stephanie jones

My daughter is half vampire: Stories of lives inside a kindergarten classroom

In creativity, family-school relations, fiction, identity, kindergarten, language, teacher education resources on April 18, 2008 at 1:39 am

Hayden (my six year old) and I were sitting outside tonight eating our dinner when she suddenly said to me, “Mom, all the kids at school have cool lives. But mine, mine’s not that cool.”

“Well hon, all kids have different lives and different families and different homes and different food and different things they do together. But that doesn’t mean one way is cool and another way isn’t cool,” I told her, thinking what a great opportunity this could be to chat about difference in the world and in her classroom in particular. But that quickly changed…

“But mom, I lied to them.”

“To who?”

“My friends at school, cuz I wanted my life to be cool too.”

“What did you say?”

“That I’m half vampire.”

“Okay…” Oh boy.

“And I’m half Indian. Well, but that’s not a lie, I am half Indian.”

“That’s partially true,” I’ve told Hayden about our American Indian heritage on my mother’s side of the family, “Hayden, do you think they really think you’re half vampire?”

“Well, definitely M. does. Definitely. And A. has seven dogs at her house and I just want a puppy and I keep telling you I want a puppy but I’m not allowed to have one. But I told them I have a puppy too.”

“Okay…”

“That might be a lie though. A. might not have seven dogs.”

“Hayden, I know you love to pretend,” this is true – she does…she creates fictional worlds constantly, in fact I’m starting to wonder at this point if this is one of the fictional constructions or if she really did tell her friends these things, “but you know they will learn that you didn’t tell the truth about your life. Is that okay with you?”

The conversation went on a bit, but I share it here to push myself (and invite others) to think about the fictions of lives lived inside school walls and the “cool” factor that was playing out for Hayden in this scenario. How do we encourage imaginative creations (fictional lives) while simultaneously discourage the commodification of lives used to compete with others in school and the larger society? How can this fictional play be aimed toward goals that are not competitive? How can the competition of “cool” lives be diminished?

And just as I put forward these questions for consideration, I think too how brilliantly Hayden – and all children – recontextualize their experiences in such creative ways. Just last week she watched “The Little Vampire” and she has woven parts of this popular film together with another “different” sounding identity of American Indian to re-present herself not as very-White-European-looking-Hayden, but as half-vampire and half-Indian. What fun it must be to reconstruct yourself so imaginatively and perform with such confidence!

And yet such brilliant fictions can still be considered lies…

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  1. Half vampire! That is cool!

  2. i think that little girl of yours and i are kindred spirits. when i was about her age, i concocted a story of how i was “born” – or rather, how i emerged into the world via niagra falls, a child of the water who floated down the falls, and navigated the waves of many bodies of water (each of which had its individual tale of sportsmanship and triumph), finally making it to the indian ocean, which was clearly how my parents found me and were fortunate enough to take me home 🙂
    i love childhood fantasy/reality/imagination/creativity/brilliance!
    and am so sad that schools too often are not places that are welcoming of these fertile minds and restless bodies.
    but also am thankful for the spaces in which these fantasies can be unleashed, nurtured, appreciated, and aren’t feared.

  3. ahhh…elemveee, woman of the water. that makes total sense – of course! perhaps you were navigating your psyche from the womb? as you well know, i have no choice but to make sure we nurture, appreciate, and not fear h’s imagination or we would all be miserable;)

  4. Ha! I figured out my password and can finally post a comment! I love the half-vampire, half-Indian identity. What a creative hybrid. My nephew wears his Superman pajamas, but insists he’s Batman. (That’s the closest connection I can make at this hour.)
    One of my students this year had done her action research project on bringing more print-based literacy into dramatic play. She constantly talks about how the kids are reinventing themselves – as tourists, as doctor’s patients, as restaurant patrons. Is it because the structure of the dramatic play is somehow supervised or surveilled that we allow those fantasies to flourish?
    And as adults, what opportunities do we have to truly unleash our imagination without evoking fear in others?
    Anyway, your story cracked me up. 🙂

  5. oooh, i never thought of the water/womb connection. as a child, i’m sure the fantasizing about my origins was somehow connected to the ever-present “what can i do to be different?” question and resonated with other “practices” including the use of a paper clip as makeshift braces – b/c everyone else had them, so why shouldn’t i?; inventing myths and lore about my “culture” to see what i could get away with – and of course, everyone believed everything i said b/c they didn’t know any different; and changing my handwriting to match a different “personality”…
    aaaah, childhood… i can only imagine that h is destined for wonderful things that we can’t begin to imagine b/c she hasn’t invented them yet! 🙂

  6. No big deal, at least to worry much about. What is real and not real to a 5 or 6 year old is still one of those things that isn’t all worked out yet. On one hand, that’s what makes the age so magical.

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