The Hess Report

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Festival of Goodness and Light 

After several attempts (which we bailed on due to the enormous amount of traffic), we finally managed to get to the Hartwood Acres Festival of Lights tonight. It's always neat to see, especially after New Year's when attendance drops off dramatically, and you can take your time - or fly through - as you see fit.

For those unfamiliar with it, the Festival of Lights is a 3.5 mile winding drive through a great county park which is decorated with some very cool animated Christmas light displays. It's also ten minutes from our house. The girls like to wear their pajamas for the trip.

This year, we decided to grab a bite to eat before heading to the Festival, and the girls still wanted to wear their pajamas, so I told them they could take them along and change in the car after we left the restaurant. It was at that point that on-the-ball!Joy reminded me that we were coming home between restaurant and Festival, in order to pick up her royal highness Lady Piper of the Pants. She's only a dog, but we figured she had never seen that many Christmas lights before.

So, I rescinded my initial proclamation that the girls could dress in the car on the way to Hartwood. Maddie was fine with that, but Lucy had, in the span of the last two minutes, romanticized the notion of changing clothes inside the car and was extremely disappointed. She was polite about it, though, and as we've been working on maintaining our decorum when things don't go our way, I rewarded her by telling her that she could in fact dress in the car while Maddie dressed in the house. One of things I've found that works very well as a parent is that if you say "No" or "Yes" on the actual merits of a request, rather than for your own personal convenience (which is always a temptation), you'll get a lot more respect when the supplicant disagrees with your ruling.

Having packed Lucy's pajamas in the car then, we headed to the restaurant. As we reached the parking lot, Lucy began explaining to us why she really wanted to dress in the car, as opposed to just dressing inside like her sister would soon be doing.

"Guys," she said, "it's because I just wanted us to get there faster, and I figured that if I went inside to get dressed more cars would get in front of us in line. So, you know. I just wanted us to get there faster."

And for those of you not personally familiar with Lucy, the world's funniest five year old, that's more or less a direct quote.

It's always interesting to me how our kids attempt to come up with pleasing explanations for stuff they just simply want. Maddie does it for kid's meals in fast food places: "Really. I don't care about the toy. I just like the food they have in the meal. I think it's a better deal, too. The toy doesn't interest me."


It's not like brutal!Joy and I constantly bombard them with toe-the-line threats or anything. Well, at least not that we'd admit on this blog. Most of the time, the kids just really want to please us, and sometimes, when they feel they may have wrangled some kind of concession from us (eg. changing clothes in the car), they feel the need to come up with all kinds of altruistic fantasies to justify themselves. I don't know about you, but I find childhood self-aggrandizement and delusion so freaking cute.

And, as we walked into the restaurant, Lucy just kept going on and on about what a great favor she was doing for us by dressing in the car. I was holding her hand, and I leaned down and whispered:

"Lucy, it's okay to just like what you like."

She pulled my hand to her little lips and planted a kiss.

"I love you, Dad. Thanks for letting me get dressed in the car."

"Not a problem," I thought about saying, but didn't really, because I don't always have to have to last word.

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