While I have yet to master the physical tasks of my job as a parent, I was ready to embark on the spiritual ones. Yes, I was ready to introduce meaning-of-life lessons into my parenting in a concerted, explicit way, which means I plopped them right into the bedtime routine.
I started at the beginning:
The Bible The Wizard of Oz. Sadie and Simon are both enthralled with the story, which they know only from my fractured telling. “This young girl in a pretty gingham pinafore gets lost in a storm– no one was hurt– and she wanted to get back to her pig farm…” My bright idea was to talk about it as a spiritual journey. (You’re wondering if I have a Harvard divinity school degree right now aren’t you?– I don’t, but I watched a lot of Davey and Goliath claymation in the 70s.)
So, I told my kids about the spiritual quest for home (Dorothy), intellectual satisfaction (Scarecrow), courage (lion) and heart (Tin Man). I tell them about Oz and his suspect ability to grant wishes that were really satisfied through the questioner’s journey. When I’m really channeling my inner preacher, I tell them what they seek may be inside them all along. Hallelujah! Can I get an ‘amen’?
I skipped the parts about the mean witch, the flying monkeys (because OMGODTHEYARESOSCARY), and that psychedelic field of poppies (because we are a drug-free household.) Once Sadie had a grasp of the plot, I started asking her deeper questions to understand what kind of longings a four-year old has.
My biggest fear was that she would only be able to express longings for plastic consumer goods that come emblazoned with her favorite “characters.” I was so scared to get that answer that I waited a week before I asked her anything direct about her wishes. The question was a test: where did the child I am raising fall on the Tori Spelling — Deepak Chopra continuum? (Which is another way of saying is she more like me or her hard-working, anti-materialistic father?)
You can imagine why I might be scared to walk down this road.
The night had come. She was splayed out on the bed, clutching her non-name-brand stuffed giraffe and asking me about Dorothy’s red shoes, a detail she seized on during the first telling. Her closet light was on and the doors were open so it was bright as high noon in Tuscan. After describing the incredible adhesive glitter on Dorothy’s red shoes, I was ready to ask Sadie the question that was the culmination of my lesson plan on The Wizard of Oz.
“Sadie, if you could ask the Wizard for one thing what would it be?”
In the silence, we both stared at the ceiling, our heads resting on the same pillow. I could hear the soft ticking of her Disney Princess clock, and I worried it would distract her and make her think of princesses. I wanted her to wish for everyone to have enough to eat or for her teacher’s new baby. I really wanted it to be something with soul and something that can’t be bought at Target.
She was thinking so hard I saw her giraffe’s head buckle from her squeezing. Just when I thought she was going to blow me off altogether– which would be better than hearing she wished for a fucking Barbie dream house– she sat up and looked down at my face.
“I’d wish for breasts.”
Of course a four-year-old little girl wants breasts. Now, I can’t decide if that’s the worst thing she could have said or if it is an expression of a deep desire to mother (and be like her own amply-breasted mother), so it’s adorable and innocent. With that answer, she took my little Tori-Deepak continuum, threw it against the mantle then went out into the garage with a circle saw and make a new continuum: Dolly Parton or that little girl from Are You There, God, It’s Me, Margaret?
I’m not sure what her answer means. But, since you can’t buy breasts at Target (yet), I guess I got what I wished for. The spiritual lesson plans on are hiatus until further notice.