Saturday, May 8, 2010

Can You Say "Santa Claus" With a Straight Face? Thank Goodness I'm Jewish and Don't Have to Try.

I am existing in this very short window of time where I am the mother of a one-, a three-, and a five-year-old (the eldest turned five at the end of April and the youngest turns two in a couple of days). Today I took my kids to see a Barney Live! show.

What was cool was observing how the three-year-old was so completely in the zone. She was the perfect audience member at the *perfect* age.

The one-year-old (it seems unfair to call her that, considering how grown-up she tries to be and how close she is to two, but bear with me for the purpose of the illustration) was a little too young: she was attentive and quiet throughout but slightly more interested in the rainbow flashing lightstick I purchased for her on the way in. The five-year-old was trying her best *not* to be enjoying herself; being mostly convinced that what she's seeing "isn't real," she subtly stopped whenever she caught herself singing along. (If she had had a cell phone, you can bet she would have been forcing herself to text message through the whole thing so as to minimize the temptation.)

But the three-year-old... ah, sweet innocent youth. I loved the way her eyes lit up when Barney appeared on the stage... and how she nearly jumped out of her seat every time the first few notes of a recognizable song began to play... and how she enthusiastically called out to the characters whenever audience participation was requested. It was far more enjoyable to watch her than to watch the highly annoying purple dinosaur lumbering back and forth across the stage. (Side note: I tried my best to find a photograph online of the guys who have voiced Barney-- Bob West and Dean Wendt-- but came up with nothing. I have morbid curiosity; can you help?)

As we were leaving the auditorium, the eldest daughter turned to me and asked, point-blank, and with the tone of a cynical teenager, "All that stuff was fake, right, Mom?" And oh, how the internal struggle was set off once again! I AM INCAPABLE OF LYING TO THE CHILDREN, even when it's all in the name of fun.

"Shhh!" I dismissively replied, gesturing conspiratorily towards the little kids and then quickly changing the subject. Dodge and weave! Dodge and weave! For me this has always been the most palatable approach:

When my mom died, and my eldest asked where Nana is now, I said, "I honestly don't know." (She then went behind my back and asked my dad that same question; he later told me, "I panicked! I said, 'New Jersey'!")

When she wondered aloud how babies get out of their mommies' tummies, I calmly explained that some women have zippers in their bellies that can be opened up for just that purpose and then closed again. (I even flashed her my c-section scar so she wouldn't think I was bluffing and ask someone else.) (as we know she has a tendency to do.)

And when that same child grilled me about the logistical feasibility of the tooth fairy, I simply answered her question with another question: "Well you like MONEY, don't you??"

This is all well and good... but it's also kind of a bummer. Because you're only three years old once!, and when else in your life could you possibly co-exist in a world with things like actual fairies and talking dinosaurs? (I'll sidestep the inevitable sh*tstorm that would befall me if I went on to include "God" and/or "Heaven" on this list.)

Fortunately for my girls, they have their grandfather. An irresistibly charismatic man who has zero qualms about telling innocuous lies to the kids.

As a happy result, we have domesticated "purple worms" that live in our backyard, magical potions that cure any imaginable injury or illness, and special occasion chocolate ice cream that can be safely consumed at night despite Mommy's assurances that sugar right before bed causes nightmares. (Hey! Look at me! I just found a lie that I'm capable of telling my kids!) (Then again, it's hardly a fun lie, so I assume I don't get credit.)

I'm truly grateful for my dad's influence in this regard. Because I really *want* the girls to believe in Barney! (Just as I honestly *want* them to believe in heaven, etc., etc.) Life should have as much magic and joy as possible, damn it, and I suck for not being able to tell the whimsical tales with a straight face.
Bad, honest, Mommy!

Then again... it just occurred to me... maybe I *haven't* screwed up their only opportunity to experience talking dinosaurs? I guess in college there's always drugs. ;)


  1. I didn't know kids even b elieved in Barney - I never would have fallen for that, even at three. I hate fantasy and lying to kids, and I don't how you mommies manage to put up with the magic fairy stuff. I didn't even seem fun to me when I WAS three. I'll probably be a horrible mother!

  2. This post is a hoot, I love it!

    I am a master at deferring attention elsewhere when it comes to imaginary things. I have never ONCE corrected my son's assumption that Santa Claus is a "snowman," and when he saw a dude dressed up as an Easter Bunny at the mall, I proudly confirmed his assessment: "Look, Mom, that rabbit likes eggs."

    My kids find plenty of their own magic in the world, I've never felt like I needed to insert "magical" lies that I'll be held accountable for later. I'm more likely to be guilty of letting them believe the stuff their own little creative minds make up. :p

  3. Unrelated to this post per se, but I thought you might be interested in this:,0,7144595,full.story

  4. I found you through postmommy.

    For a few wondrous years I had my son convinced that reindeer were the wildebeest from Lion King. (He made it up, not me. I just went along with it...) Since we're Jewish, this was okay with me. And then, when my daughter asked who the gigantic Santa was at a neighbor's house, I told her based on the long beard and Russian tunic, it looked like a Russian Rabbi. Great parenting, I know.