See this picture? This little project has become the focus of our lives lately.

I'll start from the beginning.

A few weeks ago, we were over at
our neighbor's house visiting and The Dormouse noticed that he had a plastic bag filled with these pull tabs from soda cans tacked up to his bulletin board. She asked about them and he explained that he was saving them because one of his sons had told him about some program where for each pull tab you turn in to the soda company, they will donate one hour of free kidney dialysis to those who need it. Nice, right?

To understand what comes next, you'll have to understand a) the mind of a six year old and b) the fact that this child has both my DNA and The KingofHearts', which, I'm reasonably certain, each contains more than its fair share of genes for obsessive tendencies AND c) that in school that week, the first graders were reading a book about collections and collecting things and one of the suggested activities after reading was to start a collection of your own.

Remind me to have a sit down with that teacher.

For the first day it was rocks. We were going to collect rocks. I finally put my foot down after the umpteenth muddy rock she'd brought in and left on the carpet for the dirt to be stomped in and after hearing the familiar clang clang clang of a rock she'd left in her pocket banging around in the dryer.

"No more rocks. Find another collection," I demanded.

Then she decided to collect snowballs. This was definitely less troublesome for me since I was pretty sure this collection had a short shelf life, but she figured out the inherent problem here rather quickly.

Then she wanted to collect antique bottles. My antique bottles. (I have a collection too, you see.) I nixed that. "That's my collection. You need to find one of your own."

She tried a number of other things: scraps of paper (proved disturbingly uninteresting after the first few additions), buttons (I would not let her cut all the buttons off her shirts), silverware (we may be barbarians who eat with our hands most of the time, but occasionally we have guests over and try to make a good impression so I needed the knives and forks), and baby sisters (ummm... no).

So about the time that was all happening was when we were at the neighbors' house and he explained the whole Pop The Top For Kidney Dialysis Campaign. This combined two of The Dormouse's favorite things: getting into other people's business, helping people, and obsessing over something. We didn't really think too much about it. It was harmless. She bonded with the neighbor over it. She wasn't pulling the light fixtures off the walls anymore and declaring the bulbs part of her collection. There wasn't a growing pile headless baby dolls or tic tacs stuck in the package in the corner of the living room and I was pretty sure CPS wouldn't arrest me with the information. I could live with it.

And so began the Great Pull Tab Harvest of 2010.

For the past six weeks, no one has pressed an aluminum can to his or her lips in her vicinity without first being reminded that they must save the top for her. No one in the house has gone to the bathroom and come back to their Coke without finding that the pull tab has been mysteriously removed during their absence. She's kept the neighbor apprised of her progress with the careful consideration a parolee would give his parole officer. They high five each other when she reports. I figured she would eventually tire of it all or forget, but the obsession has only grown. It is the great, overwhelming focus to her existence and has taken over her life with the gusto of a mind-controlling parasitic organism bent on using it's host until it squeezes out the last, gasping, death rattle of a breath.

Yesterday while walking to the bus stop, I caught her picking up beer cans on the side of the road and breaking off the tabs to put in her pocket.
As I gave her reasons why she wasn't allowed to pick up cans from the road (I didn't want her to need dialysis after contracting some disease from a random can in our neighborhood) and put them in her pockets (the clang clang clang of rocks in the dryer is only slightly more damaging than the tink, tink, tink of pull tabs in the dryer), I thought to myself the kind of self-preservatory thought that only a parent can think: "This is taking over my life. I've got to put a stop to it." And then, "Maybe I'll just send them all in when she's not looking." And then only slightly after: "I wonder if it's even true?"

I think you can guess what comes next.

No, it's not.

I figure I have a couple of choices here:
  • take her to the neighbor's house and come clean to the both of them
  • tell her the truth, but tell her to not to say anything to our neighbor, who has his own growing pile of pull tabs
  • refuse to crush her dreams, say nothing and end up in the sequel to The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verill, dead under a pile of aluminum pull tabs
  • run away to Mexico; never look back

What would you do?