I already see it happening. When the boys go “ooh cool” about the lizard on the sidewalk, my buddy shrieks and jumps and says she doesn’t want anything to do with it. I find this frustrating.
I can tell she’s curious about the lizard because, when the boys move on, she joins me, stooped over by the raised edge of the gardening box to try and catch a glimpse of it. But the lizard has already scampered away.
I already see it happening. She tells me she hates how poofy her hair is. Her beautiful curly hair, that is long and vibrates with the energy she emits. No, it’s bad she tells me, she wants hair like mine.
I already see it happening. She doesn’t like to speak Spanish, and she’s embarrassed when her accent melds with her English words. She’s persistently trying to eliminate it, forcing her tongue to the bottom of her mouth instead of letting it roll when she pronounces her R’s
I already see it happening. She is surrounded by subtle hints about who she should be, and what she should like, and she’s taking them all in and trying to make sense of them. Trying to be someone who fits the mold she’s been handed. I find this frustrating.
I don’t want her to believe she has to be that. I want my buddy to know it’s okay to question the mold. To feel like there is no limit to the things she can ask.
If I can show her anything, I want to show her that she should go through life laying claim to her actions, feeling like she has agency and knowledge. I want to show her how to write her own story, rather than try to fit into a story that’s been written for her.
So when she walks up to me in the cafeteria, I compliment her hair. I ask if her mother did it this morning, and if she likes the style.
To work on comprehension, we try reading the story in Spanish. She teaches me more vocabulary words than I teach her, and we search the words we both don’t know on my phone’s translation app.
And most importantly, on our way to the portable, we walk fast so that we are ahead of the boys and I encourage her to search for lizards in the garden bed.
– Josie MacLean, SEAL Volunteer Coordinator