Jack started his Karate lessons this weekend. This is something he is doing with Julie. It's their time, and I won't intrude. But it went very well for the first lesson. They are both excited to return.
While Jack was with his mom, I stayed home with Jade (4). That means I played a lot of My Little Pony and Princess crap.
When Jack was younger and being assessed, the phrase "self-directed" was thrown around a lot. It was used as a euphemism for "poor listener" or "non-functional". On Saturday, however, I got a good look at what self-directed really means. When I am asked or tasked to play with dolls by Jade I, admittedly, don't really know how. I can do funny voices, I can make them dance or sing or bathe or picnic, but I really don't know what to do with them. Jack was never good at pretend play, if engaged at all. Jade, however, loves it. Alone or in a group. All of the ponies and princesses have their own stories. Their own struggles. Their own beings.
Luckily, Jade tells me how to play with the ponies and princesses. Quite sternly, might I add. "You're not doing it right" "She can't fly" "She doesn't live in the Crystal Empire" and the such.
So, this Saturday, it was the princesses.
Jade accidentally (perhaps purposefully) bit Rapunzell's hand, leaving it a little deformed with a bite mark embedded in the plastic. Jade desperately asked my to fix it. I tried, but the plastic was too molded and too hard to fix.
"Fix it Daddy, Fix it"
"No! Now she is ugly. The other princesses will laugh at her"
"No they won't. She is different and they'll like her for it"
"No! (Sob) Throw her away. Nobody will like her anymore"
And I instantly went to a place of advocacy. I disregarded that this was a TOY and saw a teachable moment.
"Jade, we don't throw away people because they are different. We celebrate them."
"All of your movies are about somebody being different and fitting in. So, Rapunzell's hand is what will make her special.
Jade took a moment.
"Can we put a band-aid on it?"
"Yes. Then she can show it to the other princesses."
And we went to the bathroom to find a band-aid.
And I thought I should try to make the point again.
"Just because people are different, doesn't mean they are ugly. It doesn't mean we should throw them away. Like your Uncle. His legs don't work like yours, but we still love him (Uncle is in a wheelchair). It doesn't make him any less."
I had no idea if she cared about any of this. I fumbled for a band-aid. Dora was chosen over Mickey Mouse.
And Jade finally said:
Emotions flooded me. How is it possible that my four year-old sees difference? How is it possible that my 4 year-old sees inclusion and disability that my peers can't often see? Oh, wait, Jack scratched his hand the other day, maybe she's talking about his hand. That must be it.
The band-aid was adhered and Rapunzell was returned to Belle, Barbie, and Samantha (Hey, I'm guessing on the last one, the blue princess). And Rapunzell told her tale of heroism about the band-aid to a fascinated audience. I think there was a dragon involved. She was quickly accepted back into the fold and they left to go play in the castle in the kitchen.
I watched my 4 year-old spirit the dolls away.
How is it possible? How can a 4 year-old just have their shit together like that? When do we lose that innocence? When do we start to judge? When does that childlike exuberance that gives us unlimited confidence fade?
"Yes, Baby. Like Jack" I said silently to myself.