Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Learning Ava Lessons

I'm not sure younger daughter Ava hears the drums that other spirited kids march to. They might distract her from coloring or building Legos. As she turns 10 (Feb. 12), I'm still not sure I have her figured out. Which is one of the things I love most about her.

We do birthdays quickly, like pulling off a Band-Aid. Ava's older sister Anna turned 13 on Jan. 31. Less than two weeks later and both girls are in double digits. The winter months are ripe with the passage of time.

Ava projectile vomited for the first year of her life. Damn acid reflux. She was queen of the wardrobe change and I was pretty well shirtless during my shifts at night when she was a newborn. She would only sleep soundly on your chest and shoulder, no crib or bassinet. I watched marathon's of MTV's "Viva La Bam," "Office Space," "Swingers," "First Blood," "Road House," or anything else on late night.

Ava's sister Anna is me through and through. She thinks like I do, asks questions I asked, cops the same attitude. I understand her, maybe too well. I've never had that with Ava, which means I have to pay closer attention; try to figure her out. I'm grateful for how different that has made our relationship; for how different she and her sister can be.

A couple years ago Ava wanted to sign up for gymnastics so she could learn to do the perfect cartwheel. She did. She has a mind that is all focus when she wants it to be, something I have never had. She is dingy, air-headed, but easily makes honor roll. What she lacks in common sense, she easily makes up for with determination, action, and compassion. She is quick to know if I am feeling down and how to lift my spirits.

Ava is the self-starter that neither her sister or I am. She can move on a whim. She is not, however, a morning person, like Anna and I are. Ava's differences teach me when I listen. And I try to listen.

For years now, Ava has done something which seems rare with kids now: she entertains herself. She comes up with things to do. She will read before bed or when the mood strikes her. Dolls, Legos, bocce, hikes, almost anything is an option.

Especially in the past year, Ava and I have connected because we are different. I don't know that I would have seen that coming or that I can put it into words. There's something about Ava that maybe I realized I don't need to understand to enjoy. What can be frustration at first, can quickly turn into laughter when blue eyes meet and smiles crack.

One of my favorite Ava lessons is that there doesn't need to be any wasted moments, any lost time. I always carry a pocket notebook and pen to write with. Ava goes further. In her school backpack, she carries an extra coloring book and 96-pack of Crayola crayons. Not 16. Not 64. The Ole 96'er. She colors at home; she colors in the car; this past Saturday, she had me pack a large coloring tablet and markers when we went to watch her cousins play indoor soccer. She colored in the bleachers.

At home on the couch, making a book about Halloween that she would bind with a cover
The Ole 96'er, because sometimes six shades of yellow aren't enough.
You can only watch so much soccer in a morning.
Last March I tried to remind myself not to waste another single day. Carpe the fu**ing diem. Make every day count. Wake up. Live. Love. Play. Work. Ava is my living, blood, daily reminder of that. Pack 96 crayons if that's what you need. Draw, or color, or write, or run, or watch the snow fall out the back door or walk back roads and see a tree full of cardinals, a phenomenon you've never seen in 42 years.

I frequently carry a backpack or messenger bag with me. Notebooks and books or graphic novels, Ava's coloring book and travel markers. Be prepared. Don't miss out. I'm learning my Ava lessons.

Happy 10th birthday to the one who shows me the world differently and reminds me to pay attention.


Stephen G. Bardsley said...

My favorite post of yours EVER!!! Needed to read it, as lately my teenage son and I are like two rams slamming heads!

Michael Valliant said...

Thanks, Stephen! I hear you, the girls are 13 and 10, and head butting definitely happens, so sometimes taking a step back helps me tremendously :)