I did not wake up this morning and decide to crush my daughter. I promise, I didn’t.
I rely on mini-discussions to follow up on the big discussions. My daughter A is in fourth grade but some of her friends have already started puberty. I’ve already presented her with a “growing up” book and talked to her about bodily changes. We haven’t had THE TALK yet but there’s a lot of ground to cover with girls so we have to go slow.
Last week my husband R had mentioned in passing that A needed to start wearing deodorant. Not an easy subject for a dad to approach with his preteen daughter so I said I’d handle it. After all, in my second year of teaching I did tell my class of thirty-three fourth and fifth graders that they were starting to smell bad. (I was a young teacher and was very blunt.) This called for a mini-discussion.
I sat A down and reminded her of the body book she had. “You smell,” I said. “Just like mommy. So now you have to wear deodorant so your pits don’t stink.” She laughed and asked if she could have deodorant that was made of candy.
She chose her own “flavor” at the store and reminded her younger sister to quit laughing at this and bra talk because she’ll go through the same thing in a few years.
So naturally I followed up with A in private. “Are you wearing your deodorant every day?” “Yes.” And I had a couple of other puberty questions and statements that we’ll save for another time.
Then I said, “Since you’re growing up, I have to tell you something else.”
And the truth about Santa came out. I didn’t plan it. I just knew that R or I would have to do it sometime and NOT in December. I figured, I may as well do it right now.
There were tears. There was denial. There were apologies.
The apologies were from me. Though I didn’t articulate this as much, I felt like I crushed a huge part of this wonderful, intricate lie I helped to construct. Now I was asking her to participate in this charade to protect her younger sister, who when she turns ten, I will crush her as well.
Later I told R and said that I felt like the world’s worst parent. He said he was glad I did it, more so because he said he would have probably lost his nerve in the middle of the truth and taken it all back.
He’s right. I am and have always been THAT parent. The one who disciplines, the one who sets the rules. R will put them to bed at night and be totally frustrated that they are still running around, laughing, yelling. I am the one who yells toward the stairway, “I’m coming up to check on you in five minutes!”
I am the one that produces silence with just one sentence. I’m fine with being THAT parent. I have ALWAYS BEEN THAT parent. It just sucks being that parent sometimes. This is one of those times.
I assured A that nothing would change. We are Catholic so I reminded her that even though there was a Saint Nicholas, Christmas was never about Santa. I reminded her about our faith and what it means.
“What does it mean?” I asked while stroking her hair. She sat in my lap taking in all of the information and slowing unraveling memories for the truth. We sat for what seemed like an eternity. Did I crush her? Will she ever trust me? Did she lose a part of herself that will never be restored?
I asked again, “What does it mean?”
“Presents,” she replied with one of her typical smirks.
I hugged her and she went to play outside, promising not to reveal the truth to her sister. World’s Worst Parent, my ass.