We were about five minutes into our plan for Laylee’s birthday party when I figured out that what she really wanted to do was have her friends come over before the party with a backhoe to excavate a basement in the back yard and build a three story house out of dried bamboo and Elmer’s Glue in which to host the event. This was not surprising.
Most of Laylee’s plans build to this level and I spend a good portion of my life trying to find a way to tell her NO without crushing her innovative spirit. It’s not easy because she doesn’t easily take no for an answer. She always has a solution to any doubt I express. Usually her solution is even more convoluted and physically impossible than the last.
She wanted to search our house for secret cupboards and passageways by knocking on walls to see if they sounded hollow. When none were found, she suggested we get out the hammer and saw and create some of our own. When I said, “No,” she said she could do it herself. When I said “No,” she said that it just needed to be a small secret cupboard that would blend in with the wall, not an actual secret passageway. When I said, “Why don’t you pretend you have a secret cupboard?” she bawled her eyes out.
Then I told her about kids who live in cardboard boxes who don’t even have real cupboards who have fun playing with tin cans and newspaper and she looked at me with eyes that said, “I know that you know that I know that you do not know any kids who live in cardboard boxes.” She was right.
When I asked her if she had any special presents she’d like to add to her wish list for her birthday, she said, “Just a set of scriptures, and a kids’ guitar… and a pony.”
Me: Oh, so I guess we could keep the pony in the living room?
Laylee: NO! You can’t keep horses inside.
Me: Oh! So you just want scriptures and a guitar and a pony and a farm for your birthday. No problem.
Laylee: MO-OM! You’re making this way too complicated. We could just get a stronger fence and keep the pony in our back yard.
She got scriptures and some clothes for her doll. There were no tears about the pony.
Sometimes I get tired of telling her why her plans won’t work or finding a creative way of saying, “Yes,” to some portion of her plan so she doesn’t feel totally shut down. In these cases, I compliment her creativity and encourage her to ask Dan what he thinks. I did that today. Sorry Dan!
On the way to school she told me that from now on she would set the fourteenth of each month aside as “Permission Day.” On this day every month, she will ask permission to do all the crazy schemes she’s been planning in her head.
Today she asked me if she could dig a hole in the backyard (a common starter), fill it with hot coals and wood, light it on fire, place a pan and a sieve on top of the fire, melt rocks in the sieve, remove their metals and crystals, purify them and forge jewelry and weapons. This is the short version. She had every detail worked out.
I shot down every aspect of the plan, only to find her shooting back an answer for how my objection could be overcome. In the end I had to refer to city code and tell her I didn’t think a foundry was legal in a residential area, like the one in which we live. To appease her deep sorrow, I threw her a bone. “When you turn fourteen, six years from now, Dad will teach you how to solder.” It worked. She has stopped crying.
I can’t wait for next month on the fourteenth when I will get one more opportunity to crush her fondest dreams. One day she will be old enough to start a foundry, buy and train ponies, design interactive web sites that can tell a person’s age just by looking at her, excavate and build mansions to host parties in. She will shoot down any barrier that stands in her way. I'm excited to see her fly.