Courage to Say No


We are getting into the beginning of the holiday preparations and thus begins a particular battle with my daughter: the Christmas “wants”. The List.

My husband once told me, “You don’t really care of people like you or not. What really bothers you is if people are upset with you; you can’t stand it if people are upset with you.”

It’s true, I greatly dislike it if people are upset with me, particularly if I do not know why. However, there are times in which I do need to step forward beyond that fear. There are times when I need to have enough courage to let someone be disappointed and upset with me. And this is one of them.

My daughter’s Christmas wish list has been rather reasonable up to this point: books and dolls, a scooter…but there is one toy which has become the bone of contention. It is a unicorn. Now, my girl is currently mad for unicorns, which is not a problem in and of itself. It comes several different hues with multi-colored hair, dressed in a crop top and what looks like a cross between a diaper and high-cut denim booty shorts. But this particular unicorn has a singular function. You feed it a concoction made up of ingredients included with the purchase of the toy. Then you sit the unicorn on what looks like a child’s training potty, and said unicorn then poops out slime, to which glitter and color can then be added. Yes, you read that correctly: the function of this unicorn is to poop slime.

This is the toy that my child wants more than anything else for Christmas. This. It is one of a line of toys centered around either pooping or vomiting slime. I am not okay with this. I am not okay with this thing costing almost fifty dollars either (fifty bucks, you guys!). I have promised her to think and speak to her father about it, but I can tell you with 99.9% certainty that this particular unicorn will not be joining my daughter’s menagerie.

You may disagree with my parenting choices, and that’s fine. I know that they are my choices to make.

I do not like having Elizabeth disappointed with me. I do not like having her upset with me. I do not like her thinking that I do not want her to be happy (because I do).

Yet here I am, breathing deeply, reaching for my courage, and preparing to deny my daughter the thing she wants most in the world right now. I am preparing myself to stand under the weight of her possible displeasure and disappointment, even while she possibly receives everything else she has asked for.

Courage, dear heart. Courage to love my daughter, stand firm, and say no.

Once a Lost Girl…


Ruth B’s single “Lost Boy” has been moving quite fluidly across the airwaves of late,  sung in her dreamy, soulful voice, though I first heard it when a friend of mine shared a YouTube video of the song to my Facebook page, saying that it reminded them of me. I take that as quite a compliment, personally. The first half of the song goes like this:

There was a time when I was alone
Nowhere to go and no place to call home
My only friend was the man in the moon
And even sometimes he would go away, too

Then one night, as I closed my eyes
I saw a shadow flying high
He came to me with the sweetest smile
Told me he wanted to talk for a while
He said, “Peter Pan, that’s what they call me
I promise that you’ll never be lonely, ” and ever since that day

I am a lost boy from Neverland
Usually hanging out with Peter Pan
And when we’re bored we play in the woods
Always on the run from Captain Hook
“Run, run, lost boy, ” they say to me
Away from all of reality

When I was a child, the first storybook character I fell in love with (yes, I believe that I loved him with all my little-girl heart) was Peter Pan. I had a beautifully illustrated storybook, a book on tape, loved the Disney movie (was so jealous that Tiger Lily got to “kiss” Peter), watched the “Peter Pan and the Pirates” television series on Fox in the mornings before school, had my blue “Wendy” nightdress, and had the Mary Martin production of Peter Pan memorized (still sing “Once Upon a Time” and “I Won’t Grow Up”). It’s safe to say that I was a bit obsessed with Peter Pan and all the characters therein.

When I was a child, I didn’t have many friends. I was small, skinny, awkward, studious, always with my nose in a book. Not many people wanted to associate with that, particularly in the first half of middle school. So I turned to my books and movies (which were mostly based on books), to the characters held within them who had ever been steadfast friends. I was a Lost Girl in truth. I could sink myself into those stories, let the characters pull me along to join them on their adventures, and live a thousand lives that I would never have in the real world. I was happy as a Lost Girl, in Never Land. I was happy with the dream of Peter (who, interestingly, has continued to grow as I have grown) coming to my window, taking my hand with that handsome, sweet grin, and flying me off to somewhere where I could be more than what I was. Where I could be a Lost Girl, not just little Melissa. Where I could talk with mermaids, fly with fairies, fight pirates, and dance with Tiger Lily.

Where I could be someone else. More than what I was.

Even now, I am still a Lost Girl. I still run off with these characters and dive into their stories, their ranks having swelled over the thirty-some years of my life. Dear friends and new, they make me happy to be a Lost Girl. In fact, there are two new books on my table, two new shedloads of characters just waiting to take me on their adventures and share with me their realities.

As a matter of fact…I think that’s a tap on my window. Excuse me.

 

 

A Long Way From Home – Day 4: Makings of Mermaid


Today was monumental. It was my girl’s first day at the beach! Well, technically not her “first” day. Of the three years that we have brought her to visit her grandparents and my side of the family, we have taken her to the beach for two of them. Both times, she was adamant that the water was NOT for her. This time, however, we could barely keep her from running headlong into the ocean. I managed to convince my little mermaid to go slowly, bit by bit. First, feet in the waves, then up to her waist with Grandpa holding her under her arms, and then I got her into her floaty vest and out into the water she went wth me and Grandpa.

All I could do was smile when my girl exclaimed, “This is so much fun!”

