Friday, January 27, 2012

Lessons in Accidental Smut (in which my 3-yr-old teaches me about my body)

Siena's recent art project
Allow me to explain. I love when my three-year-old, Siena, wanders off to work in her "office" to create an "art project".  It means a few minutes of independent time (for both of us) and some good old fashioned creativity.  Jeremy and I like to stockpile random things for her to use and since she has been into cutting and gluing lately, the most recent inspiration pile has consisted mostly of the randomness pushed through the mail slot every day. Trust a toddler to transform our junk mail into treasure, shouting out with glee (Magazines!!!) at the first screech of the mail slot.

This morning I was naturally thrilled then when she initiated such a venture during my morning scramble to get ready.  Hurray for the small victories in motherhood mornings!  As is customary during this early morning custom, we hollered back and forth about her progress as I threw on my makeup and what I hoped was a full outfit.

Me: "What are you doing in there Siena?"
Siena: "Making library cards." Snip snip snip.
Me: "Cool!  What will we do with them?"
Siena: "Play library." (Subtext: Duh!)  Snip snip snip.  Glue glue glue.
Siena: "I'm working so hard, Mama!  So hard!"
And so on. . .

As sometimes happens in the frenzy of morning preparations, it wasn't until we were about to rush out the door that I stuck my head in to rally my little worker into her coat and to the car.  And that is when I saw her "library cards". . .


There she was, all smiles, eyes glittering with the fire of inspiration, standing next to what my husband described as "the underside of a 15-year-old boy's mattress".  She had clearly been in the zone and was deliriously proud.  It was, to be sure, excellent cutting and a very compelling display.

For a second, I admit I was appalled.  I froze my face in what I hoped was a convincing smile and commended her on her craftsmanship, all the while thinking Did I just accidentally introduced my three-year-old to soft pornography? (Oops.) What had she been thinking as she carefully snipped around the bulging breasts and shiny buttocks that plaster the pages of Victoria's Secret?

And then I reconsidered.  I looked at her clippings as she enthusiastically showed me the straight lines she had laboriously cut through the glossy pages and realized that what she saw and I saw was quite different.  She saw shiny paper, bright colors, and an opportunity to relish in the crisp slice of scissors, the pleasure of a newly refined skill. The pictures were, for her, incidental, mundane even.  Women in panties and bras---so what?  Boobs and butts---who cares?  To a three-year-old, the human body is not offensive, is not weighted with the issues that society and puberty and self-examination seem to impose upon it.  To a three-year-old, the human body simply is.

And this is when my smile turned from forced to free.  It is moments like these when I am so grateful to have a child in my life so that my world may be regularly turned on its head.  As I swooped her up into a squeeze, I made a silent wish that she may always be this unashamed of the human body and that she may continue to treasure the joys of embodiment, the magic of being able to wield scissors and slice through shiny paper, despite the prevailing falsehood of body as enemy, as project, as currency. Siena, may your body forever be your friend.

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