by CL Bledsoe

My daughter can be dark, and I love it. Last year, we were making a diary with a lock on it. We were trying to decide what color/s to paint it, and she said, ”I’ll paint it red so people will think it’s covered with the blood of the last person who tried to break into it.”

I pointed out that this was kind of extreme, and she said, “Let’s put hearts on it…”

“Ok,” I said.

“…so they’ll think it’s pieces of the heart of the last person who tried to break into it.”

She is awesome.

We had these cardboard boxes, and I was trying to figure out something fun to do with them. We made swords and shields out of them and had mock battles. She put butterfly stickers on hers.

Maybe she’ll be a doctor. Or a warrior. Or a doctor warrior. Maybe an accountant. As long as there’s a sword of some type involved.

I worry, though. Not about her — she’s clearly fine — but about her having to navigate among the normies. Normies don’t get “awesome.”

The gaze of her peers means so much to her. I get it. It’s easy to spout platitudes, but the reality is that it sucks being an outsider.

Years ago when she was in daycare, I went to pick her up and was greeted by a couple of concerned teachers. They explained that they’d asked the class what kind of pet they had or wished they had, and what its name is or what they wanted to name it. She wanted a cat named Lucifer.

I laughed, which didn’t help to ease their tension.

“It’s from Cinderella,” I explained. “The cat was named Lucifer.”

They really didn’t seem appeased by that.

I understand that they were concerned about her and felt obliged — were probably required — to bring it up. But would they have reacted this way if she’d mentioned some other religious character? What if she wanted to name the cat Hades? Or Old Nick?

Maybe this sounds like I’m being crazypants, but I grew up in the Bible Belt, in rural Eastern Arkansas, the Mississippi River Delta, during the Devil Worship Panic of the 80s (yes, this was a thing). Ever heard of the West Memphis Three? They weren’t far from my Dad’s house. Their crime was being different — one of them not being Christian — and they almost died for it. If you don’t think that being different can be a death sentence, I can tell you some names of people who aren’t here anymore because of the ways they were treated for being different.

I probably was unnecessarily concerned about the daycare situation, which I totally know. I can have a knee-jerk reaction when it comes to perceived mistreatment of my daughter. I don’t want her to go through what I and some of my friends — and untold others — have gone and are going through.

I kept an eye on things (including myself) and everything was cool.

She can be dark, but that’s just her. She also loves princesses and pretty things, it’s just that the princesses might have a sword or be world-traveling spies. Which is honestly great. I have friends who hate the whole princess thing. I see it as a teaching opportunity, or, as my daughter says, “I don’t want to learn right now, Dad!”

But her enthusiasm for pretty things is waning, because other kids at her school have been taught that these things are immature. She claims not to like pink anymore, but when I mention maybe getting rid of her pink coat, she hesitates. She pulls it close.

Back before Christmas, I took her to Build-A-Bear (I had a gift card). Other kids were picking out ponies and bears, multitudes of pink. She picked out a dragon \m/ (from How To Tame Your Dragon). She named if Lighty, because it was a Light Fury (watch the movies, people). She also got a baby dragon and named it Flighty. My bitter, jaded heart melted. She showed it off to her friends, so proud and happy. She asks if she can bring it in with her when we go to movies. She sleeps with it. She’s a little girl. Who is still shopping for the sword that’s right for her.

Stuff My Stupid Heart Likes by CL Bledsoe (co-author of and The Wild Word:

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