Recent conversation with Lexi follows:
Mommy, how was your book club?
Great! We had a nice time.
Who finished the book first?
For Lexi there are two options—1) she can win or 2) she cannot lose.
Try as Caroline might, she has never been able to brush her teeth first in the morning.
When Lexi’s “it” during I Spy Something Blue, we, the rest of her family, are mere puppets. We’ll have guessed every possible blue item in the kitchen then she’ll toss up a game-changer—a three-pointer at the buzzer—“Actually, it’s red.”
Lexi is competitive even when there is no competition. I was brushing her hair this morning and was darn close to completing the low ponytail when she looked at me through the mirror, put her index finger in the air and wiggled it back and forth, “No, no, no! Not today!” She is Dikembe Mutombo in the Geico commercial at least eleven times a week. “I wanted pigtails.” More wiggly finger. “Not in my house!”
I am slightly competitive. My sister-in-law will insist that I misrepresent myself with the adjective “slightly,” that I am savagely competitive, that I cannot lose gracefully in anything—Clue, cards, kickball. This may be true, but so far . . . there’s not a ton of hard evidence (because I usually win).
You have hiked into the Grand Canyon and you are on your way back up—about a mile to get to the top. You are with two other friends. You are enjoying a leisurely walk, stopping on occasion. As you go, you continue to follow then lead then follow a couple, two strangers who are also making their way out of the canyon. At one point the female of the couple jokes, “Beat you to the top!” as you walk by them. You do the following:
a) Laugh a sincere laugh as you walk by then put the passing comment from the stranger out of your head forever.
b) Continue to enjoy your leisurely walk, stopping to take in scenic views because you are, after all, at the Grand Canyon.
c) Stride to the top with purpose. When one of your friends wants to stop to rest and take a drink of water, somehow don’t allow that to happen. When that same friend points out a colorful shrub, give it a glance then continue your gaze behind you, making sure that the couple is not in clear view. Stop contributing to the conversation. Notice that the other one of your friends is doing the same exact thing. Finish. Breathe a tired sigh of victory. Let it be known that you wanted to—and did—beat the couple (the strangers you will never again see) to the top.
We do not get to choose what qualities we give our kids. We get who we get. They are who they are.
In fact, if anyone’s doing the choosing, it’s the kid herself–she’s watching us. She’s learning from us. She’s listening.
The other night at the dinner table, Caroline said to Lexi: “Pick that up and put it in the trash!” Then she turned to me and said, “I did your speech for you.”
But what if we could choose?
What if we could pick the qualities we’d like to pass on to our kids. Holding cosmic tongs, we could grab from the Genetic Salad Bar. I would have picked the freckles and the straight blonde hair for Lexi, Caroline’s spunk and her sense of humor. Really I would have grabbed all that Caroline is, all that Lexi is . . . except for the toes-pointing-outwards. They never did me any favors in the 50-yard dash.
What about your own Genetic Salad Bar? What of you have you given your kids?