Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Maya Day!

She used to be my “Wonder Dog” but now she prefers “Monkey.”

I don’t remember why she was Wonder Dog and I have no idea why she changed it to Monkey. She doesn’t climb or eat bananas more than the other kids. She likes it, though, and that’s good enough for me.

Maya, my eight-year-old-going-on-twenty-two, has that special je ne sais quoi, that precociousness, that one-of-a-kind personality that distinguishes her from other kids, that makes her seem destined for the stage or the silver screen or something where large personalities are required, where insecurities are hidden behind in-your-face behaviors. She’s a smart-aleck but in a good way. She’s the one who most defies the child-rearing experts who insist kids don’t get sarcasm when they’re as young as she is. Her words can drip sarcasm all over the floor.

Her smile lights up the darkest of rooms and her tears flow at the drop of a hat. She’s moody and sensitive and a bit of a drama queen. She’s exasperating at times, truly challenging, because she’s so lovable and charming and compelling and special that I just really want her to get it right, to do the right thing, to not make a mistake, to not get off track. I have to be careful with her: I want her to have structure and follow the rules but I don’t want to extinguish that spark or dampen her spirit or do anything that changes what makes my Maya Maya.

Our family dynamics seem to pit Maya against her siblings more often than not; she’s the one who’s loudest when objecting to which Wii game’s been chosen or arguing about who should get to flip the pancakes. She’s the one who bickers with her brother the most, and seems to feel the strongest need to stick up for herself. I’m torn on this issue because I want her to get along with others but I like how she’s strong and confident and takes care of herself.

Because she’s so pretty, we worry about her. We worry that someone will at some point take advantage of her sweetness, her big heart, her beauty. We’re afraid that she’ll make the wrong choice or get caught up with the wrong crowd and in a split second – because that’s all it takes – the magic that is Maya will be altered or lost.

Maya was two years old when she got into some Vaseline and decided to leave her mark on the walls. Six years later, her handprints are still there. We refuse to clean them because they’re hers and they’re cooler, in our opinion, than any painting or poster.

I’ve decided not to celebrate Independence Day with everyone else today. I’ve decided instead to celebrate my eight-year-old. Like most parents, I love all my kids and believe they’re each special in one way or another. But there’s just something about Maya that makes me see a national holiday in her future. I can see America one day celebrating Maya Day and paying tribute to beautiful, charming, sensitive children with soulful eyes, sweet smiles, a flair for drama and the ability to light up rooms when they enter them.

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