I have a weird hierarchy about a lot of things. For instance, I’d rather have 100 colds than one stomach virus. I’d rather cut my thumb 10 times than burn it once. And as far as emotions go, I don’t think there’s a worse one than disappointment. I couldn’t tell you why it makes me so much more uncomfortable than outright sadness, but it does. It makes me squirm. I don’t even like typing the word.

I once had a coworker who casually and frequently used it: Everything was disappointing to her. Her lunch was disappointing. Movies were disappointing. If there was traffic on the way to work, she was disappointed about it. It drove me nuts. She bewildered me as much as friend of mine who likened vomiting to blowing his nose.

People are different. I know that, of course, and I respect it and appreciate it. But while I can understand and respect someone’s preference for vanilla over chocolate – hell, I can even understand people’s perspectives on political issues across the spectrum despite my own strong views – I just can’t see eye to eye with someone who thinks vomit and snot are equally gross.

But anyway. Disappointment and vomit are both a part of life, and I can handle my own. But having a child means, by necessity, having to handle someone else’s disappointment and vomit, someone you love more than anyone else on the planet. And that’s hard.

Hurt me: fine. Hurt my kid: oh, hell, no. And yet. Despite my fierce belief that my precious little lamb is wonderful and a genius and should naturally win at everything, I do understand, on some logical nonmaternal level, that she can’t, won’t and shouldn’t win at everything. For instance, I wish that I could sing, but I can’t, not even a little bit, and one of the kindest things my mother ever did for me was tell me, gently, that I should not try out for the school musical. I hope to have the same objectivity and honesty as Ruby’s strengths and weaknesses become more apparent.

I don’t like this emergence of contests where everyone wins. In fourth grade, I worked really hard on my social studies project and won first place. Then I totally half-assed my science project and didn’t win anything.  That taught me the value of hard work. So the next year, I worked really hard at both – and won nothing. That taught me that life isn’t always fair, that trying your best is always important but that there will be times when someone else’s best is better than yours.

And I can’t stand the idea, perpetuated in popular culture, that “please” is a magic word. As far as I’m concerned, saying “please” and “thank you” are absolutely nonnegotiable. “Please” is the bare minimum for me to even consider a request that Ruby makes. After that, the request will be considered on its own merits. Saying “please” – even repeatedly – will not automatically make the heavens open and angels come down and give Ruby every Barbie ever made.

It sounds awful, but I want Ruby to fail occasionally. I want her to take risks and fall short. I want her to learn coping skills.

And so: Enter Carnival season. I knew that going to parades would teach her about music and culture and traditions. What I didn’t anticipate was that it would teach her life skills. But it is. As every float passes, Ruby gets excited. She puts her hands up. Bless her adorable well-mannered heart, she yells: “I want a stuffed animal, please! Throw me something, please!”

And then … she doesn’t always get what she wants. Oh, don’t get me wrong; she is successful more often than not. We have bags and bags of stuffed animals and beads that will attest to that. But she doesn’t catch something from every float, and in those cases, she is briefly disappointed and sort of halfway sulks through the marching band, and then she sees the next float, and her tiny hands shoot hopefully into the air again.

I don’t like parades very much, honestly, but – like Christmas – parades are more fun through the eyes of a child. I love that she is learning persistence. I love that she is learning, in small harmless ways, how to manage disappointments. I love that she is having to acknowledge that sometimes life is unfair: “Yes, Ruby, that pink stuffed kitty cat was thrown to you, but that other little girl caught it. It happens.” I love that she is learning to take joy in other people’s triumphs even at her own expense: “See how happy that girl is with the kitty cat? It just made her day!”

Up until recently, I thought the only stuff you took home from parades was mass-produced crap you would never need and never use. I was wrong. And it’s just one more reason to be glad I’m raising Ruby here.