Thursday, December 1, 2016

Truth, lies, and ice skates

So far, the holiday season chez Wells has been...interesting.

Thanksgiving weekend, Lottie lost a tooth.  Awesome, typical happening for a fourth grade kid, right?  Normally, yes.  This time was different, though.  When Trevor crept into the room the next morning to be the Tooth Fairy, he got busted big time.  Lottie saw him, and although Trevor tried his best to cover up why he was up there, our girl wasn't buying his excuses.  Once the Tooth Fairy cat is out of the bag, it's almost certain that questions will follow about other important figures.  Trevor and I decided that it was time to have the Santa discussion.  We knew we had to talk to them both because Lottie would have gone off and told Dallas whatever we said anyway.

Logically, I wanted to talk to the kids about Santa before someone at school spilled the beans.  Frankly, I was stunned that the topic hadn't come up before, but I was happy that it hadn't.  I didn't want the kids to be shocked if another kid insisted that there was no Santa, you know?  There was a little voice in my heart, though, that said to leave it alone and let it all happen organically. I didn't listen to that voice, and I wish I would have.


Trevor and I sat the kids down and talked a little about the Tooth Fairy discovery.  We eased into the conversation about Santa, and neither kid seemed to be getting it.  I looked to Trevor for help, but he was across the room, looking at me expectantly just like the kids were.  I plowed on and talked about the spirit of Christmas and the spirit of Santa, and I was pretty sure that had gotten through.  Pretty sure until Lottie said something about how she knew it wasn't Santa who delivered the gifts because it was his elves.  Sigh.  Not computing.  I pressed on, and I could tell when Lottie understood because her sweet face fell.  Dallas stayed pretty stone-faced and stoic, but it always takes him some time to process what he is hearing.  After we finished the talk, Lottie disappeared for a bit, and Dallas went back to his video game.  I was pretty pumped thinking that it had gone better than I thought, and I was really relieved.  I should have known that things are rarely what they seem.

Later that night, Lottie confessed that she had gone to her room to cry.  I felt terrible hearing that, but she seemed to be okay once she had her initial mourning period.  She even talked about ways she could continue to share the spirit of Santa with kids at school and people around her.  A few days after that, Dallas started to make some noise about his feelings.  It started small, just some off-handed comments about not liking Christmas anymore.  Then he said he wished I had never told him.  (You and me both, buddy.) It came to a head as we were sitting in the waiting room at the dentist's office because, you know, that's always a great place to wallow around in emotion.  The office was playing Christmas music, and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" came on.  Dallas looked at me, said, "Liar song," and immediately began to tear up.  Solemnly, he said, "So, do you eat the cookies?"  I nodded and said, "Yeah, but it's mostly Dad." I was trying to lighten up the mood a bit, and good dad joke usually does the trick.  Not this time.  Big tears rolled down his face, and he didn't want me to talk to him or try to soothe him at all.  Ouch.

We made it through the rest of the dental appointment (no cavities!) and headed home.  I wanted Dal to have a little downtime because we had plans to go ice skating later that evening.  He seemed to perk up with some food and a little playtime, so I felt good that the skating would go well.  We arrived at the rink, and I worked up a healthy sweat getting all of us laced into our skates.  Once we reached the ice, Lottie glided off like Dorothy Hamill, and my sweat kept a-comin' as I watched Dallas struggle to stay on his feet.  Within about twelve seconds, he was frustrated and angry that he wasn't full-on skating like other people, and I could see a serious meltdown on the rise.  Just as I was about to suggest a quick break, the inevitable happened, and he fell.  He screamed as if he had been hit by a stream of hot lava and started to weep.  By this point, I was already at my limit of daily drama.  I pulled him up to his feet and guided him over to the rail.  I firmly told him that no one gets good at something without plenty of practice, and his two choices were to get a skate aid or leave the rink.  After some angry muttering, he agreed to the skate aid.  It took him a little time to get used to it, but he eventually got the hang of it.  A half an hour later, he abandoned the skate aid and ventured off on his own.  He'll never be a speed skater, but he stayed vertical for the most part, and he had a lot of fun.

I was happy as the evening ended until Dallas grabbed my hand on the way to the car and announced that although he had a wonderful time, he was still upset that I had hurt his feelings at the rink.  Approximately one hundred responses flashed through my mind, ranging from sadness to annoyance to thinking of the innumerable times he has hurt MY feelings.  If I hadn't hurt the kid's feelings, he would have spent the rest of the skating time being mad that he wasn't instantly perfect at something he hadn't really done before.  I'm happy that he stuck it out and made a concerted effort to work at skating instead of giving up, so hurt feelings or not, I'm calling it a win.

I don't know what the biggest lesson learned was.  Maybe I learned to listen to my instincts next time and not spill the beans on something that didn't necessarily need to be spilled.  Maybe Dallas learned that he'll survive even when he's upset or angry about something.  Maybe the rink employees learned that even adults like to ride on the seal-shaped skate aids.  All I know for sure is that Trevor can take the kids to the next dental appointment.

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