We had just left the drive-up window of a popular fast-food chain – one that we didn’t venture to very often (Not because I wasn’t sure if they used real meat on their hamburgers or not. I’d heard the rumors, but who knew?). We didn’t often go because I knew it couldn’t be good for the kids judging by today’s health standards, and there was nothing, literally nothing on the menu that I would eat there. Ok. I’m lying. Their fries are the bomb! But, um, calories!
But, my six-year-old had done a stellar job on her round offs at tumbling that day. She’d also brought a report card home with straight A’s that week, so I felt that she deserved a special treat. And, of course, this place that serves up meals that are happy in their fun little cardboard box with a fun prize inside is what she chose.
So, we waited in line at the drive-thru and ordered her some carbs in a box. I was feeling a little better about my parenting skills since I made sure to order the apples instead of extra fries. And then back to feeling guilty because I ordered large fries for myself, along with a chocolate milkshake. Diet always starts tomorrow, right?
We paid for our order and drove off. I could already hear her tearing into the box. Not for the food, but to see what her special little prize was. We stopped at a light, and I happened to look back at my daughter in the rearview mirror. That’s when I saw her little face light up in awe. She broke out into the biggest smile that made me stop cursing under my breath at the fact that the place with the happy meals had forgotten to put my fries in with our order.
I started to ask what she was so excited about, and she beat me to the punch. “Mommy! Mommy! I’ve never had a Barbie like this, and I’ve always wanted one. Oh, Mommy, she’s so beautiful, isn’t she? Just look at her! This is the best prize that I have ever gotten from any kid’s meal!”
I couldn’t turn around to look because the stoplight had turned green, and I had to focus on the road rather than focus on this apparent gem that my daughter had pulled out of her happy, little cardboard box. I was intrigued, though, and couldn’t wait to see what this Barbie looked like. I mean, she had 62 barbies at home and the house and car and boat and plane to go with them. What could be so special about this one?
We drove a little longer while I listened to her chattering away with her new prized possession. The excitement in her voice was contagious as she told her Barbie about the things they were going to do once we got home.
As we pulled into the garage, I put the car in park and finally turn around to see what was so different about this particular Barbie! I mean, the last 17 minutes, all I heard was, “Mama, wait till you see her!” “I didn’t know they made Barbies like this.” And, “I’ve never had one like this, but always wanted one.”
I turned to check out what my little six-year-old had been adoring our whole ride home and felt a stab of disappointment as I saw that the Barbie doll she kept gushing over was Black. I was disappointed in myself and kicking myself in the ass. Where did I go wrong in that my girl saw someone of color as different than her? I thought I had done my best to teach my children the exact opposite. But my child had just gone on and on about how different her new Barbie was and that she had never had one like this. Insert face slap emoji.
It turned out the joke was on me. As she ran into our house with a happy meal and a happy heart, she ran into her daddy’s arms and proudly showed off her new Barbie! She shouted, “Daddy, Daddy! Look how cool my new Barbie is! I’ve never had one like this before. See, she’s a firewoman.”
My mama heart was proud.