Friday, November 2, 2012

Turning Pistols into Crystals

There's a story I sometimes tell left over from my days as a summer camp counselor many, many years ago. About a villain named Poncho Villa and the punch line involves puke. Probably all the details you need to know right now...
And even though she had only heard it a few times, and always in a group setting, my 4-year-old recently told the whole story in a way eerily similar to how I tell it using my exact phrasings, intonations and facial expressions. Except she unknowingly changed one key detail.
Every place in the story I had used *pistol* my daughter used the word *crystal* instead. As in, "He said, give me the gold. What could I do? He had crystal, I had nothing, so I gave him the gold." A turning point in the story is when the *pistol* flies out of the villain's hand and the narrator retrieves it. Again, my daughter referred to it as a crystal.
I like the story much better with the magic crystal. Which I can only assume shoots fire or something equally imposing. Although maybe it just makes one dance like a chicken non-stop. That might be a big enough threat to hand over the gold...
But aside from just entertaining me, her retelling got me thinking. She had clearly imagined a *crystal* as opposed to a *pistol* when she heard the story. A much more politically correct weapon really. And I remembered that when I had told it recently, it had crossed my mind whether telling a story involving an armed robbery with a pistol was even appropriate. (Not to mention that it involves eating puke). But I told it because it's a funny story. And I wanted to make the children laugh. And as it turns out, if a child has no context to understand an armed robbery, or doesn't know what a pistol is, then they are likely to just make the details fit what they do know and understand. And if they happen to like Dora, that might involve a crystal.
Sometimes as parents we stress over many small details. We want to make sure everything is appropriate all the time. And we want to create magical moments and memories. My 7-year-old this past fall break said her favorite part of our Grand Canyon trip was the hot chocolate. Awesome. Glad we spent all that money to fly across the country for hot chocolate.
Now, I'm not saying we stop taking trips or trying hard to stage appropriate fun for our children, but I am saying we can relax a little while we're doing it. Not worry so much about every detail and word. Because if we interact with our children with an open heart and simple motives (like trying to make them laugh) they will provide the magic that makes it perfect. They will transform the pistols into crystals...
footnote: discerning readers may know my kids are no longer 4 and 7. I wrote this last year. But I like it. So I recycled.