Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Rule of Gum

Dear Julia,

I don't remember how old you were when it all began. You were old enough to ask questions, but not old enough to challenge the answers too much. I was still idealistic about things like monitoring your sugar intake but no longer so besotted by the mere fact of your existence on this Earth that I felt the need to give in to each and every one of your requests. I guess you must have been somewhere around 2, give or take a few months.

The exchange was like millions of other exchanges that parents and their children have on any given day; you asked for something, I told you no, you asked when you could have it and I picked a completely random answer out of thin air. I couldn't even envision ever reaching the date I selected, which was probably what made it such an appealing choice at the time. But there it was, set in stone the moment the words were out of my mouth. You could have gum when you were 6.

I would have just as soon forgotten this conversation long ago, but that was impossible with you there to remind me of it so frequently over the years. Over time, the Rule of Gum began to feel not only arbitrary, but entirely ridiculous to me. You were enjoying any number of sugary treats far more damaging than a silly stick of gum. You were going off on sleepovers and other "big kid" adventures, but still barred from trying out one of the basic pleasures of childhood. Eventually, you were even beginning to lose baby teeth that had never even known the pleasure of chomping down on a big chewy square of Bubble Yum or a hard, gaily colored gumball. Why on Earth were we sticking to this silly, random rule? I would surely have rescinded the policy long ago were it not for one thing: your devotion to it.

For four years (give or take), you have waited with astounding patience to chew gum at the age of 6. You have not questioned the rule even as you've seen others around you abide by a different set of rules, politely refusing any gum offered to you by an adult or even a peer. It hasn't seemed to bother you one bit that other children have been jawing away at the stuff for years; if anything, I've always sensed in you a bit of disdain that they didn't follow the same -- clearly right because it's ours -- Rule of Gum that we do. You've read books about gum chewers and imagined up your own terrific tales involving the stuff. You've drawn pictures of gum and admired it endlessly in shop windows and candy displays. You've come up with fantastic, elaborate plans to keep your Halloween intake of gum fresh until the moment you would be eligible to enjoy it. But you have never once tried to sneak a piece, never once attempted to negotiate, change or even question the rule.

This is you on the cusp of 6, Julia. You believe steadfastly in rules and you follow them to the letter. You are far less influenced by what others think and say than what you know in your heart to be right and true. You read with avid curiosity about that which you have not yet experienced yourself. You are imaginative and creative and can spin whole worlds out of things you know nothing about. You are able to look longingly into the future, dreaming of what will someday be. But you live in the present and you wait your turn and you trust completely that you'll be rewarded for this in the end.

This morning, I woke you up by handing you the biggest, gooiest, sugariest square of gum that I could find in all of London. You didn't even look surprised. You just thanked me, popped it into your mouth and chewed carefully for a bit. And then you broke into a huge grin. I can't say for sure whether you were smiling because you liked the gum or because you were finally 6.

It takes most people the better part of a lifetime to learn that good things come to those who wait (hell, I'm still trying to learn this). But somehow, you knew it from the get go. I have no doubt at all that you have just the right mixture of patience and dogged determination necessary to get whatever it is you want out of life. May all of the things that you have to wait for along the way be as sweet as a piece of chewing gum when finally they are yours.

Happy birthday, my 6 year old gum chewing daughter. I love you with all my heart. Now go brush your teeth. (I may have woken you up with a piece of bubble gum, but I'm still your mother.)



Blogger Badness Jones said...

I'm crying here Rebecca....what a fabulous daughter you've got!

Happy Birthday Julia! Yay 6! Yay gum!

11:58 AM  
Blogger Kristy said...

Oh, my. I cannot believe this, on so many levels. Happy Birthday to a very, very special girl -- who happens to have a special mom ;-)

1:34 PM  
Blogger Steph said...

What a special girl, what a special mom. I can't believe that you are six, Julia! Happy Birthday!! Enjoy the gum!!! :)

3:06 PM  
Blogger Iota said...

Lovely birthday post. I do hope the gum lived up to expectations...

3:22 PM  
Blogger Liesl said...

My Heaven, Julia, weren't you four just yesterday??

At any rate, Happy Birthday, Miss 6! May the year be as sweet as the bubble gum!

3:58 PM  
Blogger Patois said...

That is fabulous. Happy birthday and happy gum to Julia.

I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who arbitrarily names an age when a kid can do something nor our my kids the only ones who never let go of that number as when it is all possible.

3:09 PM  
Blogger OneTiredEma said...

Happy Birthday Julia!

And this is making me glad I picked age 10 as my arbitrary age for stuff. (Piercing ears and using a "sharp knife" in the kitchen. So far.)

3:40 PM  
Blogger Christy said...

Beautiful post!

Happy Birthday Julia!

7:29 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

She is such a special little girl. And what a beautiful tribute this is to her spirit and who she is. I hope SIX is a year full of gumballs for you, Julia!

8:47 PM  
Blogger Iota said...

On a totally different subject, check out the most recent post on

I think you'll like it.

2:46 PM  

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