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POV is Everything

As Madeleine grows up she becomes more and
more adept at seeing a person’s face and figuring out what
they’re feeling. Whenever we sit down and read books we spend
almost as much time talking about the pictures as we do reading the
text. No longer content to simply have a story spun for her, she
wants to understand what she’s seeing, and asks copious
questions to that end.

When she sees Elmer Fudd jumping up and
down because Bugs has stolen his carrots (like Elmer didn’t
see that one coming), she says, “He’s angry!”
“Yes, he’s angry,” I agree. “Because Bugs
took his carrots and didn’t share,” she continues, and
again I agree.

That’s not what Maddie first saw when she looked at that
drawing, though. The first time she discussed that illustration,
she pointed at Elmer and said, “He’s doing happy
feet!” Maddie has never seen someone “hopping
mad”, never heard a person scream and get red in the face. So
when she sees an animated facial expression and a body moving up
and down, she assumes it’s out of joy or excitement.
I’ve had to teach her otherwise, which is fine by me.

I love going through books with her and seeing people and emotions
through her eyes. She unintentionally makes me laugh, and displays
uncanny wisdom in some of her interpretations. By far the one that
gets me every time, though, is sadness. Each time she sees a person
or animal that’s sad, she says, “He’s
crying.” “Yes, he’s crying,” I’ll
confirm. “He’s sad, honey, that’s why.” And
every time she tries to figure out why. What could be the worst
thing that could happen, that would make you cry? She wonders.

And every time, this is what she comes up with: “He lost his

In my daughter’s eyes, this is the worst scenario she can
imagine – losing her mommy, misplacing that security. And I
want to snatch her up and hold her close and keep her from ever
finding out that there are worse things in the world than that.
I’m so touched by this sign that I’m still the center
of her universe, even as she marches inexorably further and further
away from me, sawing daily at those apron strings. How can I be
worthy of this? And how can I protect her? In Maddie’s
universe, nothing’s sadder than a motherless child. Out of
the mouths of babes.

God save her from discovering what’s worse.


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