One of the interesting things about parenting a kindergartener is that you get these strange little windows into what they are thinking, without much in the way of explanation or discussion.
For example, the other night I am sitting on the couch reading and my daughter is playing in her play area. She comes over to show me something she’s built, and helpfully tells me it’s a scooter for her doll.
“Nice work!” I tell her.
She then explains that she is buying new safety equipment for her doll and that she buys her new safety equipment every year (because she outgrows it, like my daughter does her bathing suits).
“What kind of safety equipment?” I wonder. “Helmets?”
She tells me that it’s helmets and knee pads and elbow pads. This is strange, I think. As far as I know, my daughter has never worn knee or elbow pads. Where did this idea come from?
“Don’t you think that’s a bit much for scooter riding?” I ask.
“She’s my sweet girl and I don’t want her to get hurt.” she tells me.
That’s pretty much the end of the exchange, and I am left puzzling. “Sweet girl” is one of my pet names for my daughter, so I see where that came in. I do tell her that I don’t want her to get hurt, usually in the context of her doing something really foolish like standing on a kitchen chair and pushing on the back of it to tip it. (I caught her before she fell, but I wasn’t pleased.) In things like bike riding I actually encourage her to be brave.
In fact, this is not a kid who’s terrible sheltered when it comes to physical activity. She climbed a 20 foot climbing wall a month ago (in a harness, on a belay, but she was still 20 feet up in the air climbing the wall). She dives head first into the deep end of the pool. She gets bumps and bruises and scrapes and we talk about “the good kind of scrapes and bruises” meaning the kind you get because you were doing something really fun.
On the other hand, she really doesn’t like getting hurt. Not that anyone does, of course, but she is very intense in her reaction. I think it’s partly her age and partly the dramatic personality she inherited from my side of the family. Minor scrapes are often accompanied by loud wails, tears, and insistence that “It hurts me very much!” and “I want this scrape to go away right now!” Which makes it hard to keep a straight face sometimes while trying to comfort her.
So maybe she wishes we were protecting her a little more? That her mommy was doing a better job taking care of her sweet girl? Or maybe she saw a TV show or read a book featuring a kid wearing elbow and knee pads and wanted to try the idea out with her doll? Who knows? I can’t really ask her, because I don’t think she really knows either. Trust me, I've tried. Either her explanation doesn't really make sense to me or she gets bored with the conversation and veers off in another direction altogether. She’s just playing, and her game makes sense to her even when she can’t explain it to me. It hammers home that this kid I adore, this child who shares my home and my genes and my water bottles, this girl I think I know so well, I sometimes don't know at all. Like any other human being, she’s forever an intriguing mystery to me.