Hey, everyone, meet Nancy Carlson’s pig.
This pig does not have a name or proper hands (because she’s a pig!), but that can’t stop her–nothing can. She bakes cakes! And when she makes a mistake, she tries and tries again. (Meaning: more cake!) She is her own best friend, she likes her round tummy, and best of all: she reads good books by herself (like me). This little pig was my childhood idol. This book is the very same book I clutched every night before seizing my mother’s arm, demanding, “Read to me, now.”
I’m taking a class that requires us to create a children’s self-esteem book, which naturally transports me back to the “Hi, good-looking!” days.
This may have been the only children’s self-esteem book I have read (and remember), but I paid attention to messages past classes have declared in their books. What I notice is this: “I have lots of friends, because I’m a great listener!” or “I love playing on the basketball team, because I am good at it!” The latter is then followed by a picture of a kid surrounded by a cheering crowd, of course, but other people aren’t always around to help give someone a confidence boost. Not everyone wants to boost someone’s confidence. Having sharp ears and the ability to pay attention to words hopping out of mouths is a particular trait one can feel proud about, sure. Athletically gifted? Well, I envy you. It’s great to have pride in your good traits, but what if you don’t have friends? Who’s going to care about your listening skills then? What about accepting yourself as a whole?
Carlson’s I Like Me shows that esteem and inner-strength comes from you and you alone. I was a shy, quiet girl who enjoyed solitary activities. (“What, Mrs. Foster? Why must I play Sorry with those kids? This drawing requires my full attention, and mine alone.”) Hence, that is why I was so damned smitten with this book. It’s not that I was incapable of socializing, and I had friends, but I preferred to be alone. As a loner child and Power Rangers enthusiast, The Pig spoke to me. The Pig said, “It’s okay that you wanted to role-play the black Power Ranger and not the yellow or pink. Those girls are snots, and the blue school bus you drew earlier is just fine. Oh, no, no–don’t listen to your mother! You made a mistake on that last cake. Of course you need to bake another!”
So you see, Nancy Carlson created my hero. Her fearless pig taught me that oral hygiene and bath time are essential, that it’s all right if I’m a nightmare-chef, mistakes don’t make me a failure, and if I had a curly tail, I should like it, too. But most of all, The Pig said, “You can do all these solo activities and still feel great!” This book acknowledged my introverted self, and I clung to every word The Pig had to say. This book was, in every sense, my gospel. Some have bibles, others have cookbooks or Jenny Craig pamphlets, and I have I Like Me.
“When I feel bad, I cheer myself up. When I fall down, I pick myself up. When I make mistakes, I try and try again! No matter where I go, or what I do, I’ll always be me, and I like that!”
To have someone who can cheer you up is fine, but it’s not healthy to solely depend on another’s praise or expect it. Sometimes, the only person you need is yourself. Sometimes, the only person you will have is yourself.
(My sincerest apologies to the three kids I rejected over a round of Sorry, but I had a blue school bus to draw.)