My daughter is 9 and quite grown up in some ways, but the little girl in her still sleeps with stuffed animals… 2 of them. First is Stewart, a realistic-looking mouse puppet she got for her first birthday. Back then, he was known as ‘Stew-it’ and he was absolutely indispensable in our house. When Ryan went through a phase at about two where she didn’t want to eat, I would put Stewart on my hand and hold the fork and, voila! Creamed spinach gone! It was cool. Stewart used to be very bright white and soft… now he’s sort of grey and ratty (no pun intended) with a band-aid on his tail, but he’s still well-loved (by both of us).
Second is Jonesy, a red dragon. Ryan has been totally into dragons since we started reading Harry Potter when she was 5, and this one is identical to the one she sent to my friend Todd in London. Todd used to email her as the ‘real’ Jonesy, a red Welsh dragon who lives in his spare room (Todd’s very imaginative). And while Ryan knew Jonesy didn’t really exist, she enjoyed suspending her disbelief to carry on a correspondence with him.
I find it funny that her two favorite animals are a mouse and a dragon. In some ways, they are like tangible little displays of Ryan’s own personality. On one hand, she’s big and fierce and fearless and fire-breathing, with claws and wings and a forked tongue. This part of her tends to fly alone. On the other hand, she can be tiny and timid and quivering; cuddly and mild. But, as would happen in real life (if dragons existed, that is), the mild is overshadowed by the fierce. In fact, I'm often the only one who gets to see the mouse.
I WANT her to be a dragon. I want her to be able to stand up for herself and not take crap from anyone. I want her to fly and breathe fire when she believes in something; to be noticed and respected. But I want her to be able to temper that side of her personality with the mouse… I want her to understand that you don’t have to be big and bad to be strong; that you don’t have to be loud to be heard; that being afraid doesn’t mean you’re not brave; and that it’s OK to be a part of a group… it’s OK to share the cheese with the rest of the mice.
I’m sure (I hope) it’s something she’ll figure out as she grows. I just see some heartache in her future if she can’t tame the dragon a tiny bit… and that breaks my heart, especially when I know there’s a sweet little mouse in there, deep down.