24 October 2009

Great Pumpkin Waltz

One of the amazing things that goes along with raising your children is the whole dissection game. And I'm not talking dissection in the high school biology class sense but the game that grandparents love to play: He's got my eyes and Aunt Fifi's nose! She's a Jones through and through! Oh dear God, please don't let those be Grandpa Lester's ears I'm seeing there...

You probably know what I mean.

I recognized immediately that the blubbery bundle being waved at me as I lay strapped to the operating table late that February night was a mini-me, a tiny male version of myself. And within days, it was wildly evident that he had my personality and my brain. For better or worse, I'd recreated myself.

The son processes information in exactly the same way that I do, all the good, lightning speed ways and all the bad no-I-don't-want-to-backtrack-and-tell-you-how-the-miracle-occurred-because-that's-boring ways. The daughter, on the other hand, processes information exactly like her father does, in a slow, rigorous and detailed fashion. Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages.

Of course, both kids got gifts from both parents, and thus, the son has a certain amount of his father's sensitive nature. What the daughter evidently also got was my amazing stubborn streak. I will not do as I'm told, and will, in fact, go out of my way to do exactly what everyone tells me I can't.

(Like wasps. Think about those wasps. And the chain saw. And the ladders. Yup.)

This has its advantages and its disadvantages.

"Can't," of course, is the operative word, not "shouldn't." Morality doesn't come into play here. The daughter and I are both strong proponents of knowing what's right and what's wrong, and we're both ready to do battle for what we believe in. Also, don't tell us that we're incapable, weaker, not good enough.

When I was eight weeks pregnant with the daughter, I had a threatened miscarriage. The spouse was half a world away on a job, and I spent my days running after an active 2-1/2 year old. I called the o.b., and she set up an appointment to have an ultrasound done to see if the pregnancy was still viable and make sure there wasn't some terrible complication.

The next afternoon, I lay in a cold basement room and watched the daughter's fierce little heart beat. She was a fighter from the start, and seven months later, came into the world screaming with vigor and she kept right on screaming until we left the hospital. At that point, she settled quietly into her life, and only screamed when she had an ear infection or I attempted some heinous crime on her person, like making her wear a dress.

Yesterday at the parent-teacher conferences, the daughter's history teacher told me that although the girl is a quiet, respectful and well-behaved child, he is thrilled to see her fierce commitment to standing up for herself. She won't back down, won't cave in to peer pressure. She has a strong sense of what is right, and what should be done, and she also doesn't stand by when another child is being bullied.

She is very much her own person.

The talk at school recently turned to Halloween, and what costumes everyone would wear to trick or treat. Evidently, the daughter didn't really contribute to the conversation, as she'd already confided to me that she wasn't interested in trick or treating this year. One of the other 7th grade girls asked what she planned to wear, and the daughter replied that she wasn't going out this year.

"You're weird!" the first girl opined.

"No, I'm just bored with it," the daughter responded, and her self-assurance spoke volumes.

She still needed a costume option because she has a party to attend and her school has a costume parade every year. Her choice of costume was, as you can see above, very low maintenance, and she cut all the holes in the sheet herself, laughing the whole time.

I'm very proud of her for having the courage of her convictions. I'm happy that she doesn't feel the need to back down, that she is comfortable being matter-of-fact in stating how she feels about something without being offensive, without returning an insult.

You can give the girl a rock. She won't throw it at you, even if you deserve it. She will, instead, very politely place it on your front step, and walk away, head held high.

Go listen to some good music: "Great Pumpkin Waltz" from the album Charlie Brown Holiday Hits by Vince Guaraldi Trio.

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