Tuesday, September 1, 2009

How to Behave Around Dolls


There are times as a parent when you wish you had paid closer attention to something that was just said. When you realize that you weren’t really listening well enough to have completely thought through all that your absent minded ‘Ok, honey’ really meant. You may have caught a word here and there and relied on some part of your brain to piece it together into a coherent thought. If your brain is anything like mine most mornings then this is an entirely unreliable process. And so when, the other day, through the fog of early morning, I heard the words  ‘trim’, ‘Rosie’, and ‘hair’ (and not necessarily in that order) alarm bells should have started ringing and I should have got out of bed straight away and I should have investigated the situation further.

As it is, this really only adds fuel to the fire of my argument that children are master manipulators. They know exactly when the best time is to ask your ‘permission’ for something. I think they all belong to some sort of group, like the Order of the Stuffy or something and secretly attend workshops like:

  • ‘Best Times to Ask to Have a Sleepover’ and
  • ‘Effective Use of Whining’ or even
  • ‘How to use Distracted Parents to your Advantage’ and
  • ‘When to Turn on the Tears for Maximum Effect’ or
  • ‘Dragging out Bedtime: Tips and Tricks’

Zoe has taken most of these workshops I’m sure. With her brother Jacob. Actually, she has probably facilitated most of them. Things we don’t know about our own kids. And I thought she was going to play with her friends in a fort somewhere when really she was setting up tables seminar-style, filling jugs with ice water, and putting out ‘Hello! My name is______’ labels.

Anyway I digress. So I was in bed and I heard little feet padding around and heard a little voice uttering some words which I sort-of understood and the next thing I know Zoe has set up a salon bed-side and is giving her favourite doll, Rosie, a trim. Two-inch long chunks of ‘hair’ are lying on the ground and Zoe is busily snipping away with the kitchen scissors.

Me: ‘OH! HONEY! Do you really think that is a good id…’

Zoe: (cutting me off) ‘It’s FINE mum. I do it all the time’

Me: (laying back down in bed) ‘It’s just that Rosie is your favourite doll and you really like doing her hair and if you cut if off…’

Zoe: (after a few seconds of silence) ‘Mumma..I accidentally cut off a piece of Rosie’s hair that I didn’t mean to…’

Me: (self-righteously) ‘Well I think I just tried to warn you about the possibility of exactly that happening. You know I do have some knowledge of how…’

At this point a heartbreaking wail cut me off mid-sentence. Kent and I looked at each other and then at Zoe who sat on the floor, one finger pointing to a miniscule bald patch on the back of Rosie’s head and her other hand clenched into a little fist that was pounding the floor beside her.

‘I’ve RUINED her hair!!’ came the tormented lament from the floor. “WHY did I do it??"’ she shrieked over and over. I tried to console her with lame parental wisdoms such as ‘It’s Ok Honey’ and ‘We’ll fix it, Lovey’. I even considered ‘It’ll grow back’ but fortunately my brain engaged before I said that one out loud.

For the next 10 minutes, Zoe was inconsolable as I tried to show her how really, unless you knew about the bald patch, no one would ever be able to see it. I mean you would have to really look for it. At one point I think I said something like how it looked just like any other bald patch on a doll’s head and really weren’t all doll’s heads just a series of bald patches anyway?

In case you are wondering if you should ever say something like this to your child, I’ll just save you the grief and tell you right now that you should NOT do this. They do not appreciate it. And, didn’t I know, (maybe you, wise reader, already know this) dolls cannot HELP having hair that is stuck in in ‘little groups’ as they were MADE THAT WAY and didn’t I know that you shouldn't ever say anything about the way someone is MADE and I should know that because YOU TOLD me that.

In the end, Rosie’s hair was OK. We worked out a kind of comb-over for the back of her head.  I crept into her room later that morning, all prepared to sit quietly on the edge of the bed and offer some sort of maternal words of wisdom. I started with ‘I know you’re feeling sad about Rosie’. Fortunately she blew me off with a wave of the hand saying that it didn’t really matter as Rosie could just wear a hat or something. Later, I noticed that Zoë had done a bit of back combing and created a fuzzy patch over the offending bald spot. It’s amazing what a bit of back combing can accomplish!

Well, suffice to say, I have gained a new understanding of how to behave around dolls. And children. From now on I think I’ll try harder to listen and respond a little quicker when key phrases like ‘hair’ and ‘trim’ occur in the same sentence. I know I have to let my kids learn their own lessons and I can't save them from everything. But now I know that paying closer attention can cut down on the 20 minute sobbing sessions. And I didn’t even have to sit through a workshop!


Spot the miniscule bald patch…


Thanks for reading.


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