Friday, December 28, 2012

Tiger Child

Our eldest, Charlotte, is totally self-driven, and, like her mother, will do a back flip for a compliment (only she will do it literally).  When her teacher assigns homework, Charlotte jumps for joy.  (She is also the daughter who eerily shows up at our bedside many mornings, fully dressed in her school uniform, and let's us know it's time to get up and at 'em and didn't our alarm clock go off twenty minutes ago?)

Yes, we have a daughter who is an overachiever.  She thrives on competition and wants lists and charts and stickers and pats on the back more than your average bear.   She loves to make a long list (just like her mama) and systematically cross off all of her to-dos with a ruler or a carefully regulated check.  Heck, she will CREATE work for herself just so she can cross it off her list.

I recently taught Charlotte to knit for a charity project we are doing at school, and at recess today she was apparently the belle of the ball, regaling all of her schoolmates with her knitting prowess.   When she got home, however, and she asked me if I could "clean up" all of her slipped stitches (which I could not), she insisted on unraveling all twenty or so rows and starting from scratch.  She watched me closely, asked questions, and took up the needles with gusto and determination.

Charlotte will soldier her way through almost any pursuit with the dedication of a seasoned warrior.   She has been known to create homework for herself when she hasn't been given any and spend hours on perfecting it.  There have been a few times where she has been so engrossed in her self-assigned homework that she is reluctant to go to bed.

"But it's late," we'll argue with this much-more-ambitious version of ourselves.

"It doesn't matter. It's due tomorrow!"

"But YOU made UP the homework.  YOU assigned it to  YOURSELF!"

"Yes, and I say it's due tomorrow!"

What freak of nature are we managing to raise here?  She scares us sometimes.  Is it okay to ask your child to be LESS ambitious?

Tiger mommy I am not, but perhaps there is no need to be since my child is a tiger child.  From almost the day we met Charlotte (she became our daughter at one year of age, adopted from China), she was a little peanut of power and intensity.  She screamed for five days straight in our hotel in Nanchang until she probably realized that these people, being us, were not going away, and then she resigned herself to loving us and learning every possible thing she could from us, watching our every move with an intensity, copying only after she had watched long enough to feel confident to try it herself.

Our little Charlotte (now nearly nine) has been one of the two joys of our lives for nearly eight years now, and tomorrow we send her off to camp with her class for two nights - how did it happen?  How is she growing up so fast?

True to form, Charlotte had her own backpack packed and fully ready to go last week already, each day's clothing labeled in ziplock bags, her toiletries labelled and put proudly in mommy's borrowed cosmetics bag.  When I went through the contents of her bag, (against the checklist from school that she had already neatly ticked off), every single item was accounted for and packed neatly as a pin.

Believe me, we have done nothing to produce this phenomena of a girl!  Perhaps it's the oldest child syndrome or that she inherited some genetic ambitious spirit from her birth parents that we don't have; perhaps she just enjoys doing well.

Whatever the case, we love her to bits, and we look forward to her supporting us into her retirement as we are sure she will be very successful in her adult life.  The new start?  Finding ways to help this treasure of a girl be happy and content with exactly who she is.  I know teenage-hood is just around the corner and there is no doubt of her academic and even social success.  I want to help her access that deeper-knowing inside of herself, though: that place where she can set aside her ambitions and just be still and know that in every moment she is her perfect self.  I pray I can help impart some of that wisdom to our Starlit Charlotte.

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