It’s a little before midnight on St. Patrick’s Day Eve. Tomorrow is one of my favorite holidays as I get to celebrate my Irish heritage.
Except lately I’ve been feeling some guilt over this holiday. The same guilt I feel at Christmas and Easter and every time one of my kids loses a tooth. It’s liar’s remorse. You see, we jumped on the Paddy-wagon and started setting leprechaun traps in my house three years ago, and with that tradition came a lot of lying, and a lot of guilt.
As implausible as he is, I’ve come to terms with the Santa story and I even got into the Elf on a Shelf sham in my own half-hearted way. The Easter Bunny baloney makes me a little more uncomfortable - I have a hard time telling me kids with a straight face that a human-sized bunny rabbit comes and brings them goodies on Easter. The Tooth Fairy fib is just plain creepy: a fairy who sneaks into children’s bedrooms at night to collect their teeth? But I grew up with these falsehoods myself and that makes it easier for me to propagate the myths onto the next generation.
The St. Patrick’s Day Leprechaun lie is new to me, however, and perhaps that’s why I am so conflicted. If you’re not familiar with the leprechaun trap, here is the gist: leprechauns are greedy but not that smart, so if you set a trap in your house using fake gold as the bait, you can capture a tiny green man and convince him to give you his pot o’gold. Sounds like something I’d come up with after a few too many pints of Guinness.
I don’t know who came up with the idea of the leprechaun trap. I first heard about it four or five years ago from friends with older children who were making traps as school projects. I thought it sounded like a fun way for my kids to celebrate one of my favorite holidays, and also teach them a little science and ingenuity, so I got in on it too. And it’s been a lot of fun. And also a lot of blarney.
I wouldn’t feel so bad if my middle daughter (age 6) weren’t so completely convinced that she will catch a leprechaun tomorrow. Each year she has improved her traps to the point where she is certain she has a fool-proof trap tonight.
Three years ago she made this trap:
She was three at the time and was was so excited as she explained how it worked, “It has wheels so it can chase leprechauns - leprechauns are very fast - and hands to grab the leprechaun and put it inside. Now it just needs real eyes to see the leprechaun, Mommy can we get REAL eyes, like from somebody’s head?” I suggested we glue on some googly eyes instead and she yelled in frustration, “That is NEVER gonna work!!!” before storming out of the room in disgust. She was right, it didn’t work, no leprechauns that year.
But she was not deterred. The next year she made a less imaginative but more practical plan: a ladder up the side and trap door right before her “gold” bait (rocks painted yellow). But they escaped again. Last year she improved the plan with a one-way trap door (popsicle stick on top won’t let the door swing back open) and face-up electrical tape lining the floor of the shoe box.
She was sure last year's trap would work. My husband thought it would ease the blow if the leprechaun left a note. He wrote that the leprechaun was indeed caught and about to give up, but he called for his mates who shook the box until he was able to climb out.
Disappointed but not discouraged, on March 17, 2013 she started scheming for St. Patricks’ Day 2014.
Thanks to my husband’s note, she knew the one flaw in her trap: the box could be lifted off the floor. So she decided she would stick the box to the floor with electrical tape. At least once every two weeks for the past twelve months, my six-year-old has asked me how many days it is until St. Patrick’s Day. Sometimes in the car she’ll just start laughing out of the blue, and when I ask why she says she can’t wait to get all the leprechaun’s gold.
While it was fun at first, the guilt is catching up with me, and I feel as though I am the one caught in a trap. To assuage my guilt, I keep telling my kids that I don’t believe in leprechauns, I’ve never seen one and don’t know anybody who has ever caught one. I said it would be on the national news if someone caught one, yet I’ve never read of this happening.
Today my six-year-old accused me of needing to see something to believe it. “Mom, you don’t believe with your eyes, you believe with your heart. Just like with God, you don’t see Him but you believe in Him, so why don’t you believe in leprechauns?” Oops. So when she learns the truth about these false idols, will she also question God? I suppose we all learned the Tooth Fairy isn’t real and that didn’t shake our faith, but still, hearing her say that made me feel like I’d broken more than one Commandment.
Although I won’t explicitly lie about the leprechauns, I know I am complicit in the deceit. This year I again helped them with their traps, and just a few moments ago I sprinkled green glitter all around their traps, created an escape exit out of the traps and left a note from Mickey, Nicky & Tricky McNaughtypants. I even left each child a $1 bill as consolation after they complained last year that their friends’ received money from their jilted leprechauns.
Why do I continue to do this if I feel guilty about it? It’s the same reason why I continue the Santa and the Easter Bunny myths: I love to see the magic in their eyes, to see their imagination working over-time as they try to conceive the inconceivable. It’s pure innocence, wonder, and joy. And ok maybe a little disappointment.
So I will continue to implicitly lie and live with the guilt. I was raised Irish Catholic, so guilt is no stranger to me. Tomorrow my daughter will wash down her disappointment in her annual bowl of Lucky Charms cereal, and start plotting how to improve her trap for next year. For it’s not just the luck o’ the Irish that makes us a resilient people, but the pluck o’ the Irish, and if there is a way to capture a fictitious miniature man in a shoe box, my daughter is going to find it, as sure as a shamrock is green.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone, Erin go bragh!
7:3am 3/17/14: She was more incredulous than disappointed. “They ripped a hole in the side, I KNEW they would do that! Next year I’m wrapping the sides in electrical tape too!” Then she explained that the leprechauns won’t give away all the problems with the trap in their note so she has to come up with even more improvements. She is rising to the challenge, and the only real disappointment this morning is that they have school on this important holiday.
This post originally appeared on Greetings from the Hotel Bassemonte
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