not about maker faire

Last year I was idiot enough to invite the wrath of evolution by bragging on my blog. Well, funny thing about that. The specific claim was that I didn’t spend a lot of time second-guessing the choices I make as a mother. Then Claire turned four and all entropy broke loose.

Example: we spent yesterday morning at baseball practice in the Excelsior. Baseball is followed by a small art class. Claire made a very fine lizard mosaic, and was then given a polysterene bird. She coloured in the pieces and we slotted them together. She loved her bird and kissed its beak. Cut to: lunch at a nearby tacqueria. Cut to: Claire back in the car, howling, because her bird has lost its tail.

In my defense I did walk and then drive slowly along part of the street where the tail was lost. Didn’t find it, obviously, and we were meeting Jamey and Salome at Maker Faire so we had to go. She sang a small sad song on the drive down (“My bird is sad, she has lost her tail”), and I indulged in all kinds of foolish hope that this creative act would turn out to be therapeutic. But when we got to San Mateo she began sobbing in earnest. We drove for about ten minutes to the sound of her unchecked grief. It was gut-wrenching.

What should I have done? I thought of asking Salome if Claire could have the tail from Milo’s bird; but this morning Milo’s bird got caught in a breeze and Jack went galumphing after it and caught it. Claire, of course, saw that bird and thought it was hers and started off crying again. Then I felt like a crap parent because Jack saved Milo’s bird and I didn’t save Claire’s.

But it’s not my job to protect her from every tiny little thing. Is it? One deal I made with myself when I decided to have kids was that I would never lie to them, not even to spare them pain. So dead dogs aren’t in heaven, they’re just dead. And now Claire thinks about death a lot, and asks me not to die, and for the first time I really get it, that death is a concept so huge most adults don’t ever wrap their heads around it, and so for her this is all really, really hard.

But the alternative is condoning lies by omission, at best. And my visceral revulsion over lies is a reaction against my old church, where everyone lied about everything all the time. (Although oddly enough they, too, would have insisted that dogs don’t go to heaven.) The little lies were all committed under the umbrella of the big lie, as it were. The big lie was the minister claiming to speak for a good and just God while taking girls into dark corners to rape them in the mouth. I was okay because if he’d lifted a finger against me I would have told my Dad. I want to raise my girls with the same magical protection, a caul to keep them from drowning in lies.

But. But. But. Who the hell am I to decide when to protect them from small griefs and when not to? When to move heaven and earth to recover a toy, and when to shrug and decide that it’s only two inches of polysterene? How can I seriously believe that regular exposure to small griefs will help them cope with the big ones, when they come? Do I believe in a kind of emotional immune system? Am I completely insane? And even if there’s any merit to my ludicrous theories at all, will I protect them from anything except an eighties-era suburban Sydney Anglican church? So that if they happen to time-travel back to Forestville in the days of acid wash …they’ll be perfectly safe?

Also, I miss Jeremy.

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