Everyone’s Included in Monkey in the Middle and What Kind of Bat Mitzvah Will She Have

A boisterous game of “Monkey in the Middle” overtook our family room after Shabbat dinner last week. Astonishingly, nothing was broken and nobody got hurt. Laughter, happy yelling, and lots of good-natured teasing kept the blue-and-white beach ball airborne and away from the “monkey,” who in this game, was my daughter.

My only little girl is a feisty 8-year-old. She holds her own with big green-gray eyes, a smattering of freckles, a knowing smile, and a steely grip amid the three brothers who love nothing more than to give her a hard time about, well, everything: that she mispronounces “bird,” that she’s something of a busybody, that she prefers to keep her room testosterone-free, and yells “out” as soon as a male body, canine or human, places a smelly toe over the threshold.

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monkey

This post first appeared on Kveller.

Getting Acquainted

Given that I only have one daughter, I like to think that I know her pretty well. One daughter, three sons. I like to think that I know them all pretty well, but her especially. Because the two of us are the Girl Power in our testoterone-heavy family. We are a natural duo a lot of the time: she runs errands with me, we get our nails done, go shopping on rare occasions.

sage

She is as boisterous as her brothers, has water balloon fights and nerfgun wars with them, eats as much as they do, and watches whatever they’re watching at full volume (I’m pretty sure they’ve all blown their hearing by now) but every few days their loud, intensely wolfpack boy-energy overwhelms her as much as it does me, and the two of us retreat. Either alone, or together.

She keeps the door of her bedroom closed. Whether she’s in it or not. She says it’s because she doesn’t want Pretzel the dachshund to shuffle in and pee on the fluffy cream rug, but I rather think it’s to keep her she-domain to herself. When she’s nowhere to be found, I quietly push open that bedroom door, and see her dark head bent over her desk, where she’s drawing or making a card for someone or writing a story.

During her seven years with me, I’ve come to know that the only fruit she really likes is pears, and that she loves art and writing. That she wants to be an actress and go to college in New York City. She is shy but social. Good at karate and mediocre at ballet. I know she loves clothes that feel soft. She cuts out the tags because they itch her neck. When she reads to herself she actually says each word out loud in a soft, barely audible undertone that is not a whisper. I know that she loves to take care of her little brother, but is almost always irate and exasperated with the one just above her and a little in awe of the one above him.

But sometimes she reveals herself to me in ways so full of unexpected wonder I feel like I’m meeting her for the first time.

Like when she told me during my library shift at school today that she’s checking out a picture book because she is reading two chapter books at home – I had no idea. Or when she exploded into uncontrollable laughter watching the little guy inhale my skin (he has some kind of olfactory connection with me) – it surprised me that she found it so funny, and her laughter was so completely uninhibited that soon all three of us were hysterical. She makes witty comments now and again, in a voice so dry and deadpan if I’m not watching her face and her lips move, I would miss them. She is not a jokester like her brothers, and it seems out of character yet so perfect when she delivers these one-liners.

The other day she read my post about Dutch Tulips. And she said, “Mom, I like how you have the word ‘tulips’ at the end of the first paragraph, and then you end the whole thing with the word ‘tulips’.”

I stared at her in wonder while my heart skipped many beats and my brain tried to figure out who this girl, with the green-gray eyes and smattering of freckles across her nose, was exactly. Her intuitive insight into an apparently insignificant detail seemed far beyond her seven short years of life. Because of course it’s not an insignificant detail. It’s so significant. And deliberate. It’s how I tied the piece together, and I made a conscious choice to use the word there. And again there.

My little girl has a killer sense of humor. Can read two books at once, and knows her limits. And is developing an intuition for the written word that she is just discovering. And so am I.

My girl and I – we’re still getting acquainted. I hope the “getting” part lasts forever.

Getting Acquainted by OPI

Getting Acquainted by OPI