T-Rex is My Power Animal
My friend’s son Patrick and his buddy Anna were hanging out in the grass one day up by the old Mission overlooking the ocean. They’d collected and piled up some gravel from the drought-tolerant succulent cactus plant zone in front of the church. They were examining the stones when Patrick asked Anna, in his five-year-old sing-song voice, “Do you have a power animal?”
“No,” Anna replied evenly as she placed a smooth grey pebble next to a bumpy brownish pebble on the grass. Some moments passed as they sat together, silently arranging rocks in a careful order intelligible only to them. Some pebbles were placed on top of one another, some beside each other touching, others off to the side, and some in a long snake line.
They worked side by side like that for a while, doing their own thing together. The sun was hot but the air was clear and a breeze from the ocean kept the temperature comfortable. I watched them, while Ax and his dad kicked a soccer ball nearby.
“Do you have a power animal?” Anna asked.
“Yes,” Patrick responded, matter-of-factly, bulldozing some of the rocks with his hand. “T-Rex is my power animal.”
“Oh,” Anna said, as she placed a little black chunk on top of the mini-tower of pebbles in front of her. She picked up another small rock and balanced it on top of the black chunk.
Witnessing their interaction filled me with wonder. Who are these kids talking about power animals and munching on homemade organic spirulina almond butter chia balls and kale chips? Are these my kid’s peers? Was I like them when I was that age, playing tag on the forty-third floor rooftop playroom overlooking Central Park? Did I feel protected and guided by powerful spirit animals? Did I accept that each of the children around me was different from me and yet equal, valid, and valuable, and that I was too? Did I accept myself the way these children seem to accept themselves and their world?
I dunno. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t distressed about the black smudge on my white patent leather Mary Jane shoes or the fact that my thighs were bigger than this one’s or that Dina and Lauren had a Barbie Dream house I wanted even though I knew I shouldn’t because it promotes bad stereotypes of women. I don’t remember ever feeling that I wasn’t whatever I was supposed to be to feel ok. I don’t remember ever just feeling ok being me, how I am, or ok with you being how you are. Comfortable.
If I were Anna I would have gone home in some version of shame, anger, or sadness that I didn’t have a power animal, or a power animal as cool as Patrick's. Maybe I would’ve made up bad stories about Patrick to make myself feel better. Like, what a jerk telling me about his cool power animal to make himself seem so much better than I am. He hates me. I’m a loser. When really, he’s just being who he is in my presence and it has nothing to do with me.
If I were Patrick I might have lied and said I didn’t have one either, to try to bond, to not make waves, to not stand out. “You can’t handle the truth.” And then inside wishing someone would see my inner T-Rex-ness, being sad that no one knows the real real me, but not being willing to show anyone or tell anyone either – for fear of making them feel bad or of them not liking me, for fear of them thinking I’m the jerk.
So I witness these kids and am inspired at their ability to simply co-exist and exist and to show themselves to each other and to the world just as they are. They are so beautifully comfortable breathing in and out together doing what they do, being who they are.