Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Outwit, Outsmart...

Parenting--and being Vice Principal, for that matter--requires a fair amount of Calling the Bluff. I am aware that responses to calamities which fall under the umbrella of "I See Your Fuss; I Raise You with Careful What You Wish For" can appear callous to the uninitiated. For example:

Child: (Falling down, moaning, then wailing) "MOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMY! My leg is hurt! I can't waaaaaaaaaaaaaalk!"

MOOOOMMMMY: (Cursorily checking victim and finding no fractured limbs) "I can take you to the hospital. Shall we go get in the car?"

Child: (Eyes wide) "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO." (Sniffle) "I'm okay."

Mommy: "Great. Go play."

The trick is learning to recognize the nuances of Drama versus Trauma. My experiences with toddlers and teens have taught me that much anguish is mere mild discomfort heightened by Drama. As a parent, one's best strategy is to see their overreaction, and raise it.

On Tuesday, our kindergartener began "feeling" her impending nightmares at about 2PM. "The scary stuff just keeps coming in my head, Mama," she whimpered. "I know that I am not going to be able to go to bed tonight."

She was, in effect, laying the groundwork for a rerun episode of I Will Not Sleep Tonight without a Fight. Thanks to her advance planning, I was afforded ample opportunity to determine an appropriate response.

It's not that I don't sympathize. I have my own fears, and I can easily recall my father patiently comforting me as I worked through a fire phobia when I was six years old. But there's just that legitimacy piece that required investigation: was she being truly fearful, or truly resourceful?

"Why don't you make a list of the things you're afraid of?" I suggested. "And then we can...do something with that list." I bought myself some time while she got to work. When she produced her Tally of Terrors, I sent her back to illustrate it.

Her inventory included skunks spraying (I'm with you, kiddo), Halloween, real mummy, doors open, robbers coming, and strangers. Fair enough.

"Let's send your list to the un-Scary Fairy," I proposed, impressing myself with my out-of-nowhere inspiration. "Then she'll write back with some advice on how to feel better about your fears."

We packaged up her worries, addressed them to the "un-Scary Fairy," and she added a quick P.S. to the back of the envelope: "stinky sleepovers."

"Stinky sleepovers?" I asked.

"You know, when you're at a sleepover and then suddenly the room fills with a terrible smell?"

"Has that ever happened?" My curiosity was piqued.

"NO! But wouldn't that be scary?"

Absolutely.

She waited for the mailman for a while and then forgot to stalk the box so I could grab back the improperly addressed letter. And when it was time for bed she was too tired to be afraid. Ha! Mommy wins again. Or, for once.

The un-Scary Fairy wrote back yesterday in fairy-like Amienne font, suggesting that strangers and robbers were fairly healthy fears to have (keep practicing safety measures!) but mummies? Did anyone ever see a "rele momey" walking around, anyway?

The one in her picture is cute enough to hug, don't you think?

4 comments:

Chris Bischoff said...

Man Jenny... how much longer can you stay a step ahead of this child?

lunarboy said...

I like how the robber has a smile on his face. Does he have the jewels in his pocket already??

Mama Deb said...

My eccentric uncle (who is both a professor of hematology AND a harpsichord teacher) actually has a mummy named George. I have met George in person, so I am not making this up! George was a victim of grave robbery in the early 20th century. His body was then accidentally left in a vat of formaldehyde in an old barn for decades, thus causing mummification.
I shit you not!

me said...

Dang, girl, you are clever! Where do you come up with this stuff? I wish I had an ounce of that creativity.