We spent the Thanksgiving week in Lake Tahoe, CA. It was great to get away and the kids both did great and had a great time.
On Tuesday, I took Jade (4) to the arcade at the casino and she won enough tickets to buy four erasers that are shaped liked turtles. Any of you that frequent arcades or Chuck E Cheese know ow frustrating the prize counter is. I mean we spent about $20 to win enough tickets to buy four... ERASERS!?!? You could probably buy a three-pack of these little chingaderos at the Dollar Store, but, no she earned them. She pressed the right buttons and had all the skee-ball skills to win enough tickets to buy 4 turtle erasers. She named them. One was pink, one blue, one green, and one yellow/orange. The shell comes off so you can have two, count them two, erasers if you need them. But, once again, they were hers. She earned them. She gave them backstories. She decided to love them and they turned out to be well worth the $20 in entertainment value.
So, Thursday night rolls around and we are going to drive up to Reno to have Thanksgiving dinner with the in-laws. Jade asks if her turtles can come with. Of course they can. I tell Jade they can stay in my special pocket (the lower, seldom-used pocket on a pair of cargo shorts). I'll keep them safe for the drive to Reno. Reno is a dangerous place, after all, and turtle erasers deserve protection beyond their hard gummy shells, right?
As it usually goes with four-year olds and their fathers' suggestions, the pocket was not an acceptable means of transport. "It's too dark" "The turtles are too scared" but her complaints had a fatal error in them. She had already established that the orange turtle was clearly the leader and most brave of the bale (I looked that up). So I told her that the orange turtle could talk them in to it. He turned to the rest of the cowering turtles and Jade made a speech to the cowering turtles of bravery and confidence that would make Braveheart fans proud. So the turtles entered the lower pocket and were not heard from for the rest of the evening.
"They will be fine, Jade", I reassured my doubting daughter.
The next morning as I was brushing teeth, my wife set something down that she had found in the dryer.
I thought nothing of them.
We went back to Reno for the day and when I was playing with the kids outside, Jade pulled this out of her backpack.
"Daddy, where are my turtles?"
As I fumbled in my pocket for those funny looking erasers my wife had handed to me, it hit me. I never took them out of the pocket... and they must have gone through the wash... those funny-looking erasers must have been...
"WHHHAAAAAA! What happened to the turtles!?!?"
I had pulled the heads out of my pocket and Jade had seen them.
"Daddy! What happened to the turtles?"
"I accidentally put them in the washing machine, Jade. It'll be okay"
"Okay!?!? That's their heads!?!?"
She became a bit more hysterical. I tried my best to reassure her.
"Look, Daddy, that one doesn't have a mouth anymore. He couldn't scream for help"
I started to feel really bad for her.
"Jade, it'll be okay. It was an accident"
She simply sobbed for a moment.
"But, daddy, they were so scared. Remember they didn't want to be in the dark?"
And finally the words that haunt me still:
"And you said they were going to be okay"
It's okay folks. A friend of mine found them on-line and I ordered Jade a dozen (for only $4.99... can you believe the profit margin of that damn arcade?). I felt so bad for her. I did, indeed let her down.
But a few days later, I found myself so impressed with her.
You see, Jade is only 4. I am sorry I was the one that committed the reptilicide, but she cared SO much. She had created back stories. She established a leader. She showed a true empathy.
And she was so, so very sad for them.
And she is only 4.
These are things we have worked on with my son for 5 years now. He has such difficulty taking perspective already... true empathy will hopefully come with more maturity, but he still has such a poor understanding of the subject. I found myself sad for him.
So I told him the story. He sat for a moment. I expected little or no reaction. Finally:
"Dad, is Jade sad that you killed her toys?"
Yes, my boy. Yes she is.
"Did you know that they ate turtle soup on Scooby Doo goes to Zombie island?"
I did not know that.