Witnessing the disappointment in a child's eyes when something much anticipated and longed for turns out not to be what they hoped it would be has always been hard for me to bear. I knew that dealing with the inevitable disappointments, dashed hopes and misunderstood expectations of childhood would be a huge parenting challenge for me.
I just didn't expect it to happen so soon, and that I would be the harbinger.
We are potty training in the geeky household, and as an incentive to potty use we implemented the 'sticker chart' strategy. Five pee pees in the potty and Geekygirl was promised a special surprise present. Now for the past couple of weeks she had been very interested in monsters and dinosaurs and their ilk. Her favourite bedtime stories were 'where the wild things are' and 'the alligator under my bed'. One day in the car, on the way home from daycare she had said 'I want a dinosaur, buy me a dinosaur at the store, mummy' - having just finally realized that toys are purchased by mummy and daddy.
So on my monthly 'target therapy' trip (I love target, a quiet trip, sans kids, around its aisles at 8.00am when the store has just opened is a little bit of heaven for me) I found a very cool stuffed dinosaur hand puppet, and put this aside this as the 'potty present'.
Fast forward to this week. After a show and tell day, Geekygirl had become obsessed with her friend Samika's toy, a 'baby in a packpack". It was the day after show and tell that the goal of 5 stickers was achieved, so I produced with great fanfare the special surprise gift. I put on the puppet and wiggled it at her. "his name is Monsterdink" she said (maybe she was referring to monsters inc?). "I try". She chased me around the house with Monsterdink for a few minutes, then returned him to me.
And then it all went wrong. Maybe I should not have pantomimed him biting my arm with his rather realistic large plastic teeth. I clearly should not have pretended that he was going to eat up Geekybaby. I was carried away with my own dramatic monster games when I saw that Geekygirl had retreated to a corner of the room. "No, No mummy. I scared of Monsterdink" she cried. I removed my hand and made him inanimate once again, and tried to show her that he was not real, and not scary, but no dice. In a small voice Geekygirl said "I want baby in a packpack".
I realized then that she had believed that her special present was going to be this much desired and discussed item. She had forgotten last week's desire for a toy dinosaur. And Monsterdink was actually kind of scary looking, come to think of it.
So I asked her "did you think your special present was going to be a baby in a packpack"?
"Yes," said Geekygirl, "like Samika's".
I continued, "And you feel disappointed because instead Mummy gave you Monsterdink?" trying at least to get some kind of life lesson for us both out of this disaster, since we certainly weren't going to get far with the potty training with the message "if you pee on the potty Mummy will terrify you with a monster puppet"
"Yes, I dis'pointed. I want baby in packpack. I scared of Monsterdink". My heart hurt for her.
So we decided on a new strategy. A new chart will be made, and a new surprise present purchased. Maybe it will be a baby in a backpack, but maybe it won't be exactly the same as Samika's. 4 stores and 4 boxes returned to amazon.com later (thank goodness for prime shipping and a no questions return policy) there is a "baby in a packpack" hiding in my closet.
Monsterdink sits on top of the bookshelf, eyeing us balefully. It seems he must remain in sight but out of reach. There are 2 stickers to go on the new chart. I'm hoping that this time Mummy has got it right. The baby is kind of scary looking, mind you.....