Saturday, December 27, 2008

Santa Claus: the controversy

A recent essay in the WaPo discusses the Santa controversy--apparently some parents hold that santa belief is akin to child abuse. Please! I always believed in Santa and I turned out OK (well, IMHO. You may have your own view). Actually, I believed in all kinds of magic, including the idea that I could communicate telepathically with animals and inanimate but personified objects (ie, cars), until I was at least 12. Egbert is almost eleven and still believes in Santa, but his faith is wavering. He's been questioning. He even contemplated this year setting up an elaborate security system with video cameras to catch Santa in the act. Luckily, we don't have a video camera or he'd probably have set it up, complete with laser tripwire (he does have one of those). Surprisingly, he didn't ask if he could use the video on my macbook. Maybe it's better in this situation to bemoan the things you know you can't have? Maybe he isn't really ready for the answer? However, he has been spending a lot of energy on it: recent discussion sessions have been held on the following topics: "do you think Santa is a real person or more like a burst of energy?"; "who is Santa, anyway?" and "Where does Santa live? I mean, you'd think Arctic explorers would have found his workshop by now."

A few years ago Egbert suddenly announced that the tooth fairy wasn't real: "the tooth fairy is YOU, Mommy." I responded with incredulity: "what? you think I fly through your window at night just to put some money under your pillow? I don't even have a ladder that high!" He replied that, of course, I didn't need to do that--I could just walk across the hall. But I didn't answer that and he didn't push it. He also recently announced that he no longer believes in "mommy magic"--and he tried testing me on my mind-reading abilities (okay, they're not as impressive as they were a few years ago). As it happened, a friend called me in the middle of this test to say she couldn't meet me as we'd planned as she was sick. I told her to go to bed and drink some tea, and she said she was drinking some at that very moment. "See? I knew that she should drink some tea, and she was drinking it!" He looked at me pityingly: "That's not mommy magic. That's great-minds-think-alike." (On another occasion, he scornfully derided my suggestion that I knew something through mommy magic by saying it wasn't that, but "emotional intelligence," that gave me the insight.)

As far as the question of whether Santa is an actual person or a burst of energy, I responded that I thought both. "You mean, he's a burst of energy that turns into a person when he comes down the chimney?" Yeah. Something like that.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Elections--then and now

Egbert and I were very excited about the outcome of the election. He is a quick thinker and before the election when a classmate remarked that Obama was not experienced enough to be president, Egbert pointed out that the minimum age to be president was "35, not 75."

On the day of the election, I was driving through my congressional district visiting polls and checking that there were no problems. It was a great day--raining constantly, but with Democrats everywhere full of an excitement I've not seen before. I called my mom and told her I thought Obama was going to win Virginia, just based on that excitement. I also spoke to Egbert, who told me he felt happy and sad at the same time: happy because he thought Obama would win, but sad because he might not.

I remembered the day after the election in '04-- Egbert refused to acknowledge Bush's win. He was sure that Bush hadn’t won the election, but was only “winning” it, as he said the votes from all the people in the whole country can’t be counted in one day. He even said, of his Bush-supporting teacher, “won’t Alma be embarrassed when Kerry wins?”

Back then, he said that there was no point in protesting against the war, because the war would only end when “George W. Bush” is no longer president. Even George W. Bush doesn’t know what it would take to change his mind, he says. He had Bush pegged as someone who never changed his mind, even when proven wrong on an issue: When he would change his own mind about something, and was called on it, he'd say wearily, “look, I’m not George W. Bush, ok? I do change my mind sometimes.”

Bob Frapples, Dr. Pepper and Mr. Pibb

My son and I often engage in silly word play that (I think) is hilarious and quite clever, for a ten-year-old. On Sunday, for instance, he suddenly announced that when he grew up, he would change his name to Bob.

He said he wanted to change it because his first name, "Egbert," is too unusual. I suggested he could go by his middle name, "John," instead, but no--he would continue to use his given name for now, and change it to Bob at age 18. He asked if I knew any people named Bob, and I said I only knew bob for apples. "Who is Bob Frapples?" I explained the whole apple bobbing thing, and he decided that (a) he would change his name to Bob Frapples and (b) he wanted to bob for apples at his 11th birthday party. Which, he then said, ought really to be called his 12th birthday party, because, besides the 10 birthday parties he's had so far, there must have been one on the day he was born. He was a little peeved to learn that there hadn't been. Why wasn't there a party on the day of his birth? Wasn't it a joyous occasion? I didn't go into the whole cesarean-section-recovery thing, but explained that newborn babies don't like loud noises or crowds of people. And besides, they can't eat cake. --What? Why not? --Because they can't eat solid food. --Well, what do they eat, then? --Uh... what do you think they eat?

As he approaches puberty he's becoming more and more leery of anything potentially having even tangiential sexual content, so he wasn't going to go there. He thought for a minute and said, with an air of making a wild guess: "Pibb Extra?"

This sent us off (for some reason) onto a whole tangent about Dr. Pepper and Mr. Pibb. We decided they were the soda equivalent of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. And therefore Pibb Extra was... the most hideous version of Mr. Hyde... er, Pibb?

Well, I guess you had to be there. The weird thing is that I don't know that Egbert has ever had any Mr. Pibb, and he's certainly never had Pibb Extra, whatever that might be. But, today, on the windowsill upon which I force (through guilt) my coworkers to place their aluminum cans that they are too lazy to recycle (I do it for them) I saw an empty Pibb Extra can. Coincidence?