“Today, I want to tell you . . ” My heart was still pounding out of my chest with a ferocity I thought it could no longer muster. I looked up at their little faces – expectant, all, because they knew I always delivered. I’ve never lost a child’s trust; I’ve seen it happen – the gradual cynicism settling in the young face, the disengagement.
“Today I want to tell you that you are, each and every one of you, very special.” I began slowly, warmly, with confidence. Children can understand almost anything if it’s explained simply – no one seems to understand, to remember that they were once children as well, and in their memories they are not ankle-biters and rug rats but smaller versions of themselves, insecure and unsure and finding their own voice. “You are special. You can grow up and do anything that you want to do. You can be any kind of person that you want to be. You can do any job – a job in an office, a job outside, any sort of job that you like.”
They smiled at me and at each other, wiggled in their seats with happy expectation. “You do not need anyone to do this. All you need is you. You are big and strong. Girls, you do not need a prince. Boys, you do not need a princess.” They looked shocked. “I know, it is a surprise, but it is true. All you need is you.” They discussed and shook their little heads. This went against all the movies, the stories, the happily ever afters.
“Look at me,” I told them. “I have no prince. I do not need a prince. Look at your teachers,” I gestured at the ultimate authorities of their world. “You guys don’t have princes, do you?” They shook their heads, smiling, agreeing. “You can do whatever you want, you can go to any place you want to go, and all you need is you. You are big and wonderful and strong inside.”
“Miss Lola?” asked Mason, “I want to go to China and see the Great Wall.”