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Sunday, October 25, 2015

heart-expanding, hair-pulling, coffee-drinking, patience-testing, stamina-inducing = the parenthood of Maya

My baby is about to turn 8.  I am not all that keen on it. I would like a different menu to order from, please.

Maya came into this world like a rocket. She was born with 4 swift pushes and we joke that if no one had been there to catch her she would have gone sailing right across the room, bounced off the opposite wall, gotten up and said, "Hey! When does this party get started?"

Here is a typical day in the life of Maya:

-wake up at 6 A.M. and read or color or create some elaborate art project
-occupy a solid 15 minutes to get dressed, make bed, eat breakfast, etc., then either continue elaborate project or beg to watch TV and complain that there is nothing to do if TV is denied
-leave for school 8:20, be an engaged learner (we hope) until pick up at 3
-come home and play, do homework or complete elaborate project (or likely all of the above), followed by a 90 minute gymnastics practice, a run down the street, dinner and a shower and then complain that she is bored
-in bed 8 or 8:30, staying up to read by flashlight until 9

The house breathes a collective sigh of relief when Maya is finally in Slumberville.  I have always felt Maya and I were well matched for stamina.  This year she officially surpassed my supply and I drink copious amounts of coffee.

If only you could bottle this:

Maya is silly in the truest form of the word, finding play and goofiness where other people experience pedestrian life.  A trip into a public restroom becomes a game of, "What if this was our house?" Cleaning the toilet with the bowl brush gives way to exclamations like, "This is SO fun!" complete with dancing and wiggling around. Mopping the floor is an unparalleled joy.

Maya is insanely competitive which is very difficult for her noncompetitive sister or any other human being living in our house.  Maya constantly says things like: "I got in the house before you. I win." or "Let's see who can get their pajamas on fastest!" She trash talks when she plays Candyland and playing UNO with her is not for the weak at heart. We have learned that she is a kid who needs constant challenge and stimulation and it takes two very present and invested parents to keep her from making everyone in our house crazy.  Recently, Sandi had Maya upstairs for a while so I could work downstairs.  When they came down Sandi said, "Thank you for all the times you keep her occupied.  And you are welcome for all the times I do."

We joked that it will be interesting to see what kind of partner Maya ends up with who can actually keep up with her since it takes two of us and a very engaging school experience. Sandi said, "She will probably need more than one partner when she grows up.  One might not be enough."

She is a spitfire, a live wire, a firecracker.  She is a risk taker and a free agent. She stomps her foot and argues like a trial lawyer if she feels her independence is being violated.  I can easily see her being the dictator of a small nation when she grows up.

The other night, she got distracted from clearing her spot at the dinner table in favor of doing her homework.  In her hurry to get to the couch with her homework sheet, she abandoned her backpack and folder on the floor in the middle of the busy kitchen.  I asked her to pick it up and she told me "not now" (a parents favorite answer).  I tripped on it again and asked again and she began to yell at me.

Now, if you are a parent I'm sure you can picture how this went down.  I was trying not to yell so I selected my "strong" voice and went for annunciation.  With significant pauses for effect between each word I said, "Maya. You. Need. To. Pick. Up. Your. Backpack. Right. Now."  Maya capitalized on every pause to get her point across to me.

Our debate sounded like this:

And then Sandi stepped in. Again, two parents required here for this job.

She is also a compassionate girl who will stroke your cheek and give you a hug if she thinks you are crying when really you have just yawned.  If our family needs to take separate cars she is always concerned about the parent who gets left riding alone (despite our attempts to convince her that sometimes parents really like to ride alone). Her writing at school is often centered around how much she loves her family.  Maya is in a constant struggle to tell us she loves us more than we love her so that she now says, "I love you more than you love me times infinity and I can't hear what you are saying back!" and she covers her ears. She will look out for the kid in her class that needs some extra assistance, loves to help out with family projects and will always root for the underdog.

Maya is the only child I know of who sleeps with a sneaker on her headboard so she can practice tying shoelaces before she falls asleep.

Maya is my baby, the one who couldn't always do what her older sister could do, who had to be watched more closely because she was smaller, the one who had frightening airway issues and who had to be rushed to the hospital, the one who I last held in my arms.

We have come to always expect the unexpected where Maya is concerned. 

One particular morning I had to wake Maya up for school and she was not impressed.  She delivered me this note: "I want to go back to sleep!"

Throughout first grade, Maya would come home from school everyday and play, you guessed it, school.  She was ALWAYS the teacher.  

This was the night Maya finally convinced me to duct tape her to her chair to help her stay seated during dinner. 

People think Maya is adorable, wild, unruly, hilarious, silly, irreverent, or sweet.  Often we are asked, "Is she always like this?" which could refer to any of the above qualities.  We just nod, high five and pour another cup of coffee.

It turns out it is a very fine line between breaking a kid's spirit and allowing that same free spirit to roam untethered.  It is a slippery, moveable line and we worry every day about falling on the wrong side of it.  The consequences of failing are massive either way.

So, as classic parenting wisdom says, we pick our battles.  We strive to allow creative expression and personal freedom and keep entitlement and inflated assertions of power in check.  We have more wrinkles and have learned to laugh more easily because, when you live with a child like Maya, laughter is first on your list of things to do. Hair pulling is a close second.

Twister, Maya-style, means I spin the wheel and call out the commands rapid fire.  She loves to get twisted up in knots and when the game demands more than her flexibility or stature allows, she just pulls the mat in so she can succeed. In some circles this is called cheating.  In her world it is called modified success. 

The other night it was just Maya and I (playing Candyland, Chutes and Ladders and the aforementioned Twister) and she was talking about how her birthday was in a week.  I told her I wanted her to slow down and not grow up so fast.  She replied, "I will still think of you when I am 100.  I will visit you when you are in heaven.  But don't worry. I will probably stay with you until I am 30.  You have a bunch more years."

And just as my heart is trying to figure out how to beat again, she added, "I will always be your baby."

photo credit to Betsy Rand Photography

1 comment:

Kimberley Moran said...

There is nothing like watching a person become a person.To see every single personal characteristic grow and stretch right in front of your eyes.It is so special and if we let ourselves watch as closely as possible, it is probably the bet part of anything in our lives.

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