Friday, January 02, 2009

same and different

Clare's really into this now: same, and different. [I'm not; in the "game time" segments on Noggin, invariably the different object is always missing something. Not just different, but deficient: an implicit message that to deviate means to be lesser. To be different is to lack. "One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn't belong"...we've updated the words nowadays to be less harsh, but the message is still there.]

She really likes having two pink pacifiers, so that she can point out that they are the same, but the blue and the pink 'fiers are different. Yes, my daughter chose to abbreviate pacifier into "fire" instead of "passy." Hmmm.

She has been doing this for a long time with her stuffed animals, though without the categorical labels of "same and different." Awhile back she started intuitively grouping them into "families" by kind, and then defining their familial relationships by relative size. Daddy Tick and baby Tick were the first. (In case you're wondering, The Tick was--is--my favorite cartoon, dating back to college days and one of the few happy legacies of an ill-fated relationship. I have two Tick figurines, one large and one small.) Then the trend spread to other groups, like The Elmos, of which we have three: Mommy Elmo, who despite her diaper is still the largest, Brother Elmo and Baby Elmo. And her doggies. And her bears. And well, anything at all really. I'm always having to explain that the categories of "big" and "little" are expressed as "daddy" and "baby" in Clare-ish.

Recently, however, Clare has bucked the trend and announced cross-stuffed-species familial ties. Two frogs now have a baby duck. (She has also started using a gender-inclusive word for sibling relationship: brister, though Brent doesn't believe me.)

Donna Haraway would be proud. And so am I.

Maybe I'm overthinking it (oh, who would believe that? of course I'm overthinking it! why else would I have a blog?), but I find in this the same evidence for openness to relationship and capacity to identify with the other that I saw in Clare's unhesitating finger when she points to the little black boy holding his daddy's hand and says "that's Clare, that's Daddy." Does it matter that she's female, blond and blue-eyed and looks nothing like that little boy? Does it matter that two frogs will never beget a duck? Only if we make it matter. Only if someone comes along and tells Clare, "no, honey, that's not you. you're a white girl." Only if someone comes along and tells her that frogs could never love baby ducks. Because they're not the same, they're different.

I won't be. I won't be telling her anything, because on this matter I think she's telling me.

And now I'm telling you.

Frogs can love baby ducks.


Justin Burton said...

This is a very cool thing about Clare. I'm not as far down the parenting road as you, but I tend to think that there's a way to teach frog/duck relationships in a way that is resistant to the person who comes along to point out that it can't happen. I'm hoping that when little Adu encounters this sort of doubter, instead of being insecure about his own ideas, he'll confidently stick to what he knows is true: frogs love ducks all the time.

This does bring to mind a somewhat frustrating cradle roll experience that involved lots of little animals (God made them) who then had little animal kids (God made them, too), and the teacher would correct the children when they tried to "mismatch" the animals. Now, I happen to understand the urge to teach children to group and sort, but when it comes to familial relationships, this automatic grouping and sorting by "like" kinds just seems like a short-sighted rehearsal of centuries of bigoted mistakes.

Anyway, spoooooooooooon!

TKP said...

Um hello, where are the pictures of the Frogs and baby duck???

Lauren said...

Perhaps it's time to introduce Clare to the Muppets - a world in which Pigs can love Frogs, and vice versa. Or was Miss Piggy's love unrequited? It's been a long time.

Lauren said...

Perhaps it's time to introduce Clare to the Muppets - a world in which Pigs can love Frogs, and vice versa. Or was Miss Piggy's love unrequited? It's been a long time.

kel said...

yesterday, my friend referred to her baby as being "pacifired up" which i thought was hilarious, partly because our family says "fired up" as an expression for being angry, so it seemed like a crazy, literary juxtaposition.