Vesper will jump off a diving board without hesitation. She’ll climb a tree to it’s highest branches before considering how she will safely get down. She will approach a stranger without any self-consciousness and make easy conversation. She’s not fearless, of course, but she’s brave. She’s bold. She knows enough to want adventure but not enough to avoid risk.
But when the story her homeschool group was reading in Chapter Book Club took a turn, she hesitated. The story, meant for elementary aged children and recommended by a trusted librarian, became a little scary in parts and a bit violent at times and the chance of real sadness and loss lurked on the next page. So she withdrew from the group.
The group, I should mention, is comprised of the eldest 5 children of three families plus my 4-year-old Ondine (who is approximately 84 years old in adjusted terms). While these kids huddle together around a beloved parent and listen to the story and draw what they imagine, their 5 younger siblings run around nearby with the other parents. The group isn’t formal or compulsory. It’s people she knows and trusts who support her and understand her.
When she told me she didn’t want to participate anymore because of the plot of the story being read, we had some conversations about real versus imaginary and fiction and non-fiction. We talked about all feelings being acceptable feelings and about challenges being the catalyst for exciting changes. All good conversations, but nothing that could change her mind.
Her friends and the grownup facilitator and her baby sister tried gently and lovingly to cajoles her to rejoin them, but her mind was made up. The same spirit that moves her to climb, jump and run gives her resolve when she decides something isn’t working for her. She wasn’t going to change her mind.
“I know things are sad sometimes in real life,” she said. “But why should I feel sad during my spare time?”
I, her mother and caregiver, have never in my life related to her more. I, the consumer of real-life current events and reader of fictional movie spoilers, understood this sentiment so deeply.
We sat in the dirt while the club met, smelling spring, listening to birds, and talking about things that make us happy.