I think she might have touched one once before, but it is always a negotiation when we go to the aquarium. The water is cold. The sturgeons look scary, like they might bite. After many pleas on our part, and demonstrations of her brother letting his two fingers slide across the backs of harmless fish, she still won’t budge. Off we go to see the turtles.
Today, without even the question on our part her hand went in the tank and she waited for a sturgeon to pass. It took a few tries with the stubborn fish swimming out of her reach, but she was patient, determined. Finally, for the first time in her life, she wasn’t scared anymore.
What changed this time? I think it was the girl, a bit younger than she, with hands already in the tank, excited every time her hands reached one. I think seeing this girl, not too far from her own age and without fear, allowed her to overcome her own trepidation. I think that seeing her brother touch the sturgeons wasn’t enough, just like seeing boys her age or girls much older wasn’t enough.
I think she needed a little girl, just like herself, to show her trying this big, new, scary thing wasn’t so bad.
So I thanked the mother for letting her daughter try big, new, scary things. I thanked her because I’ve watched mothers keep their daughters away from those same big, new, scary things. I thanked her because I know how much easier she made the path for little W.
I thanked her because little girls, like grown women, who are unafraid to carve the path to big, new, scary things are a tremendous girt to us all.