My daughter, who just turned five, is set on me inventing a new story for her each night. But it hasn’t always been this way. Last year, there was a repeating story that she insisted on hearing nightly for about two solid months. It was based on a clip I heard online, regarding teaching young children how to both protect their “private parts” and respect the “private parts” of others. Over the two months, I elaborated on the details and the story gained new elements, like a snowball gathers rocks and stones in its passage down a hill.
The final version went like this:
There once was a little girl who liked to play in the forest. She loved to play in the forest so much, but she was very sad because she always played alone. Then, one day, a beautiful white unicorn popped out from behind a tree. On its head was a gorgeous rainbow-colored horn that sparkled in the sunlight.
The unicorn said, “Hello, how are you?” and the little girl responded that she was very well and asked the unicorn if he would like to play with her. He said he would love to play with her, but that he had one rule that she must agree to before they could begin their friendship. It was this:
She could never touch his horn.
“It’s my special place,” said the unicorn, “And if you touch it, you will hurt me and make me very sad. So please don’t do it.”
The little girl agreed to this rule and they played together for many weeks in the forest. When she went to play every day and found the unicorn waiting for her, she was thrilled to finally have a friend to play with. They became very good friends. However, the problem was that the unicorn’s horn was very interesting to the little girl. Its colors and sparkles fascinated her and she couldn’t keep her eyes off of it.
One day, she felt particularly naughty and she just couldn’t help herself. She impulsively reached out and touched the unicorn’s horn and then quickly let go.
When she did this, the unicorn cried out in pain. “Don’t do that! I told you it’s my only rule! You can’t touch my special place! That hurts me and makes me so sad.” And then the unicorn began to cry. He turned and ran away into the deep parts of the forest.
When the unicorn disappeared, the little girl also started to cry. She knew that she had done something very bad. After that, the unicorn never came back and never played with her again. She was brokenhearted to lose her friend. What’s more, she really regretted not listening to him and not being respectful of his special place.
“What does ‘respectful’ mean, Mommy?”
I learned to answer this way: “A person who is respectful does their best not to do something that will hurt someone or make them sad or angry.”
And now, even though this story is not on high repetition, I still bring it back once in awhile as a way to reinforce the point. I always add this, “You have a special place too, you know” (and I point to her “pee pee”). “No one except you can touch you down there, except Mommy when she’s helping you clean yourself in the bath.” My daughter always nods knowingly. “If anyone else ever touches you in your special place, you must tell Mommy right away.”
And like the snowball has finally reached the bottom of the hill and comes to a slow and gentle stop, my heart relaxes when I hear her say:
This article originally appeared on page 46 of beijingkids 2017 February Issue. Download the digital version here.