If you are a parent of a small child there are have probably been times when you feel like you have few brain functions operating at full capacity. And yet, there are probably times when the little itty bit of reason left up there calls out to you. You should listen.
A week or so ago, a friend emailed me about an invitation to a birthday party for Elmo. She said it sounded like a nightmare to her, but might be something Harper would enjoy. I called and "reserved" our spot at Elmo's celebration. Harper loves Elmo. Whenever we're watching Sesame Street and Elmo's World comes on, she turns and announces it to me, like it is a wonderful stroke of luck that it happened again. Elmo's World is on Sesame Street every day, but Harper acts like she's won the lottery every time it appears. So of course I was going to take her to Elmo's party.
What kind of mother would I be if I didn't?
Try a sane one.
The kind of mother that listens to the part of her brain that says, "Harper will never know if you don't take her to Elmo's birthday, she won't remember it if you do take her, and she'll probably be scared of six foot Elmo anyway. Remember your experience with Santa?"
Now I love our local bookstore (despite the fact that a big chain bought it and left the name the same, so it's sort of only faux local now), but the planning for this event was not great. I don't know if it was their fault or the fault of the traveling Elmo people. Either way, it is unrealistic to expect a group of toddlers and preschoolers to wait calmly while Elmo shows up half an hour late, and then make them stand in line to have a picture taken with him. We sat on the floor while we waited, and an enthusiastic employee read Elmo board books to the group. She also lead a round of Elmo Says and had the good sense not to make the two-year-olds sit down if they didn't quite follow the directions, thank goodness. Then they passed out a coloring sheet and cups of crayons for the kids to share. There was nothing terribly wrong with it, other than it all felt a little haphazard for an event we had to make reservations for, and the kids kept asking where Elmo was.
Once Elmo arrived there was a mad-dash to line up for pictures with him. I could not believe the way people grabbed their children and practically trampled each other to be at the front of the line. I am not so aggressive, especially with Harper in tow, so we ended up quite near the back, with a long wait ahead of us (when we'd already been there nearly 45 minutes). Harper waved to Elmo when we first got in line. As we waited, it must have occurred to her that I intended to stand her next to Elmo and take her picture. That's when she started whining, "I can't want to go to Elmo's birthday. I can't want to see Elmo." And she secured her monkey vice grip on my shirt and shoulder.
Again, instead of listening to the tiny shred of sanity I'm holding onto (which said, "Cut your loses and go home.") I thought that Harper might be less scared if we just got closer and saw how Elmo didn't attack the other children, or even make any loud noises.
She was not moved. She would not even look at Elmo. At least she didn't cry.
By the time we got home I felt pretty guilty for carrying her over to stand by Elmo, when she was clearly communicating that she did not want to do it. The whole way home she reminded me, "I can't want to see Elmo!" Just in case her refusal to look at him didn't register with me.
So I let her choose whatever she wanted to eat for lunch. She chose an apple and a plum.
That is called retaliation via diaper. And retaliate she did.
By the time she finished her fruit all appeared to be forgiven and forgotten. Today she was still happy when Elmo's World appeared on television. All's well that end's well I suppose.
The moral of our story is:
Trust the little instinct you have left.
When in doubt, stay home.
The two-year-old does not know the difference.