This afternoon, the girls and I were at a neighbors’ birthday party, and Finn had a great time once she warmed up to the clown (another neighbor, who was definitely not evil or creepy).

Parachute 2

At one point late in the party, Finn asked Mama to come and play dolls with her in the family room. They sat and navigated the hallways of Barbie’s Dreamhouse together, Finn evolving stories and things for the two of them to do. A group of other girls, somewhere between seven and nine, were playing nearby with other toys, pausing to interact with Finn every so often, but mostly leaving them alone. Jen got up for something and Finn came over to take me by the hand, asking if I would play dolls with her too. Gamely, I sat down, was handed my doll, and showed her how to use the elevator mechanism in the Dream House. It was then that I could overhear the conversation of the other girls, which involved a story about a creepy wierdo who was calling and texting me, and then just showed up but he was ugly and stupid, and had pimples all over and smelled gross, so we called him stupid and fat, but he just kept stalking us like a fat smelly weirdo. What a dumb jerk!

I’m paraphrasing, obviously, but the conversation didn’t get any better than that and it kept going on and on. Jen told me later when she’d been sitting there, the conversation included stories about women being beaten and lots of talk of death. I’m sure her parents are very proud.

We’re not the kind of parents to shelter Finn from normal human stuff like death; she knows all about her grandmother and Geneva the cat, and while she might not grasp the full concept of death, she knows they aren’t ever coming back. This girl’s monologue wasn’t about trying to work the concept out; it was the combined plot points of several episodes of Law and Order: SVU delivered in a boorishly loud voice for shock value and effect. From a nine-year-old.

I looked again at my daughter, really looked at her, as she walked her doll through the Dream House, talking to herself quietly, and a wave of love and fear washed over me like a tsunami. I thought immediately of watching her, at one, as an older girl took her toy and walked away with it. I can still picture her face as she leaned over on one hand, waiting patiently for it to come back, guileless and innocent. I wanted to wrap her up then, and make sure she was safe from all the other kids who would call her names, treat her badly, lie, cheat and steal from her, and break her heart. I felt that same way today. I’m not ready for her to face up to that ugly shit yet, because I want her to have the chance to tell happy stories about happy people, play with dolls and friends and make mud pies away from judgement, opinion, and malice.

And I wondered if, instead of walling Finn off from the world, it would be possible to wall off the toxic little brat over my right shoulder so she didn’t infect the rest of our kids. Then, I looked up and caught Jen’s eye as she walked back in the room, and we hustled Finn out of there.

Date posted: February 20, 2012 | Filed under finn | Leave a Comment »

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