"Mom, how does the Tooth Fairy fly through the air?"
"How do YOU think?"
"I think moms do it."
"But how can a Mom be a Tooth Fairy?"
"Good moms are lots of things, Princess."

Saturday, June 12, 2010

County Fair: Joy of Life, or Bane of Existance

I loooooooove the fair. I love the smells. I love the corn dogs. I love the people with no teeth. I love the rip-off games. I do not love the poultry barn. I especially love the exhibits.

The exhibits. Yeah. So here's the problem. Buddy and Peanut are the kind of annoying kids that everything is pretty easy for. And Princess, sandwiched in between them, well, isn't. Don't think this is a problem for Josh and I. It's not. We're really not all that achievement-oriented, and Princess is just fine; she's right smack in the middle of "typical" in almost every area. But you can't enter tap-dancing in the fair and, well, we just haven't found Princess's Fair Talent yet.

Every summer Princess becomes absolutely obsessed with entering something in the fair, but doesn't really care for "closed-ended" projects (things that are supposed to turn out a certain way), isn't big on following my directions or suggestions, and doesn't want to make a big time commitment to anything. But she wants a blue ribbon. She wants it BAD.

Last year, I was sure I had it figured out. I was so pre-impressed with myself. Princess likes to cook with me, so what better entry than Bundt Cake From Cake Mix? Bingo! So the day before fair entry day, we go to town. Princess (with no more than 25% help, as stated in the Fair Entry Rule Book) greased and floured the pan, mixed up the batter, poured it into the pan, and put the pan in the oven. Then, five minutes before the timer went off, (with 0% help) had a big giant screaming kicking conniption fit. So the cake baked. And baked. And baked. Oh, I have never wanted to rescue a child from her actions SO BADLY. But I didn't interfere. And the cake baked.

Eventually Princess became capable of retrieving the cake. She thought it looked beautiful. With an inward sigh, I wrapped it up on the regulation-sized piece of cardboard. Then came Writing Out the Directions. As it turned out, Princess was not as regulated as I thought. She got frusterated because I insisted she copy the directions off the Betty Crocker box (as opposed to her vote: me spelling everything letter by letter), tore everything up, and announced loudly and not-particularly-politely that she did not have to do it.


Entry day. The lady says, "I'm sorry, but we can't accept this without the directions written out." Princess and I go sit on a park bench and wait for Buddy, Peanut, and the Cuddle Bear to come back from Buddy's entries. One tear makes it's way down Princess's cheek. She says what I believe now was her first step in healing: "I think things would be easier for me if I did not have fits."

Yes, Baby. Yes they would. And, oh, how I wish I could do it for you.

Buddy's project, by the way, not only got a blue, but an honorable mention- rare for a seven-year-old and further upping the bar. GAH!

Flash-forward to today. Buddy asked for the Model Magic and later showed me a model swingset, asking if he could enter it in the fair. Five minutes later, Princess asked me if she could enter "something" in the fair.

"Why, yes Princess, of course you can enter something. What do you have in mind?"

She showed me a picture. That she had spent all of the....last five minutes....working on. Now, we have been through all the ribbons and what they mean. She could tell you:

Blue means a judge thinks, "wow, that is just unbelievable for a seven-year-old. I bet most seven-year-olds wouldn't be able to do that."
Red means, "hey, that's really great work!"
White means, "yep, that's about what I'd expect from a seven-year-old."
Pink means either, "hmmm. That child didn't follow the rules," or, "hmmm, I don't think this child spent very much time on this."

So I was stuck. Do I comment on the piece and leave her feeling criticized, or do I say nothing and plan on her as an adult telling her therapist about how her mother knew she would get a pink ribbon and did nothing about it?

I had to pick one, so this time I went with the first.

"Wow. Those sure are colorful rocks in your picture, Princess. You know, whenever I'm entering something in the fair, I like to ask myself, 'I wonder what a judge would say about this.' And I wonder what a judge would say about that giant piece ripped off the lower corner."

I think I should have left the last part off.

The rest of the day did not go super-well, and I am pretty sure the ripped-corner comment was why. But, I had washed sixteen of the walls of our rental today and was feeling pretty rockstar, so I did not let myself get sucked in. Plus, when she said she wanted Buddy's sandwich at dinner, I gave it to her and added an over-the-top-bigger-than-everone-else's glass of milk for good Being Special measure. I can't say she appreciated it. But there you go.

I wonder if it's too late to start raising livestock.


  1. A few years ago my son Zach (I think he was about 11) wanted to enter a photo in the fair. I let him borrow my camera. He took a picture of the inside of a bag of potato chips. He thought it was hysterical. We all thought it was hysterical when he won the $25 "blue ribbon" prize.

    Your decision to not interfere is SO right. I can only imagine God feels much the same way about us.

  2. Ok, I love fairs because I have an obsession with funnel cakes. MMmmmm. MMMMMMmmmmm! Maybe Princess could make funnel cakes next year.

    I think you are right on, giving her the nudge but letting her get the consequences if she decides not to listen. I like to let the natural consequences fall like boulders whenever possible.

  3. oi, that is one of those tough ones with our kids, I always ask them " Are you proud of it and do you feel like it was your best work, the very best you can do? I usually get a no and they go try again, it puts it back on them and then I do n ot have to put my both feet in my mouth at the same time.