A Good Fable Never Fails to Terrorize

My child will soon be six years old.

Anyone who has – or has been – a five year old knows that turning six is a A Very Big Deal.

You leave five with fewer teeth than you started. You leave behind half-days of pretend-school (kindergarten: pffffft) and being mistaken for a pre-schooler when it ought to be clear to any one with half a wit that you are a school-kid.

Six: it’s significant.

We’re very excited about six.

Someone is so excited that she colours every waking moment – and more than a few sleeping ones, I’m sure – with vivid descriptions of the toys and dresses and yachts and mansions she desperately needs as gifts for her sixth birthday.

The constant stream of I want, I want, I want is sweet and unselfconscious and not rooted in evil, but I must confess it is starting to itch my skin raw. It makes me rethink the neighbourhood I live in and the school she goes to and pretty much every choice I have ever made to give her a life without want, which just makes her want more.

My own issues. I’ll own that.

Still, I thought it appropriate to gently tame the greed using a fable.

Last night, when we were cuddling-and-talking, I told her a story. While in our house we are bookies – bibliophiles rather than money-lenders – this child especially appreciates tales that are told off the top of my head. So I add-libbed The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

And then, at the end of the story, I might have mentioned that, like the Boy Who Cried Wolf, if she asks me continuously for every toy in the known world, I will have no way to know which toy is truly important to her – which means she will get a lot of random crap for her birthday.

(I didn’t say the last part out loud. Swear.)

She understood. She totally got it and burst into heart-wrenching, body-wracking sobs.

I am the worst mother, ever.

I cuddled her off the my-mother-shattered-me ledge and set to silently abusing myself for inadvertently abusing my baby with moral scare tactics fables. Effing wolf-calling boy.

In the morning, I had a whole set of fresh reasons for self-abuse.

“Morning” meaning today. Today Almost-Six had an appointment at the audiology clinic to have her hearing tested. Again.

She had her hearing tested at school and the hearing teacher was so alarmed that she referred her to the audiology clinic.

For The Child, this was a festive occasion: she got to stay home with me instead of going to class, and clearly a health appointment is an occasion for crinoline, taffeta, all of my jewelry (and hers) and my peacock-feather headband. I mean, obviously.

So off we set, blinging, to the audiology clinic.

I had avoided thinking in any great detail about what this appointment might mean until we were on our way to it.

When I had dedicated fleeting seconds to consider what this might mean, I thought:

this child has won the lottery in looks, intelligence and being loved. Whatever it is, we’ll take it in stride. It will be fine. Whatever it is, it will be worse for me than for her, because whatever it is, she’s been living with it for six years and she’s got it handled.

Yet driving to the clinic caused the film-strip in my mind to loop to every time I have ever snapped at her because I thought she wasn’t listening to me or was ignoring me or her sister.

And all the times I’ve silently and pridefully swelled at her ability to focus so intently on her art that she literally cannot hear anything outside of that task?

Oh my god, maybe it is because she literally cannot hear and in the six years of knowing her, I have failed to notice that simple fact.

I am the worst mother, ever.

Filling out the forms:

Have you ever noticed any hearing problems?


When did you first notice that your child was having hearing problems?

I didn’t.

I have not noticed that my baby cannot hear.

I’m going to stop repeating “I am the worst mother, ever” because I think you get the point.

So. The test. She did it. She put the headphones and raised her hand and the audiology dude nodded to himself a lot and did not look visibly concerned.

He was not concerned, visibly or otherwise. He said everything was fine. She can hear just fine. No issues at all.

In the damp heat of relief (mine) – mostly that I’m not an inattentive mama, because, as I said, whatever we discovered wouldn’t have been The End of The Worldwe headed to the book store.

Because although the child likes ad-libbed stories, I trust that I’ve made it clear that I clearly can’t be trusted to tell them. A new bedtime book was in order.

In the car on the way to the book store, Sophie processed the experience.

Triumphant Sophie: You know, Mama, I did much better on this test than the one at school.

Abashed Mama: What do you mean, babe?

Triumphant, Disclosing Sophie: This time I raised my hand only when I heard the beeps. At school, I thought the test was kind of boring, so I made it fun by waving my hand a lot, whenever I wanted.

Shocked but connecting-the-dots Mama: You mean that during the school hearing test, you were raising your hand when there were no beeps?

Connecting-the-dots Sophie: Yes! Just like cry-wolf-boy!

(Which, at the bookstore, was the new book she welcomed into her world.)

About the author

Kelly Diels I'm Kelly Diels. I'm a writer. I've written for Salon, Jezebel, XO Jane, Problogger, Write to Done and more. I'm currently working on a book about The Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand. Interested? Please subscribe to my newsletter and I'll share more thoughts and chapters with you as I write them. You can also find me on Facebook and yes please, please do.