I have a 4-year-old daughter who is a little girl … but sometimes she seems like a big girl. She shows us what she’s going to be like as a teenager when she rolls her eyes and talks back with attitude. We are amazed at her ability to sympathize and empathize with others who are sad, frustrated or hurt. And when the weekend comes, she is excited to listen to “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me” on NPR. (She can tell when Carl Kassel isn’t the announcer that day.)
In Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them, the title character has lost her mother to cancer and is abandoned by her father who can’t deal with the challenges of his changing family. As a way to cope and prove her worth, Edith decides that she needs to be a “big girl.” She takes on the daunting responsibility of protecting her older brother, Kenny, and his boyfriend, Benji, now the only family that she knows. Edith believes that the world around her requires that she shoulder the burden of being an adult.
People who know my daughter always remark about her maturity. She is great with adults and prefers playing with older kids. Her pre-school teachers praise her for how helpful she is in class. This makes for a daughter who has been pretty easy to raise, but I sometimes wonder if she’s becoming a big girl too soon and missing out on little girl experiences.
When I was 12 years old, I was hanging out at the mall with my friends and practicing how to apply nail polish with a steady hand. I don’t expect my daughter to be the same little girl that I was or that Edith is. But I do hope that I can provide the right guidance for her to navigate the world and not feel pressure to be an adult too soon.
My heart aches to see Edith give up her right to just be a 12-year-old girl and lose the opportunity at a fair shot of growing up. Like my daughter, Edith has a right to be a little girl with all the experiences that come with with it. And it’s not just for their sake that I want them to grow up at their own pace, I have the right to enjoy my little girl too.
“You just have to be a little girl. Be a little girl for me for a little while longer.” – Kenny, 16 years old
Julia Cho: “Edith & Me, Growing Past Our Parents”
Peter J. Kuo: “Spirit Day, Coming Out and Edith”
Marie-Reine Velez: “Taking Asian Americans Beyond Race/Ethnicity”
Collective Statement: “AAP Founding Members on the Importance of Edith“
Photo credits: Amielynn Abellera in Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them by A. Rey Pamatmat. Photo by Michael C. Palma