There is a precious little eight year old girl in our lives who is the daughter of our friends. Her name is Jess. She is so bright, caring, and funny, and she has a keen interest in the world and everything in it.
Just recently Jess told me about the cans and bottles she was collecting from her home to take to recycling, and she asked me to guess what she would be using the money from the cans and bottles for. Before I could make a guess she said “I’m giving it to a tiger sanctuary, or was it lions? One of those.” She amazes me.
A few months ago I took Jess up to Monarto Zoo. It is an amazing place where all sorts of animals have large areas in which to roam in an environment as close to their natural habitats as possible. The zoo has cheetahs, African painted dogs, chimpanzees, meerkats, and many more animals. We met up with my parents and my nieces, and some friends of ours and their children at Monarto.
As we drove up the road leading to Monarto, Jess asked what the grass was which covered an open area alongside the road. I told her that it was native grass that goes grey when it doesn’t get enough water, but when it rains it will come all green again. Jess said excitedly, “I’ve never seen grey grass before!”
A few weeks ago Jess’s Mum and I were talking about her upcoming fortieth birthday and her plans to have a costume party where people come as what they want to be when they grow up. Jess joined in the conversation and said she would like to own an animal sanctuary. I said to her, why not? She is smart, she loves animals and other people do it, so why not her? I can see Jess doing something in conservation or in helping out humanity – something that will be really special.
On this past Saturday we had a BBQ at our home and Jess was there. We were talking about her Mum’s party again and I asked Jess what she wanted to come as, and she said a princess.
I must admit it floored me a little. I thought she was going to say a zoo keeper or veterinarian or something similar. It struck me as unlike her. But, then I remembered what childhood is really about.
Childhood is about exploring different things – interests, places, friends, identities. Children try on different selves, really, and see which ones fit and which ones don’t, and this is very important. There are so many paths for children, and one of the most common for little girls is an interest in fairies and princesses. It is quite normal.
The biggest hurdle, though, is for the child not to lose themselves in the process of exploring the options before them.
I truly believe that Jess’s heart and soul are in the realm of caring for the world – the environment, animals, people. Her face shines from the light that resides in her heart when she talks about these kinds of things.
So, what is my wish for her?
That she tries on different ways of being in the world. That she takes enough risks to find herself, with the sense to stay safe in her journey.
And, mostly, that she comes home to her true self when adulthood arrives.
I wish this for all of the children in our lives.