooth Fairy Got Played

I try to be a good tooth fairy. 

Last night Tiny Pants lost a tooth right before bed. I found the tooth box, we wrote the required note asking the tooth fairy to please, please let him keep his tooth, and put the note under his pillow and the tooth box beside the bed. 

Thirty minutes later, good old Tiny Pants is bouncing on his bad and has "hid" his note for the tooth fairy on the floor in a little secret space between the nightstand and the wall. Clever, isn't he?  I threatened to remove the  tooth until the next night if he didn't go to sleep. 

I set an alarm to remind myself, because last year the tooth fairy fell asleep  which caused all sorts of chaos and confusion. When the alarm went off, I snuck back into his room, dug the note out from under his pillow and slipped the two dollar bills underneath.  OK, shoved is perhaps a better description than slid, if you must know.  Tiny Pants woke up but I got him back to sleep in under 3.3 seconds. Win.

This morning Big Pants woke up first. "I wonder if the tooth fairy left me anything?" he asked.  Shizah!   

When Big Pants started losing teeth, Tiny Pants was so jealous that the tooth fairy started bringing him a lollypop when his brother lost a tooth. It seemed easier. I had forgotten, or at least had hoped he had forgotten. He hadn't. 

I ran back down stairs and rummaged through the cabinets for the new Dove chocolates I had bought (myself) and ran upstairs with them cleverly concealed in my hoodie pocket.  I very sneakily slid them under the folded clothes at the end of the bed that he was supposed to wear today. 

Meanwhile, Tiny Pants was up and looking for his tooth fairy loot and Big Pants had found his chocolate. The dollars were nowhere to be found. 

Look, I know I put it under his pillow. I was stone cold sober and in retention of all of my faculties last night. I did not dream it.  But the money was gone. We took the pillows out of their cases. We used a light to look in the crack between the bed and the headboard. We picked up the mattress completely off the bed. Nothing. Zip. Nada.

I ran frantically back downstairs, luckily found two more dollars in my wallet, and ran back upstairs. I fluffed his sheet and let them fall like little autumn leaves onto his bed. (Of course neither child was looking at the time, which was a shame because my slight of hand was Vegas worthy.)

Problem solved, or so I thought. 

Tiny Pants commences to get dressed, and inside his UNDERPANTS beneath his pajamas he pulled out my neatly folded original two dollar bills. He was astonished.  
Or acted it.

"Four dollars Mama! I got four dollars this time!"

I think I've just been played by a six year old. I'm starting to look forward to the day they stop believing.  

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Small Conversation Destroyed my Magical Thinking

Tiny Pants and I were sitting at the computer, which was placed an an antique flip-top desk.  He pushed down on the folding desktop — something he knows he is not supposed to do — and I said something like, "Do you know how mad Mama would be if you break this desk?"  

"You would never forgive me," he answered.  

"There is nothing you could ever do that Mama would never forgive. Never." I replied.  I was glad of this conversation, because I wanted him to always remember that he can depend on my love, even when he's a teenager, even when he does bad things. It often seems likely that of my two children, Tiny might be more likely to cause some major havoc someday.

"There's somebody I will never forgive," he answered.  I still didn't realize that the conversation was bigger than just breaking rules and unconditional love. 

"Who?" I asked, still thinking about what a good job I was doing talking about love and forgiveness.


And then I realized I wasn't doing that good of a job at all. 

Last month one of Big Pant's classmates died from complications due to asthma. I tended to assume Tiny Pants wasn't that close to the child, so didn't have as much grief. I forgot that the two-and-half-year age gap between my sons left my youngest vulnerable.  I had focused primarily on the loss his older brother had experienced.  Tiny may not have known this child as well, but he was still wrecked by it. 

"I know, Honey," I said, and hugged him. I thought it was over. It wasn't. 

Big Pants had fallen and bruised his knee earlier that day and was, in my opinion, milking it to avoid doing homework and going to bed on time. Big Pants had had a hip injury in the fall resulting in a hospital stay, and I made some comment about how if he kept having problems with his joints we'd have to go back to the hospital for some tests. This was partially a scare tactic (and a bad one) to get him to go to bed, but also voiced some real concern.  The doctor had said that continued joint pain might be a sign of rheumatoid arthritis, and I was just enough of a hypochondriac to worry, even though I knew the cause of this particular injury. 

At bedtime Tiny Pants started to cry. "I don't want Big Pants to go to the hospital," he said. 

At that moment I knew that this little boy's head was full of fear and death and mourning, even though he acted fine during the day and only complained about things like putting his plate in the dishwasher.  Our not talking about his grief and fear had not made them go away.

Sometimes all we can do is hold our children when they cry.  Sometimes we utter reassurances that we know we can't sustain, but we have to say something. 

Today, this week, I will try to be sensitive to the fact that sometimes there is a lot more going on under the surface than I realize, that acting normal doesn't mean that grief has passed.  Why should I expect a six year old to mourn any less than an adult?  My hope that he had magically healed hadn't made it so.