Putting my children to bed is a predictable, if extensive, process. There are water cups to provide, extra hugs, the inevitable second trip to the bathroom a mere three minutes after the "last call, oh my WORD just GO" trip, and prayers that "the white elf" doesn't come "hit" one of them in the middle of the night. (And an extra prayer for Mommy who still has no idea what that means and is a little scared herself.) And, like clockwork, Lily and Mary will conk out about 10 minutes after the last goodnight and Anna will sit on her bed for approximately seven hours talking to her toys before collapsing on top of them, not so much having fallen asleep as run out of steam.
So tonight when I heard Mary railing in her bed about the injustices of school, and how she never wants to go back, EVER!, I went in to see my normally enthusiastic kindergartener to ask what the issue was.
"I DON'T EVER WANT TO GO BACK THERE!!!"
"Why? And don't say because "it's boring" or "it's dumb," because first of all it's not true and second of all, that's life and you have to go. So what's the problem?"
"NO ONE IN MY CLASS BELIEVES ME THAT I'M SMARTER THAN ALL OF THEM AND I AMMMMMM!"
I paused. I bit my tongue. I rejected the first three thoughts that popped into my head.
"What happened, Mary?"
"Well, I don't want my sisters to hear, but you know, most of my class believes in the Easter bunny and I know he's not real and-" she started crying. I winced.
"Did you tell your class the Easter bunny wasn't real?"
Sobbing and nodding.
"MARY!" I scolded. "We tell you the truth when you ask because we trust you not to tell the other kids! You know that! You don't spoil the game for other people!"
"I know," she wailed, climbing into my arms. "I'm SORRY!"
"You told your whole class there was no Easter bunny? Go to SLEEP, Anna!" I called into the next room. Anna flopped down on her bed and pretended to snore, one hand inching towards the millions of stuffed toys surrounding her.
"No, I told my two friends and they said I was wrong and I said my daddy TOLD ME-" another cringe from the Mother of the Year - "AND THEN THEY TOLD THE ENTIRE CLASS THAT I DON'T BELIEVE IN ANYTHING EXCEPT HALLOWEEN AND THAT ISN'T TRUE!"
At this point my bewildered husband has put down his work and come to join in the conversation. I can see him holding back a smile, which is doing nothing for my ability to contain my laughter.
"Mary," he said, "We want to tell you the truth about things when you ask but the other kids get to find out the truth from their parents, too - when their parents think that's right. You don't get to do that."
"I know," she said. "I'm really sorry."
"I know you are," I said. "Tomorrow, you can go to school and you don't have to say you changed your mind. But you can tell your friends that people believe all kinds of different things and that's okay - and that the Easter bunny is a fun thing to believe in."
"They don't listen! They say I'm wrong and I'm not and-"
"Oh yeah," I added. "You aren't smarter than everyone in your class. There are people there who probably know more than you do and there are people who know less than you do and that doesn't make anyone bad or good, it's just how it is. And believing in the Easter bunny in kindergarten doesn't make you smart or du-"
"NO!!!" she interrupted, back at full volume. "I WROTE DOWN TWO PLUS ONE IS THREE. THEN I WROTE DOWN THAT ONE PLUS TWO IS THREE AND THEY ALL SAID THAT THE ANSWER WAS WRONG, THAT THEY WEREN'T THE SAME THING!"
At this point I was shaking and had to leave the room. Tim tucked Mary in and no more was said about imaginary holiday mascots or the perils of addition.
I went in the other room and called my mother.
"Is it too early to start drinking?" I began, as soon as she said hello.
"Of course it is, it's only Monday!"
"I was asking if 7:30 was too early..."
"Oh." There is silence from Connecticut. "So how was your evening?"
My evening was two Sam Adams' worth of parenting hurdles, and yours?