There’s something about Dora the Explorer that I never really liked. Maybe it’s her ever-so-sweet sweetness, or her ubiquity a few years back, or even something as innocuous her perfect, unwavering bob. Whatever the case, I couldn’t quite put a finger on it, until the Girl helped me do so.
We had discovered Dora one day at a friend’s house, when the Girl was about three. While the Beloved Husband and I had been careful to shield our offspring from popular cartoon shows and characters at that tender age, Dora was just too hard to avoid once we started attending playdates. So into our lives she came, and soon, the Girl wanted to watch the show that her friends were watching. Watch she did, but something never seemed right to her. I would soon discover what it was, when I noticed that the Girl never did as Dora instructed.
Now, the beauty of Dora’s show, I suppose for most parents, is that it’s interactive. Dora asks her young viewers questions, pauses, and waits for answers. She also asks them to repeat after her: “Lake, castle, through the forest! Say it with me! Lake, castle, throooough the forest! . . .” But I noticed that the Girl never did say those things. At first, I was curious: Did my Girl not understand the instructions? Maybe she felt shy about repeating after a cartoon character? And one day, she finally enlightened me on the reason for her silence.
“Mama,” she said, “did you know that no matter what you say, Dora always says, ‘Yes, that’s right!’? What if there are kids who don’t give the right answer? Watch!” And with that, the Girl showed me: when Dora asked her to count the number of sticks, she deliberately called out the wrong answer, “Three!” And Dora replied, “Yes, you’ve got it! Four sticks!” The Girl turned to me triumphantly. “See?” And after that, I understood how my little daughter’s mind turned. She would be one who, when she felt like it, would refuse to toe the line. Good for her.
Years later when her brother started watching Dora and Diego, he, unlike her, would dutifully follow Dora’s instructions. I could see the Girl kind of snicker in the background, but she never let him know the secret that she had discovered. Even if she herself didn’t want to blindly follow the pack, she understood that others might want to, and I was happy that she understood that.