Monday, September 24, 2012
The Elephant Tattoo.
I never tell my kids anything. Ok, that's not strictly accurate - I tell them lots of stuff. Like, how to do addition, how it's best to brush your teeth in little circles, not to pick their noses in public - that kind of thing. I never tell them about social things - until the last minute. They learn about birthday parties on the morning they are going. They find out we are going to the zoo as we get in the car to go. It just works out better for us that way. Less crazy, excited build up. Less opportunity for hurting the feelings of those not invited. Less disappointment when an event is cancelled.
This is working less and less with the nine year old who's compatriots parents are the tell all types. I know it's healthy for a kid to experience disappointment. I know that anticipation is fun but the opportunities for those experiences are myriad within her school schedule alone. I don't need to add to it.
It is without doubt something I do for my benefit too. Having sat with a heartbroken child when a fever hits and she knows she will miss the school field trip, I know the feeling of that special kind of pain reserved for parent's hearts.
Some of my parent peers question my judgement on this issue. She's nine - she should know more about her life and plans. I don't think so and I'll tell you why. When I was about nine my aunt told me she would take me to the Tattoo. The Tattoo is an outdoor festival like show that takes place in the grounds of Edinburgh Castle each year. It features marching bands, military displays, world music and circus style performances and ends with a spectacular firework display. The magical setting makes it an impressive, exciting event. I was beside myself with glee. I had always wanted to go. Most of my classmates went every year - I was finally going to be able to join in the chatter.
My aunt told me two things in advance. We would take sleeping bags to stay warm and that there would be an elephant in the performance. The thought that I would snuggle into a sleeping bag and then sit in a chair tickled me pink. I had attended many outdoor events in the Scottish Autumn ruined by feeling frozen solid. Then there was the elephant - I am still unclear why this made me so giddy but it was all I cared about. I had seen posters advertising the Tattoo and the elephant had a blue sparkly halter on - I was entranced. I couldn't wait to see the elephant up close.
On the way there, I asked incessant questions about the timing of the elephants appearance. What would it be doing and for how long? I can still hear my aunt's increasingly less patient responses that, "we'll just have to wait and see."
You don't need me to tell you that the sleeping bags got replaced by lap rugs which still allowed our feet to get cold and drafts to sneak in and that the elephant didn't show. Apparently, it got sick.
I don't remember anything else from that night. I think it was a spectacular show but it was lost to me in a fog of cold feet and elephant longing.
My aunt was appalled at my lack of gratitude and constant questioning and complaining and entirely frustrated by my disappointed tears. Now, as a parent I can now see why my aunt thought I was an ungrateful wench that night. Why not just enjoy it for what it was?
I know that the Tattoo experience is what forms my decision to wait with information. Children are single minded. They latch onto their perception and it might not have a place in the real world. They can't re-adjust as quickly as we adults do. I'm really just reducing their therapy bill in advance....