Explore This, Dora!
It’s no secret that kids break their parent’s hearts, but I always thought these moments would involve Violet shoving me away in favor of her father, or her being mean to a nice kid at school revealing that we’d raised a bully. I wasn’t prepared for the subtleties of this heartbreak, nor its frequency.
There are all kinds of rites of passages in this world that I’d never given a thought to until Violet was born. As a kid I prided myself of being able to handle anything thrown at me. I was smart and quick-witted and didn’t ever want to be left out of a joke. But of course when you’re a kid, you’re always being tested and trained for ‘real life’ which includes being left out of jokes, and living with the constant humiliation of simply being ‘too young.’ At two and a half, Violet has all this to look forward to.
In the meantime, she watches a lot of Dora the Explorer. This is a terrific kid’s show that features a little girl who goes on adventures with her best friend, a monkey named Boots. They save baby animals, reunite families, solve puzzles and riddles – there really isn’t anything they can’t do. Near the end of each show, after their heroic deed has been accomplished, Dora always asks the viewer, “What was your favorite part?”
I used to answer myself to show Violet how she’s supposed to respond, saying things like, “My favorite part was Dora saving the baby dragon!” or something like that. But now Violet has become aware of the whole concept of talking back to the television, and she likes to respond herself. But the time allotted for response is limited and whether my girl has uttered her brilliant come back or not, Dora moves on to say, “I liked that part too!” which, let me tell you, is pretty hollow on its own without the counterpart.
I noticed that Violet becomes a bit anxious when this part of the show arrives. When Dora asks the question, her little brow furrows and her eyes get bigger. She starts the sentence immediately, “My favorite part was…” but then most often she can’t think of anything to say in time for the pause in the dialogue. I cannot tell you how much this breaks my heart. Damn you, Dora! I think to myself. Not everyone can be an over-achieving bi-lingual child soccer star like you! Why don’t you give my girl a little more time! We watch your stupid show every day, you smug know-it-all with your smug magic backpack and your smug map that always knows the exact route to the end of the rainbow! How dare you!
To pour salt on the wound of my heartbreak, now Violet does this new thing where she has a response ready. She now often says, “My favorite part is…my yellow one!” And of course this never makes sense. Even if there is something yellow, it’s never Violet’s. It’s always Dora’s. For some reason this new development makes my heart ache even worse. She’s developed a coping mechanism for the automated response time on an animated television show! It seems so wrong.
Tonight though, there was a twist in the usual routine, and I was so happy I actually welled up with tears of joy. Dora’s adventure was all about what she and Boots were going to be when they grew up. Dora was deciding between astronomer and soccer champion, while Boots’s choices were baseball player or teacher. Then at the end, in a deviation from the norm, Dora asked the viewer, “What do YOU want to be when you grow up?”
My heart clenched with my usual fear. Violet would likely succumb to her anxiety and say she wanted to be a yellow one, and dammit, that would be okay. But not tonight! No sirree! She looked Dora right in the eye without a furrow in her brow, or a single moment of hesitation and said loudly, “I want to be a turtle!”
Fucking right you do. You’ll be the best damn turtle in the world! That’s my girl.