Monday, December 13, 2010
A Perfect Dova Day
Beautiful, cranky Dova tries to ruin another photo. At least her hair is brushed.
Over Thanksgiving break, Dova had a cold, and I had one of the rare opportunities to care for her during the day. I took her to her room for a nap but she was too excited to sleep. So we had a conversation about how we are alike. Sometimes, she is so foreign to me in her looks, personality and interests, I often wonder where she came from. It is incredibly easy to count of the ways Adam and I are alike. We both love math, card games (cribbage has been our nightly ritual), board games (the Oranges are mine in Monopoly), jigsaw puzzles, video games and Harry Potter. We think and look alike and have similar traits like stage fright and a minimal need for sleep. He has great timing and exactness in music and an incredible ear for pitch.
But when it comes to Dova, sometimes I am hard pressed to come up with a list of similarities. She loves clothes and all things pink, purple and girly. She is comfortable performing and is well-spoken. Her eyes are big, beautiful and light brown (and weren't even brown when she was born!). Her hair is fine with beautiful highlights, where mine is thick and dark like Adam’s. She is talented in music, but has trouble with rhythms and still can’t read a single note (then again she is six-years-old). And let's not mention the "I lost it!" and "I broke it!" gene. Everything in the Where Did our Genes Go Wrong post from 2007 still holds true today.
So our list of similarities was a compilation of odds and ends. We have the same ears. They are identical, it is almost uncanny. We both love to eat and try new foods. We are both incredibly stubborn. Hmm, ears, eating and stubbornness. Hardly enough to say we are mother and daughter. But we still love each other completely.
Last Saturday, we had the usual difficult times with Dova. She flipped out during intermission at a performance of The Nutcracker because she wasn’t dressed up like the other kids. I had asked her to wear a dress and tights before we left but she adamantly refused. And knowing that it is never worth fighting with her incredible stubbornness, we let her go in jeans. When she saw that all the other girls were dressed up their Sunday best, she started yelling at me for not bringing her dress and tights with us so she could change. I tried to explain that I was respecting HER wishes not to get dressed up. She just lost it more and said I should have forced her to wear a dress. You can’t win with this girl.
So imagine my surprise when Sunday turned out completely different. In the morning, I put on my treasured Baryshnikov Nutcracker vinyl LP on the stereo and we danced around the living room together. She is a beautiful free spirit when she dances and I soaked up her radiance. She had wanted to get together with her friend that day, but I wanted to take her to an MIT alumnae potluck at my old dorm. She whined and pleaded, but she finally agreed when I told her there would be balloon animals and juggling.
Dova insisted on dressing up for the party even though I thought it was probably casual dress. She made me dress up as well and even agreed to take a mother daughter holiday portrait.
When we attend parties, Dova usually shuns away from other kids, preferring to Velcro herself to me and hang out with the adults. She is not unusually shy, she is just extremely discriminating as to who she befriends, sometimes to the point of being intolerant of other kids, much to our dismay. She is very well-spoken and comfortable with adults, so we generally let her hang with us. But sometimes I wish she could run around and have a good time with other kids like her brother easily does.
At this party, there were plenty of other kids her age, but once again, she started out glued to my side. She had no interest in learning how to juggle with the other kids. At least it was easy to pile a variety of food from the potluck onto her plate. But slowly, the other kids started to play with her. An 8yo girl asked to play Connect Four with her. I’ve never actually seen Dova play Connect Four, so I was a bit worried that she would be completely trounced. Nearly 7yo Dova who doesn’t really like games against the 8yo daughter of a MIT Aero-Astronautical Engineer turned patent lawyer. Yikes!
But she held her own and won about half the games. In fact she tricked the other girl twice with the same move! Wow, I was impressed. Once Dova was warmed up, we proceeded to the balloon animals. Some kids made their own creations. Then I started realizing that these kids were quite intelligent. Scary smart in fact. Look at this abstract frame this 9yo (class of '23) made.
Wow, incredibly creative! I took my hand at creating some animals, and once I started I couldn’t stop (over-achieving Asian gene took over). I even made a new creation, the bee with a stinger. I was trying to make a flower, but ran out of balloon after two petals. Dova and her new friend ran around with balloon animal bees and had a blast.
Dova was fine when I left her to try my hand at juggling. I’ve always been fascinated with juggling and own sets of balls, rings, clubs and scarves. But I never took the time to learn and practice. That day, I finally learned that I needed to start with two balls, not three, alternating the starting hand. And then I needed to tandem juggle with someone else to get used to juggling from one side at a time. We got up to 14 throws. And only after I have the balls down, can I then try the clubs. And I need to start with one club and two balls (“if you don’t mind the connotation”), not three clubs all at once. Once again, over-achieving tendencies have prevented me from learning this hobby.
When I saw these juggling balls neatly lined up on the floor by one of the kids, I immediately thought of Adam, who has been organizing and lining up his toys since he was a baby.
It was incredible to see Dova so comfortable with other new kids. And then I realized why. She was just like them. She is also scary smart, way ahead in school. We try not to emphasize this with her because we don’t want her to feel superior, although we do express pride in her accomplishments. She is clearly super intelligent and she felt right at home with these other precocious kids. In fact, she was Just. Like. Me. I also felt at home and incredibly energized to be around fellow alum: smart, accomplished, and funny women.
Afterward I took her around my dorm and showed her my room with the incredible view of Boston. I felt an incredible bond with her as we walked the halls and the streets around MIT, knowing without a shadow of a doubt that she was my daughter. It was a perfect Dova day.