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.”
“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.”
“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…