Saturday, November 19, 2011

Once upon a time

A couple of months ago, I was traveling on business. While waiting for my flight in the departure area, I overheard a conversation between a little girl, and her father, waiting for the same plane.

"Daddy, you said you will get me a fairy tale book. This is not a book of fairy tales!"

"But sweetie, it is. Look at the cover! There are fairies, dwarfs and wizards. What else do you need?"

"But daddy, this is not a fairy tale book. Look at how it begins!"

"How does it begin?"

"It does not begin with once upon a time. All fairy tales begin with once upon a time. I don't want this book. I want a real fairy tale book. You said you will get me a real fairy tale book."

She was about five, and I think that she had just started reading. As someone who had once parented a five year old girl, I could see where this was headed. First, there would be a tantrum. And, if she did it right, she could keep her old book, get a shiny new one, and perhaps a lollipop or two thrown in. How much she got, purely depended on how experienced her dad was, at handling her. From the looks of it, it did not seem like he had a lot of experience. Perhaps, this was his first time, traveling alone with his five year old.

Five year olds are clever. And little girls, having been blessed with two functional halves of the brain for such situations, are twice as clever as boys. I had once overheard my five year old, boasting to a friend of hers about something, "I know, but daddy does not know!". That, kind of sums it up, as far as a five year old girl's opinion of her ignorant daddy goes. Moms, are somehow immune to all of this -- perhaps, the fact, that they too can think with two functional halves of their brains -- greatly helps.

I was very curious to see where the conversation was headed. But, I was hungry, and needed to grab a sandwich or two. So, I left the waiting area. After fifteen minutes or so, I was standing in line to board the plane. By a strange coincidence, the little girl and her daddy, were right in front of me in the line. Daddy was on his cellphone, busy in a serious discussion.

The little girl had two shiny fairy tale books in her hand. And, she was enjoying a lollipop. I smiled and whispered to her, "You know, not all fairy tales have to start with once upon a time."

With a naughty smile, she whispered back, "I know, but daddy does not know!"


  1. Extremely engaging post. Reminded me of Lisa Simpson and her philosophical outlook on life.


    you mean this.

  3. Once upon a time (even though this is not a fairy tale) I was a kid, and Reader’s Digest was worth reading. One article in it was worth its weight in gold for me – how should kid’s handle their parents.

    It emphasised that confrontation is the worst strategy, where victory is impossible. Trying to outsmart parents is also unlikely to work, not because parents were smarter, but because they have also been kids once, and so know the kids likely moves.

    The trick is to agree and accept whatever parents say, but actually do absolutely nothing. So, if the kid is watching TV, and the father says stop watching, the kids say’s ‘OK’, but keeps watching. A few minutes pass before the father realises nothing has happened. He raises his voice threateningly, and the kid says that he has already got up to switch it off, gets up, and then continues watching. And, so on… Of course, the TV has to be finally switched off – the important thing is how many extra minutes of viewing can be gained.

    How times have changed – nowadays, confrontation seems to be the accepted strategy, and more often than not, results in victory for the kid also.

  4. hahahah

    once upon a time, I too threw tantrums and emerged victorious.

    Took me back to my childhood.. thanks for writing this :)

  5. I remember when in the middle of a crowded street, I threw a tantrum for a red hydrogen balloon, and my parents tell me that the balloon seller would run towards me every time he saw me,cus he knew I'd bug my parents enough to buy one :P
    Beautiful post, engaging and well written :D

    If you could spare a few minutes, could you read a post of mine? ANd if you like it, could you vote for it? I'd be really really really grateful :)
    Every vote makes a difference :)

  6. Hahahahaha...

    Girls are clever and hence proved...:):):)

    I used some other tricks with my Dad and I never ever failed to get what I wanted:)

  7. Dear Subhorup: Lisa Simpson is extremely cerebral, I don't think she is the kind that throws tantrums.

    Dear Anon: Nice cartoons! Yes, kind of like that..

    Dear Sudeep: That is exactly how I would squeeze in a few extra minutes of sleep in the morning, when I was a kid! Just keep postponing the inevitable till all hell breaks loose..

    Dear Janani: Victory is all that matters, isn't it?

    Dear Achyuth: I voted, not sure if the system took it though..

    Dear Saru: Wouldn't you say that the Dads are always easier to manipulate?

  8. A nice post! You were able to foresee that the little girl would get another fairy tale book and a lollipop as well.

  9. Dear Rohit: You could say that parenting makes one clairvoyant, you should try it sometime..

  10. good story and yup! very nicely written.