Wednesday, February 01, 2006

As beautiful as a star

‘I want to be a superhero,” my 7-year old daughter recently said.
She didn’t really care which superhero – just someone with powers to fly, throw fire or freeze an enemy. She wants to live an exciting life where she’s constantly being called to rescue a damsel/city/school in distress; where no problem is too big.

I started out trying to communicate to her that she is enough just as she is. She doesn’t have to have superpowers to be interesting. She is an intelligent, resourceful little girl and she can deal with day-to-day challenges.
“You don’t need superpowers to live an interesting life and to do exciting things,’ I said to her.
“All you need to do is be willing to experience life and try new things as much as you can.”

I suppose the reason I feel so strongly that she should appreciate he own worth and find excitement in her own life is because I am haunted by my own childhood experiences. Growing up in Apartheid South Africa, it was very difficult for me appreciate being me. I was young black girl playing with flaxen haired dolls. The message I heard on a regular basis was, if you are not White (Caucasian), the next best thing is to be of mixed blood. In those days, one of the wedding songs for the bride said: “come out, come out, come and see, the child looks like a coloured person.”
It was hard to develop a strong sense of self and appreciate the life you’ve got when you’re constantly being told you should wish to be someone else.

The song has since been amended to say: “the child looks like the stars” by the now liberated Black South Africa. Still this haunts me and I want to say to my little girl, you don’t have to be a superhero, you don’t have to be Caucasian or Coloured. You are okay just as you are.

Problem is how do I communicate this without taking away the magic of superheroes that every child should experience?
“You can be a superhero like Batman and Robin,’ I said. “They didn’t have any superpowers!”
She agreed, talked about them for two minutes then moved onto the Winks club and the nifty little outfits they wear.
She wants her outfit to be made from lizard skin – the boots, skirt, and micro-top. She has beautiful dark brown hair that has light brown highlights – thankfully she doesn’t think it needs a dye job yet. That will come when she’s older and can dye it red, she says.
“You can learn karate and be a hero like Jackie Chan,’ I said.
She laughed in my face.
“Yes, that’s a good idea,” she said. “Remember The Medallion? He was immortal too!’
I gave up. For now.

So I took my convictions to the fictitious arena and wrote a story titled:’Becoming Supergirl.” It’s about a girl who sees Supergirl walking down the street at a Johannesburg market.

Written for the 7-9 age group the story is set in a home where the mother is sick and the children have to play a more responsible role. Only they are children and feel powerless – being Supergirl would help!

I’ve decided not to post the story here – I’ve sent it to a publisher here in SA to find out if it fits within their publishing agenda. Wish me better luck with the publisher!

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