In honor of St. Patrick’s Day every year, parents all over America take a tip from the preschool directors’ big book of Hey! Let’s Make More Work At Home! to play Leprechaun for their small cherubs.
If you’re not familiar with the Leprechaun tradition, it’s when you make a mess of your house while the kids are at school or napping or during some other cherished part of your day when you have nothing to do but say, watch Ellen, stuff chocolate peacefully into your maw, mindlessly scroll through Facebook, or even knock back a few whiskey shots to escape the drudgery of life in general.
Yes, you heard that right. The American parent’s St. Patrick’s Day tradition is one in which you purposely make a mess of your home in order to entertain your children. In the name of childhood magic. Not that children need help developing their imaginations. I’ve personally seen more than one child play with a cardboard box or a wad of crinkled up paper for hours, and have even pretended at a child’s insistence to have a conversation with and shake the hand of a person who isn’t really there.
For years on St. Patrick’s Day, the “Leprechaun” upended our kitchen chairs, moved the garbage can to the counter, opened all the cupboard doors, threw coats and sofa pillows on the floor, moved knickknacks all over the house, sprinkled confetti (CONFETTI!!) on the table and floor, and wrote poems (POEMS!!) in a complex script that described his trickery and ability to wreck the house in the time it takes to recite a dirty limerick. He also left candy and cookies and green-colored treats like mints, gum and REAL MONEY. (REAL MONEY!!)
The kids’ eyes would widen at the mess and the goodies. I would beam. I was such a good mom.
Then it would be clean-up time. And *I* would clean up the mess. Because my kids were, like, four years old.
Stupid does not even begin to express how I felt about this performance around year four (five) of the Leprechaun tradition.
|Pretty sure this is an early example of the Leprechaun period in our home.|
“I can’t wait until the Leprechaun comes tomorrow,” they simpered late one March sixteenth, clearly knowing the truth but daring me to break the façade. “Wonder what he’ll leave us this year? Remember the year he left little mint candies all over the table, and put all of our shoes in the coat closet, and the coats on the shoe rack? That was hilarious! How does he do it? He’s so tricky!”
I cleared my throat, and wore my best “are you kidding me?” face. “The Leprechaun is not coming this year,” I said. “I didn’t get to the store to buy green treats, and the only way I’m going to make a mess is if you guys agree to clean it up. We all know what’s going on here. This tradition has run its course.”
They stared at me, smarting from the hammer of truth that dropped upon their young, freewheeling minds. My daughter’s jaw melodramatically flapped open in a semblance of shock. “Nice, mom,” they scolded. “We can’t believe you just said that! You’re destroying our childlike spirit! We want to believe! First the Easter bunny, then the tooth fairy, then Santa, and now THE LEPRECHAUN?”
It’s true. I had swiftly killed off every benevolent conservator of childhood one by one in the name of sanity and a smidge of laziness. I am a mere human. I cannot keep straight the web of lies I found myself tangled in every single holiday. Every year the questions I fielded from my children became more pointed and difficult to answer. How does Santa visit all the houses in one night? Where does the tooth fairy get her money? Why does the leprechaun make such a mess? Is the Easter bunny just a huge bunny?
I was over it, and the Leprechaun was the last to go. I had seen the light: our culture, under the guise of giving children sweet memories of magic and wonder, essentially dupes parents into jumping through ever-tightening hoops and feeling like fools. The worst is that we have to tell the truth at the end, leaving nothing for our children but deflated spirits, not to mention wariness of our own intelligence and trustworthiness.
“Yes. The Leprechaun is me. I mess up the house, give you a pack of green gum, you chew it all in one sitting, and I spend the next hour cleaning up my mess. It was fun for a while, but you guys. Give me a break, please.”
We continued to stare each other down; one side in disbelief, the other in steely reserve. Finally, my son broke the spell:
“Can we at least make milkshakes?”
Now there’s a tradition I can really get behind.
This post inspired by:
Prompt #1: A time you were tricked.