There was a time when my youngest would tell people that when she grew up, she was going to be a bear. She did not mean that she would dress up like a bear, or that she would be aggressive, or that she would marry someone and change her last name to “Bear”….she meant she would literally become a bear. If you pressed her a bit she would tell you that she was going to be a “Brown Bear” like in Eric Carle’s book. She was 2.
I often became annoyed with people who would tell her that she could not, in fact, “be a bear” when she grew up. I felt like either she already knew this on some level and they were underestimating her intelligence, or she really did believe people could become bears and they were squashing her childhood wonder. I often battled back and forth between these two poles in my anger toward the idiots who would say “people can’t be bears.” This was amplified by the fact that just about any of them would turn around a few minutes later and tell that she could be “whatever she wanted to be” when she grew up.
The child wanted to be a bear. I was not going to tell her she couldn’t. I was interested in finding out how she planned to do this.
She is now 7 and if you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up she will tell you that it is “a stupid question.” Everyone knows, or should, that “…she is queen of the world. While she’s not technically ‘in office’ at the time being, her existence is not predicated on popular opinion of her political power. She is queen of the world. When she is older, everyone will realize this. Right now, we’re all too stupid to ‘get it’ and for that she pities us.”
She is told over and over by any adult around her (save her father and me) that she can’t “grow up and be queen of the world” because it’s not possible. There is no queen of the world. She will of course explain to them that not only is there a queen of the world, but they’re looking at her right now.
I tell you this because I think it’s a symptom of our bigger problem. Not only do we think that things are the way they are because they are “supposed to be that way” but we fail to imagine that anything will really ever drastically change. This type of willful amnesia annoys me the most.
In my lifetime things have changed unbelievably, and I haven’t even been around that long. When I was a child, the idea that we would walk around talking to each other untethered by distance or cords was fantasy. People walking around with little boxes they could talk into or send and receive messages from was something straight out of Star Trek. Nobody believed it would happen, but it did.
The newest generation has the same problems we do. For the most part they believe things are the way they are and have always been that way.
I taught a class on creative writing once and had a student who was about 12 years old. She had a cell phone. I asked her to turn it off and she looked at me like I was insane. “I might get a call,” she said. I began to explain to her that at 12 years old there is no reason she should get a call in the middle of the day, and if there was, she could just wait until after class to call them back. She lamented that this was unreasonable and “couldn’t I remember when I was 12 and needed my cell phone?” I explained that we didn’t HAVE cell phones when I was 12 and she simply did not believe me.
We must get past the idea that things are the way they are and will continue to be this way. It does not make sense. Maybe my 7 year old won’t be a bear when she grows up, but she might be queen of the world. If you have time she’ll tell you how it’s going to go down, and while you might want to pretend that it won’t happen…the longer you listen to her, the more you start to believe it will.
6 thoughts on “On Being a Bear”
My three-year-old asks all the time when she can grow back into a baby. I’m not sure why she wants that, but it’s clearly important to her because she brings it up a few times a week, and has for months. What’s weird is that my five-year-old always asked about growing into a baby when she was three, too. One night I tried really hard to think of how I could explain the linear fashion of aging, but the more I concentrated on it, the more I realized that if any of that would make sense to her in a forward manner, it would make just as much sense in a backward direction and so why say anything at all… just let her envision whatever it is she’s envisioning, because clearly it’s interesting and attractive. So know I just say “I don’t know, love. Maybe one day…”
When I was a kid I really thought I could grow up and be the Statue of Liberty. My mom was kind enough not to tell me the truth. I think kids are so creative sometimes it’s better to listen to them than to argue. Who knows what kinds of things we can learn from them. I wonder why they want to be a baby again, or what they would do if it happened?
For some reason, this post brought to mind Max from “Where the Wild Things Are.”
I’m not sure what the video has to do with the piece. I like your writing, though.
There is a mistake in the fifth paragraph. It should read “(save by her father, Aunt Dubsy, and me.)” Other that it is wonderful.
There’s a line from Defying Gravity in the show Wicked that applies here. “I’m through accepting limits ’cause someone says they’re so. Some things I cannot change, but til I try I’ll never know.”
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