|Taylor Hicks, Season 5 American|
Idol winner lining up for JB tickets
When Jessie was little, I wouldn’t even have Barbies in the house. At least not until I was forced to let one in when it came as a gift and I was obliged to welcome it as an act in our moral commitment to inclusion. Really! It was my first ethical conundrum around inclusion because all of Jessie’s friends were playing with Barbies and by denying her that experience, I risked further separating her from her peers. Of course, as all parents will tell you, things change. You let your moral compass shift slightly off true North and welcome any diversion that will buy you more than 5 minutes alone in the bathroom, or, in our case, any diversion or interest that will connect your child to their peers.
However, the Jonas Brothers, and all things Jonas and Camp Rock and Disney, are driving me to distraction and may even require some serious intervention. I’m just not absolutely sure who needs the intervention.
Do I lay down the line as to what I deem acceptable as entertainment and as a way to spend one’s time, or do I respect her choices? We have tried to lead her to other sources of joy. There is no doubt in Dan’s mind that my proclivity is toward social justice and that I see beauty in magnolias, not Miley Cyrus. Dan himself loves baseball, biographies, and jazz. Most of our family games (and we have played LOTS of family games) were of the cooperative variety; the TV shows she watched growing up were on TVO and PBS; best-loved stories were often the classics (Wind in the Willows, Little Women, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Story of Rosa Parks); and outings were usually to farms and museums and rarely to any place that had a roller coaster.
When Jessie shared her dismay (or was it disdain?) about Tanya and Nancy’s response to her chosen role models, she was taking a risk, because she knew full well my own opinion about the Jonas Brothers. So I took a moment to reflect (instead of jumping on the bandwagon), and asked her if she could explain WHY the Jonas Brothers were her role models. She came up with a pretty good answer: because they loved music, they respected their mother, they were family oriented, they were fun-loving, and they wanted to share their love of music with everyone. That, I pointed out, made sense. She grinned.
Then she thought for a while and said “Okay. Maybe I just shouldn’t share that with them. Maybe the Jonas Brothers can be my role models but I just don’t tell them that.” That, to my mind, was an interesting and thoughtful solution. And we talked about what we share with other people and how we choose the appropriate place and people with whom we share certain interests. Let’s face it. She does have a few friends (both with and without disabilities) who love the Jonas Brothers.
She was quiet for a moment and then said “But I also think of Nellie McClung, from the Famous Five (women who fought for women’s rights in Canada) as a role model I guess, and Nelson Mandella.” (I admit, this made me feel a bit better about my parenting skills.) We talked more about role models and what they mean to us and how we find new role models as we mature and meet the world in different ways. We talked about her former dance teacher and mentor, Hannah Beach, as being a role model, and Craig Keilburger (Canadian activist for the rights of children), and Alito Allessi (the founder of DanceAbility).
I also realized that since she has exited formal schooling (i.e., classes in English, Civics, Geography etc.) she is not as exposed to new people and ideas as she was. She doesn’t read the newspaper, doesn’t really listen to the news, rarely watches current affairs TV, and our days seem so filled that there is not as much time as there used to be to discuss current events or social issues. That’s something I hadn’t really thought about as we transition into adulthood, and I realized that it’s something we might need to address (although I am not sure how!).
But as I watched her process and think and be willing to consider new ways of stepping out into the world, I began to feel very proud of her. Even though she loves the Jonas Brothers, she also loves her best friends, her family, and her art. She is passionate, determined, loyal, and has an uncanny ability to believe in something even when the world is trying to force her in a different direction. She is unafraid to dance on the beach to music that only she can hear, and if only more of us were willing to do that, it might be a more interesting world. So maybe Jessie should be MY new role model.
Photo source: http://igossip.com/gossip/Photo_from_Taylor_Hicks_is_not_a_Hick_Till_Proven_Otherwise--/633