"When I grow up, I want to be a mermaid," Isabella announces.
Chloe admonishes her. "You can't be a mermaid, you don't have a tail!"
Isabella looks momentarily dejected but then she perks up. "Well then, when I grow up I'll be a fairy!"
Chloe can barely contain herself. "Isabella, fairies have WINGS! You can't be a fairy."
Isabella thinks for a minute. "A princess," she asks, hesitantly. "Can I be a princess?"
I'm not sure, but I think I see an almost imperceptible eye roll from Chloe. "Isabella, your father is not a king. You can't be a princess unless your father is a king."
"Oh." It appears that Isabella is out of ideas.
We have been sitting in a small group talking about community helpers. After reading about the police officer, the teacher and the baker, I ask the children, "What do you think you want to be when you grow up?" They share their ideas with each other first, then draw and write in their journals.
Charlie, who until this point has remained silent, looks up at Isabella. "You can be a princess, Isabella. All you have to do is marry a prince."
Isabella's eye's widen in happy surprise. "When I grow up, I WILL be a princess!" She picks up a pink crayon and, humming, begins to draw her dress.
I want to hug Isabella. This is what I want to say to her:
"My friend, listen to me. You are in kindergarten. You have years to grow up, make friends, make mistakes, learn from others, make decisions, change your mind, and explore ideas you don't even know exist yet. As you grow up, there will always be Chloes, telling you 'no' and telling you 'you can't.' And there will always be Charlies, telling you 'you are special, you can do it, you are a princess.' Here you are, only five years old, and you are already learning to tune out the Chloes in your life and listen to the Charlies. You are wise beyond your years, my friend."