THREE EPISODES OF THE DAIGORO SHOW
THE SEX TALK
So, I’m out for the day with Daigoro, and we’re in McDonald’s getting our lunch, a brief stop on the way to our friendly neighbourhood Big Box so Daigoro can buy herself the super-deluxe Littlest Pet Shop set that she saved up her own allowance for (attagirl!), when the subject of babies comes up. It starts with vague rumblings about how she wishes she had a baby brother. We’ve been hearing this for a while now, so I jokingly tell her that Mummy and I are doing our best to take care of that, but it isn’t that simple.
“I know,” she tells me. “You have to wait a long time to get a baby, and then it grows in your stomach.”
“Well, there’s more to it than that.”
“What, do you have to order it?”
I tell her that, again, that’s not exactly it, but it’s kind of complicated and McDonald’s is not the place to explain the whole process. If she wants to know all about it, I’ll tell her when we get home.
Of course, she had forgotten all about it by the time we got home, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t breathe a sigh of relief. I am ready to explain these things to her, mostly. I know she can handle it. We’ve already talked about most of the difficult subjects I had anticipated: death, war, God and religions, slavery and its reverberations throughout the history of race relations. She is smart, mature and responsible – for a five-year-old.
But there are still a few issues that we have never really tackled head-on, but always skirted around, and this is one of them. Just like I’m not quite ready to tell her about my drug record, I’m just not sure it’s time for us to talk about sex yet. She has a habit of passing on everything I teach her, and damn the torpedoes. It’s all good when she’s lecturing people about how Pluto is no longer a planet or that birds are really dinosaurs, but there was also a time when she explained to her friends that it’s okay for two men to get married. Silly me, I had thought it was okay for a kid to know that. But apparently not all people want their kids to know that our state legalized same-sex civil unions several years ago. Society is very strange these days. We embrace 21st Century ideas, but wrap them up in Revolutionary-era values. I know that if I tell my daughter about human reproduction, it’s going to get passed on to other kids, and thence to their parents and extended families, who will judge us by their own archaic standards.
So, do I carry on with my policy of telling Daigoro the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, possibly making several other families think we are even bigger freaks than they thought, or do I take the coward's exit and withhold this knowledge so that she can keep on being a somewhat normal child and I don’t get too many dirty looks at our social gatherings?
It’s a rhetorical question, really. I will not lie to my daughter, no matter what the consequences. If she asks me again, and we’re not in McDonald’s, I will tell her all about it. I just wish society didn’t make it such a difficult issue.
HOT CHOCOLATE AND MORTAL FEAR
Once burned, twice cautious, they say, and I hope it’s true. Daigoro scared me out of my wits yesterday by spilling hot chocolate all over herself while I was washing dishes. I was six feet away from her, looking at her through the window between the kitchen and the dining room, but I was really watching the dishes in my hands. Next thing I hear is a thud, and Daigoro starts screaming. Not the usual sort of “I banged my thumb and I need magic kisses” screaming either, but a real scream that gets louder and louder by the second.
I drop the dishes and run to her. Hot chocolate is all over her. I make shushing “it’s okay” noises while I pull the wet clothes off her, pick her up and run up to the shower with her, plunk her down in the tub and splash cold water over her. She keeps crying and doesn’t want the cold water on her, so I tell her she can splash it on herself if she wants but she has to have cold water on her skin. There is a nasty red splotch on her chest, which thankfully goes away after a few minutes of holding a wet washcloth on it. She’s still crying. She’s cold now, and more scared than hurt, and says, “there’s hot chocolate dripping all over the carpet downstairs.” She is such a sweetie. I tell her I don’t care about the carpet, the carpet can be washed.
