Malls, The Tooth Fairy and Wonder

Wonder is like grace, in that’s it’s not a condition we grasp; it grasps us.  David James Duncan

Amy and I are not mall people or shopping people. So, we hate shopping at the mall.  The mall changes me – I become an over-fed, over-stimulated consumer with less money and decidedly crotchety.  Yet, when the two little guys were three and five, I had to take them to the mall for reasons now forgotten. It never occurred to me that it would be an event for them until I walked through the doors and their little hands tightened in mine. They were uncharacteristically silent and still; eyes wide, mouths open, they huddled up to me as we walked by shops, enthralled by the lights, colors and noise, a little scared and overwhelmed. To me, all excess and consumerism run amok. To them, it was a wonder, and they stayed close to me the whole time, never letting go of my hand.

247645_10150211564306361_1613434_nI was reminded of that experience when, a year ago, Robby came shuffling out of bed, blanket trailing behind him, tears in his eyes.  (This exchange is seared in my memory.  All true.)

“Daddy, the tooth-fairy didn’t come.” Nuts.  Totally forgot to be tooth-fairy.

“Well,” I told him, “the tooth fairy died in a horrible farming mishap in Dublin, Ohio.”  No, actually, I didn’t say that, but it did cross my mind. Thinking fast and noting it was Sunday I said; “Ah, of course not bud, the tooth fairy doesn’t work on Sabbath.  Let’s try again tomorrow.”  (Amy had to hide a snort.)   This actually mollified him a bit.  Sadly, just last week, Richey came snuffling into the room with the same complaint.

“What happened to the tooth-fairy?” he asked.  (Let’s just say we won’t be written up in parenting magazines anytime soon.)  For a moment, I considered it a small act of grace that Richey, too, lost his tooth on a Saturday night.  As I begin to launch into my tooth-fairy Sabbath observance explanation, Robby my budding cynic blurts out:


Do the Next Right Thing

“Why, even the hairs on your head are numbered.”  Luke 12:7

Early in my daughter’s softball career she had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad coach.   Figuring I couldn’t do worse, I signed up and quickly became a world-class coach, until my daughter fired me. “Hey, dad, you think someone else could coach me next year? I just want a someone new.”  It sounded a whole lot like a high-school break up – “It’s not you, it’s me.”  So,  Ouch.  Ironically, I was just getting to a point where I could give signals to my batters without everyone thinking I was having a seizure.  The single most important lesson I learned as a coach is that when they make a mistake, it’s not an opportunity to teach the mechanics of trapping a grounder: “HEY, CLEMENTINE, KEEP YOUR GLOVE DOWN,” is completely ineffective, because when Clementine misses a grounder she is thinking: “I’m a loser.  Everyone hates me.  Bethany won’t invite me to her party.”  The trick, and it’s quite a trick, is keeping them “up” and “in the game” when they muff a play.  So, I learned to open every season with the following Dr. Phil-esque training. Pretty much verbatim:

scan“Hey, girls, how many of you have made a mistake in a game?” After what seems like interminable feet shuffling, and a bit of cajoling – “C’MON.  Really?  No one?”  – everyone finally raises their hand, uncomfortable.

“Wanna know a secret? You’ll make more mistakes. That’s a promise.”  Now they’re just bummed.

“You know what to do after you’ve made a mistake? The next right thing . . .  Do the next right thing!”

This is actually a Narcotics Anonymous theme which, in hindsight, may have been a bit strong for such a young audience. I saw a lot of blank stares from the girls, at first.  Notably, all the parents would reflexively nod their heads and “Pops,” a grizzled, tattooed, former Marine really latched on.  Every time I saw Pops, he’d growl, “Do the next right thing, baby. Do the next right thing.” So, I hammered the idea into the team as often as I could, because it’s a great lesson, and I’ll be darned if it isn’t a lesson I desperately need to learn. Easy pop-up dropped? “Do the next right thing.”  Strike out?  “Do the next right thing.”  Lose the game forgetting to run home because you’re making sure your socks are the same height?  “Do the next right thing,” which, at that point, included eating ice-cream and giggling. Continue reading