Sunday, March 27, 2011

No one really wants to rain on a parade

Ittybit was brimming with excitement. When I got home from work she greeted me at the door holding a familiar drawing, enhanced with new and unfamiliar autographs.

She'd been reticent to go to her after-school program but unable to pinpoint why. With gigantic huffs and theatrical eye rolls, she recants a litany of complaints: "It's no fun. There are bullies. No one plays with me. I can't get to the craft table soon enough. I just sit there. And. Wait."

We didn't want to minimize her concerns, but the four days a week she attends its programs getting her to leave has been similar to extracting a confession from a statue. It's just that Tuesdays, the day after her three-day respite from respite, that seem to be the problem. It's all in the lead up.

So, in an effort to get her past this moment of dread, I offer a vast and changing array of suggestions: "You could bring a game or a toy? You could bring a book and read? "Maybe you could get a game of Freeze Dance going? You love Freeze Dance."

It was plain from the tilt of her head and the diminished distance between her eyelids that I'd grown another head.

I was not deterred.

"How about you bring some drawing paper and pens?"

Her eyes widen and her head balances evenly on her neck. I had her attention.

"You know, we need kids to help us with the parade dragon we've been making. ... Maybe, if you take the drawing with you, you can explain what it is we're doing and recruit volunteers."

She liked that. It appealed to the wee little art director in her soul. And as her face brightens, I can picture her flitting from student to student trying to gain their interest.

As she stood there ... beaming up at me gripping her autographed plans, she wanted me to know the day had been G-R-E-A-T. Everyone loved the idea and wanted to be a part of it. It was going to be the best parade ever and she'd be making flyers and cookies for all who came to dance down the road under a cardboard box trailing a quarter-mile of iridescent fabric.

"Look," she said, thrusting the paper in my direction.

I turned over the drawing and found a list of names neatly printed alongside a column of phone numbers.

Numbers like 555-1234.

"When should we call them?" she wondered. "A month before? A week? How about tomorrow?"

“Next Tuesday in Never” sprang to mind, but I knew I'd need to put it more delicately.

"Honey, these phone numbers aren't real phone numbers. We can't call these. My guess is you asked some older kids who didn't want to say "No" but didn't want to get a phone call either."

"Are you sure?" she asked with a wry little smile. "Would someone really give a little kid like me a phony phone number?" she said squinting at the numbers.

"There's too many patterns. Most real numbers don't go in such clear order," I explained and showed her a listing from a phone book.

She just shrugged her shoulders and skipped off. Every bounce of her being proclaiming it "Their loss."

They won't get any of the special "dragon cookies" she'd been planning to bake for the crew. They wouldn't get to throw candy at the crowds who gather at the edges of their driveways. They would miss the best parade of the year and they wouldn't even know it.

My shoulders weren't as relaxed as I wondered aloud if I should have mentioned the deception. I could have just as easily asked her about all the kids we know well, children her own age, who'd actually LIKE to be in her parade.

My husband just shrugged his shoulders. "I think it's best to tell her the truth. She'll find out anyway. If someone's going to rain on her parade, it's probably better that it's you."

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