I have known several moments of mortal fear with Daigoro. There was the time her stroller fell off the front porch with her strapped in it, planting her facefirst into the sidewalk. There was the time, when she was only a few months old, when I thought I had smothered her in her kangaroo pouch. Of course, she was only sleeping. There was nothing wrong with her at all. And there were no lasting injuries the other times, either. No more than a few bad cuts and bruises in the stroller incident, and this time a very mild burn that has completely faded away by bedtime. But these moments have scared me more than anything that happened to me in my pre-Daigoro life, a life that was not exactly uneventful.
Being a parent is the most frightening thing in the world. It is complete surrender to the whims of fate. When it’s just you in the picture, nothing can scare you too badly because to some degree you always have at least partial control of what happens. And even if you aren’t, it’s just you, and whatever happens to you, you can survive. When you have a child, you’re not in control of anything. There is a small, defenceless part of you that is totally out of your hands and seems to teeter precariously between life and death every minute of the day.
If the school bus is late, it might just be late – or it might have been T-boned by a semi-trailer or hijacked by terrorists. That rattling cough and mild fever might be a touch of the bug that’s floating around the kindergarten, or it could be the first signs of untreatable bird flu. And hot chocolate is not the innocent, cheery wintertime warm-you-up that you used to think it was. It’s a deadly substance that can turn your child into the Phantom of the Opera if you don’t watch her every second.
It’s terrifying. No wonder Stephen King wrote so many stories about children in peril. There’s just no fear that compares with a parent’s fear of something happening to his child.
I'M SORRY MISTER MORGANA, BUT YOUR CHILD REALLY IS THAT SMART
Today we met with her teacher and got our report card, and it’s official now. Daigoro is not just doing well in school. She is not just well prepared for learning, or comfortably on top of the lesson plan. She’s off the charts. Less than halfway through the kindergarten year, she has completed every goal for kindergarten and first grade. She is reading and writing at a second-grade level, ditto for science. She is also a model citizen – well behaved, articulate, quiet but not mousy, an active participant in every activity. She loves being in school. Now her teacher tells us flat-out, there is nothing else that Daigoro will learn in that class this year.
So what do we do now? We’ve discussed two options: keeping her in kindergarten and sending her to the first grade during certain periods, and working her into some kind of Gifted program next year (that sounds snooty, but I don’t know what else to call it), or bumping her up a grade, either now or at the end of the year. So far she isn’t acting out or getting snotty about knowing everything, and she’s happy to be there, but I know from my own childhood that after a certain point there is going to be some frustration. Sooner or later she will start to feel like she is in the wrong place. I even worry, based on behaviors that she picks up from some of her friends, that she may start to “dumb herself down” just to fit in. Kids like to fit in. This, too, is something that happened to me all the time as a kid. And with something like 27 kids in her class, some of whom need serious help, there is no way that her teacher will be able to give Daigoro the kind of individualized lessons she needs.
I don’t like any one of our options a hundred percent. I suspect that sending her to first grade for certain periods will end up being impossible to coordinate effectively, and even in the best case she’ll still be spending most of the day in a classroom that she’s already way ahead of. Skipping her up a grade is bound to cause social difficulties and adjustment problems whether we do it now or at the end of the year. It means she will spend the rest of her school life being the youngest kid in the class. And even if she skips a grade, she’s still ahead of the program. Really she would have to skip two grades to get where she ought to be, academically – but my wife and I agree that skipping two grades is out of the question even if the school thought it was an option. (As far as I know, they don’t, because there are too many social issues involved.)
I don’t want to push her too hard, but I don’t want to hold her back, either, and I honestly don’t think that we’d be doing her any favors by keeping her in kindergarten. It just isn’t where she belongs. But damnit, I just want her to be a happy, normal kid and enjoy her childhood. She’s only got a few more years left to be a small child in. Do we have to skip right through them?
We are meeting with a couple of school officials after Thanksgiving to start working out a plan. In the meantime, I’m feeling all at sea. I knew she was smart – hell, I expected it and did everything in my power to give her knowledge and the desire to learn – but this is a bit much. Another thing for me to fret over. No, dude, my hair is NOT turning gray. That’s silver, I'll have you know.