After she got out of the water for the second time, my beautiful little mermaid immediately ran over to a bunch of girls who were building sandcastles with spades and pails and sat right down with them and made herself welcome. They were kind girls and shared a pail and spade with her and taught her how to make sandcastles with it. The girls didn’t run her off, didn’t comment on how her mom should teach her to ask first. They just accepted my girl into their midst and taught her something new that she had longed to do for weeks. It did my heart tremendous good to see kindness curated in such a real and gentle way. Thank you, girls! I hope you have a great rest of your vacation.

To see my daughter enjoy such innocent and exuberant fun made my soul soar. It also gave me a chance to sit quietly and observe the beach that I had frequented in my childhood. It feels strange to start thinking in terms of “when I was a kid” or “when I was young” but the truth is that, in this coming month, I will be a full-grown hobbit. Today, people stretched up and down the beach as far as I could see. When I was a child, the occupancy of the beach was a fraction of that, even on a Saturday, so to see such a crowd on a Thursday was startling. There are also vendors everywhere: beach chairs, food, snorkel rentals, raft rides, etc. None of that was ever a part of beach going when I was a kid; if you couldn’t get a spot under one of the cabanas that were there, you set up your towels and such in the deepest shade you could find.The world I knew is the world I knew no longer. Not that that’s a bad thing, as it’s still a world that I can share with my daughter and my family.

Still Good


photo (2)Today, I had the opportunity to teach my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter an important lesson. Today, her Stuffy broke. For those of you not in the know, Stuffy is a blue dragon stuffed animal from the Disney Junior show “Doc McStuffins”. He is known for being a “big, brave dragon”. My daughter has little plastic figurines of six of the main characters of the television show and, today, her figurine of Stuffy broke. He lost a wing. Now, I had attempted to fix Stuffy’s wing earlier in the day but my fix-it job didn’t take and the injured wing is now nowhere to be found. Elizabeth was absolutely distraught upon the discovery during an afternoon walk; she burst into tears and sobbed the entire way home. When we arrived back at our house, she refused to allow me to comfort her so, instead, what I did was take all of the figurines out of her little dolly stroller and set them up on the floor. Stuffy was in the middle with his friends all surrounding him. Then I said this to Elizabeth:

“Stuffy’s wing is broken, and I know that you are upset. But Stuffy is still a good toy. He is still lots of fun. He is still a big, brave dragon. He can still ROAR! And, most of all, his friends still love him. Stuffy is still Stuffy, even though his wing is broken. He is still a pretty great toy.”

I know that she is two and a half and that what I said has not sunk in all the way, but I tried to make my point by having all the toys close in around Stuffy and give him “cuddles”. Elizabeth seemed to calm and to be paying attention so I repeated:

“His friends still love him and he is still Stuffy, no matter what he looks like.”

Our outward appearance is not an indication of our inward hearts or the strength of our spirits, nor does it indicate a rating on our humanity. That is a lesson I want my daughter to learn that will be deep and abiding throughout her life. No matter the color of our skin, our abilities or disabilities, or our bodies or conditions, we are all still human beings. We are still pretty great; it doesn’t make us any less.

Just like Stuffy is still a good toy even with a broken wing, we can still be good (even great) people with all the differences and eccentricities inherent with being human. Yeah, still good (great, even).

“A Love Affair with Disney”


I have grown up on Disney movies, tv shows, concerts, trips, toys, etc. Even now, as a woman of twenty-nine, and especially as I am pregnant with my first child, I am in love with Disney. Whenever we pass the Disney Store in one of the bigger malls in Indianapolis, I have to pull my husband inside to look around. Of course, Disney now owns practically everything – from Power Rangers, to X-men, Captain America, etc., but I still find extreme pleasure in moving around the store, smiling and admiring the loveliness of the costumes, dolls, toys, and clothing that are laid out. So much more intricate and elaborate now than when I was a little girl and longed for such pretty things. But now I find that it is far more nostalgia for me and a sweet nostalgia at that. This past Christmastime, we went to the Disney Store and, when I spied a cute little Stitch in his Christmas pjs and bed slippers. I picked him up and he was so soft and adorable that I fairly started to cry as I held and cuddled him. I didn’t purchase it, however, as the hubby had already bought me a lovely Cheshire Cat and Stitch for our 5th wedding anniversary.

While Disney has sanitized many of the old fairytales, placing in happy endings where traditionally there were none, only fearful, heartbreaking, and sometimes bloody lessons to be learned, I still find a sweetness and joy in watching them. I enjoy remembering when I was a little girl and longed to a heroine. Not necessarily a princess, I think, but a heroine nonetheless. I remember when “Beauty and the Beast” first came out and I watched Belle with her books. I marveled that there should be a heroine so much like me, with a love of books comparable to mine, as I knew no one in school or in my community with such a love and obsession. Therefore, I found a comrade in a fiction when there was no such one in life. Also, like Ariel, I felt that my father didn’t understand me and I longed for experiences, for places to explore and discover.  However, along with that, came a rather romantic spirit but I soon puzzled out for myself that the sort of princes in the Disney fairytales were not the sort of prince I wanted. I didn’t want someone to save me but someone to work alongside me, someone who would get to know me, understand me. Honestly, in all the Disney stories, I do think that “Beauty and the Beast” is the relationship closest to what I wanted. Belle and the Beast were together for a long time, perhaps close to a year, getting to know each other, helping each other, learning each other. None of these whirlwind loves like Ariel and Eric (three days, really?) but a true friendship start to their love. A friendship that fostered understanding and loyalty. That is what I wanted. And that is what I received with Ben.

So, in a way, I suppose, Disney has helped me decide what I did and did not want out of love and relationship. So, thank you, Disney. Thank you for that.