It started out innocently enough. My five year old daughter, Zoe wouldn’t let me brush her hair … ever. No amount of bribery or magical princess hair spray could convince her that it wasn’t ok to run around with her hair looking like Scrummy-L. Despite my best efforts, whenever I pulled out her hair brush, the tears would begin. They say that necessity is the mother of invention the most humbling, jaw-dropping mothering mistakes, and solving this particular problem proved to be no exception. One morning, while I was pleading with her to let me gently work on the knots, an idea came to me. I announced that if she went to school with a rat’s nest on the back of her head that the hair fairy might show up.
She squirmed on my lap and waited for me to continue.
I don’t know what inspired my complete lack of judgment, but before I could stop myself I blurted out that hair fairies shave off people’s hair if it is full of tangles. Just like that, the hair fairy put an end to our morning hair struggles. She was eager each night to apply a special anti-fairy “hair tonic” made of flower-scented conditioner and water to detangle her curls. Before school each morning she demanded that I hurry up and brush her hair.
It only seemed natural then a few months later, when I couldn’t get her to stop picking her nose and then putting her fingers into her mouth, to tell her about the booger fairy. I’m not proud of myself, but the story was easier to make up this time around, and Zoe was eager to fill in the details. Booger fairies, you see, watch you pick your nose and then they slime you with boogers from head to toe. According to Zoe, you stick to the floor and then have to take a bath in order to walk again.
The effect was immediate. Not only did she stop picking her nose, but to my delight she began working on other behaviors too.
I felt secretly pleased with myself when she rebuked her brothers for burping at the dinner table.
“If you burp out loud, the burping fairy will come and burp you across the room!”
They looked at me cross-eyed before excusing themselves.
The situation started to get a little iffy when we went out shopping and she loudly announced to me that public … ummm … breaking of wind would result in a humiliating visit from the farting fairy (my apologies). I will spare you the gory details, but let’s just say that I won’t be visiting our local Target anytime soon.
I knew that things had spiraled out of control though when I picked her up from preschool a few days later to find her in a complete state of panic. Her wide eyes were filled with the level of fear usually reserved for finding an ant in the sandbox or a ladybug flying around the back of our van. It is often accompanied by ear-piercing screams and uncontrollable sobs, so I was quick to pull her close to me to find out what had happened.
“I accidentally picked my nose, but I wiped my finger on my shirt as fast as I could. I washed my hands. Is the booger fairy going to slime me?”
I admit it. The first thing that I did was look around to make sure that no one could hear our exchange. I didn’t want anyone to know that I had something to do with the various fairies that had been effecting such positive changes around our house. The second thing that I did was to hug her tight and let her know that everything would be fine.
In my heart, I knew that I had to come clean.
Later that night, I told her that there weren’t really any ‘bad’ fairies. We talked about ‘good’ fairies and then I listened while she told me about fairyland and wondered out loud if the good fairies live in the woods near our house. As she jumped off of my lap though, she announced, “I’m going to be the booger fairy for Halloween!” Thank goodness I have some time to talk her out of it. I don’t know how I would explain THAT to my neighbors!
Published in the St. Cloud Times