Strangers With Candy
Last weekend, we marched in the Childrens Day parade in Mount Nabor (see previous post). Regis built a float out of the kids' Radio Flyer wagon, like he does every year.
This year he made Dino, and at the kids' behest, we were forced to dress like the Flintstones.
I actually really liked being Wilma. Wilma is the Jackie O of cartoon charactors, with her pearls and her little white dress, although Betty Rubble is sexier and initially, I wanted to be Betty.
But then I would have been married to Barney and people would be confused to see Barney and Betty with Dino, so we had to be Fred and Wilma.
Anyway, the best thing about marching in the parade is throwing candy to screaming spectators.
Zeb, however, has never wanted to throw candy. He sits in the wagon, possesively clutching his bucket full. He'll reach in and grab a fistful, but its too hard for him to actually part with it, so for the rest of the parade it sits in his sweaty little palm, melting.
This year, we got so frustrated that when the rest of us ran out of candy, we were snatching pieces from him so we could pelt the people at the end of the parade who never get candy because everyone always runs out by then.
Zeb sobbed, crouching protectively over his bucket, and as I tried to pry a pack of Bottle Caps from him, I realized that seeking the mob's approval had reduced me to THIS!
We apologized. But before the night time parade (there's two, one in the afternoon and one at dusk) we tried yet again to convince Zeb to throw candy.
I used empathy: "You love candy so much and its such a treat. Its hard to actually give it away.''
I resorted to bribery: "You can have your own special bag at the end of the parade if you throw the candy in the bucket.''
I tried apapealing to his sense of altruism: "It makes people so happy when you give them the candy!''
But the only thing that worked was when I stressed the heady sense of power you feel as the crowd shrieks your cartoon name, and, if you deign to make them happy, you can nonchalantly toss them a few Skittles.
"Zeb, YOU are the one with the candy. YOU are the important guy. YOU have what they want. The guy with the candy is like a movie star. Kids will go, "Bam Bam! Over here! Over here! Give me some candy!'' And when you do, they're like, "Thanks Bam Bam!'' They think its so cool. You'll feel like such a big shot. And, oh yeah, you'll feel good that you shared your candy with them.''
That night, he enthusiastically threw fistfuls at everyone he saw.
Unfortunately, when it was over I couldn't help thinking of a story Regis used to tell me from his childhood. Timmy Sheehan was an outcast boy who discovered that the kids who normally ignored him or teased him would grovel at his feet if he brought out a bag of candy at recess and tossed it out on the playground, where everyone fought and scrambled to get some.
But when it was over, the kids would go back to ignoring him. And I think he was the kind of kid who later ate dog shit on a dare.
So maybe, in the long run, the message I gave to Zeb wasn't really so good.