Magazine article Tablet Magazine

Childish Things

Magazine article Tablet Magazine

Childish Things

Article excerpt

On the last day of Hanukkah, Lev asked us to let him light the candles. The little guy had celebrated his fifth birthday a couple of days earlier and the whole business had gone to his head. "I'm 5 now," he said. "So I can ride a skateboard, drive a car, and land a battle spaceship and light the Hanukkah candles." After grueling negotiations, we managed to get him to give up on driving a car and landing a battle spaceship in exchange for our recognition of his fundamental and historic right to light Hanukkah candles under parental supervision.

The candle lighting was a resounding success. Lev then suggested in the holiday spirit that he also light the curtains in the living room and the bedspread in the bedroom, triggering another urgent discussion between the wife and me on the balcony.

"We'll tell him that it's dangerous and that's that," the wife said. "We have to be firm with him."

"Ya'allah," I said. "Let's go for it."

When Lev heard that he couldn't burn the curtain, he burst into tears and claimed that in kindergarten, they said that every day you have to light a curtain and eat eight jelly doughnuts. My wife still tried to argue that the only things that gets lit are candles and the exact number of jelly doughnuts to be eaten isn't specified in the holiday manual. But her flimsy arguments shattered on the armor of our pyromaniac son's terrifying determination.

As the front got increasingly hotter, I realized that responsibility for resolving the situation rested on my broad shoulders. So I chose to apply the strategy I had developed in past conflicts, a method that never ceased to prove itself: bribery. "If you give up on the curtains," I said to Lev, mustering the most soothing voice I could find, "you'll get"

"But Daddy," Lev said, "I don't want to give it up. I want to kill Greeks and burn things like the Maccabees."

I tried to calm him down. "When you get older you'll have lots of chances to kill Greeks and burn things," I said. "But until then you'll have to wait, and as a reward for your patience, you'll get"

"Eight jelly doughnuts, a jug of oil, and a rifle that shoots top-like bullets like the one Ronni Cooperman has?" Lev asked excitedly.

"No," I said. "But you'll get an amazing bedtime story that Daddy will make up just for you about the best kindergarten in the whole solar system."

Lev lay beside me with mixed emotions. On the one hand, he loves my stories, but on the other, with all due respect to the world of imagination, a story, however funny, surprising, and thrilling, still isn't eight doughnuts full of strawberry jelly or a made-in-China dreidel-launcher sold under the counter by a scar-faced salesman in the mall toy store. He listens attentively, though somewhat suspiciously, to my story about the Nice-Kids kindergarten. …

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