Saturday, April 11, 2009

Boo Boo Bye Bye

My daughter is two years old, and firmly believes that a kiss makes it “all better.”

As I was getting out of bed on the second day of Yom Tov, I banged my leg against the bed frame. Without thinking, I said, “Ow.” My daughter looked up at me.
“Daddy boo boo?”
I nodded. “Boo boo on leg.”
“Oh!” She leaned down and kissed my leg. “Bye bye boo boo.”

Adorable, no?
I’m afraid, though, that my wife and I have saddled her with a superstition. It’s one that’s convenient for us. Any time she falls or bangs herself a quick kiss stops the tears and brings a smile back to her face. And it is one that she will eventually grow out of. Still, right now she believes that kisses have magical powers and instantly heal all hurts.

It made me think about other superstitions we learn from our parents. Superstitions like, say, not opening an umbrella indoors. Superstitions like not stepping over someone who is lying on the floor. Superstitions like making sure fingernails aren’t left on the floor.

What’s that? That last one isn’t a superstition? It’s in a halachah? Sorry, my mistake. Let me try again.

Superstitions like saying a given set of words will make everything all better.

What? That sounds like prayer? Oh, well, uh, um … you’re right. That does sound like prayer. And you know what? Praying for boo boos to get better and kissing them works on pretty much the same principle. It’s comforting to the one performing the ritual, and may actually make small things seem better. But when my daughter bumps her head we get an ice pack. And when she cuts herself, we get a band-aid. And we give her a kiss to help her stop crying.

When people are really sick, they go to doctors for help. And they pray. Which actually cures them?

The band-aid, or the kiss?


  1. I am no fan of teaching kids that tooth fairy exists either. So we do a "wink wink" with the kids, all of us in the know, that it is daddy that puts money under the pillow. The game has become so cute that once daddy forgot and my 7 year reminded him to "call the tooth fairy to remind her" all the while knowing he was just playing along.

  2. Tikun, it was always clear in my family that there wasn't any Tooth Fairy or anything similar. My parents didn't want to teach us anything they knew to be false.

    I do however have a friend whose parents used the Tooth Fairy as an exercise to promote critical thinking. Basically, she had to more or less "convince" her parents that the Tooth Fairy didn't exist.