The cobalt blue sky floated high above with just the right amount of white cotton ball clouds–warm, balmy, no humidity–a perfect summer day. Lizi planned to head out to some local baseball games with her girlfriend and take Ev with her.
We packed a lovely lunch together. With Ev’s loose front tooth, he has to eat a soft diet until we go to see the oral surgeon on Wednesday. Lizi and I made tuna salad and packed yogurt with fresh fruit and cheese sticks. The special treats were juice boxes we bought especially for the outing. Ev was so excited to be included with Lizi’s friends (which he considers his friends) that he was dressed and ready to go as soon as he woke. He even donned his sunglasses first thing in the morning so he wouldn’t forget them.
As we were talking logistics for the day, Ev heard Lizi mention the names of some friends. His attention perked up at one name in particular.
“Mo-om. I hope Sam the girl with sparkly teeth and no glasses won’t be there. I only like her at weddings.” Her name was said all in one word without breath or spaces bewtween the words: Samthegirlwithsparklyteethandnoglasses.
“What are you talking about Ev? You only like her at weddings? What does that mean?”
“It means,” Ev explains in his “patient voice”, “that I only like Samthegirlwithsparklyteethandnoglasses at weddings not at churches or houses or baseball games or anything like that. At weddings she likes me, and she doesn’t boss me around because she is my best friend. But she bothers me at other places—especially when I’m doing stuff. Then she asks me stuff like ‘Can I help?’” Ev rolls his eyes at the thought.
“In fact,” he adds, “Now that I’m thinking about it, maybe I don’t like sparkly teeth at all.”
“Why ever not, Ev? People with sparkly teeth are wearing something called braces, and they are just people like you and me. It’s no different than a different hair color or a different color shoes. Most likely they are kind and nice people. We should give them a chance to show us who they are.”
“Well, I like green hair and green shoes.” He pauses a minute before finishing, “And, ok. Maybe I like people with sparkly teeth a little but not a lot.” I can tell he is softening by his response.
My mind begins to wander and think of all the ways “sparkly teeth” can be applied to life. Whatever it is that causes our mind to separate another human from ourselves in our own mind—a difference of some sort—becomes a boundary of fear. I don’t want to just let this conversation drop because I think it is important to address fears before prejudices are born from them.
“Ev. Perhaps you need to give sparkly teeth a chance. Why do you say you don’t like people with sparkly teeth much?”
“Because when they sparkly teeth smile at me, I just look away.”
“But why, Ev?” I press him a little more.
“Because I’m scared of sparkly teeth mom. Ugh! So many questions!” He adds under his breath, “Too many questions.”
“Perhaps you can start with Samthegirlwithsparklyteethandnoglasses. Maybe you can give her one chance if she’s at the baseball game to smile at you. Maybe you can try smiling back just one time and giving her a chance to be friendly and nice.”
Ev lets out a heavy sigh. “Well, all right, Mama. I’ll give her a chance. Just one. But she better not boss me around by asking things like ‘Can I help?’”