Having written about my older daughter a couple of weeks ago, my youngest mentioned that it might be a good idea for me to write about her accomplishments. She accompanied the remark with one of those threatening glances only a teenager can achieve, the kind that combines an air of long-suffering with the threat of casually mentioning unfair treatment to grandparents.
We were at our weekly mother daughter dinner together that night, something we’ve done since she was six. It started as a way to make sure she got fed before dance class. These days she has three dance lessons a week, as well as those for martial arts, plus homework for advanced placement classes in school. Still, we pick a night to eat dinner together, just the two of us. Sometimes we talk about school or writing, sometimes we just gossip, sometimes we don’t say much of anything.
She and I differ so wildly in temperament that both of us often feel like we don’t even speak the same language. I am more emotional, she is driven by logic. She blazed through the lab section of her chemistry final so fast she isolated extra elements out of sheer boredom (and made only one mistake). I can’t prove it, but I think one reason her school’s debate coach begged her to join the team is because she and I have spent so much of time defending our opinions to each other. But week by week, dinner by dinner, we’ve also discovered over the years that we like a lot of the same things: dancing, writing, movies, history.
Granted, she likes jazz and I like ballet, but we both understand the frustrations of getting a new step from the brain into our bodies (in that way, we are all too similar). But when the light bulb turns on and something that was a complete mystery thirty seconds ago is now easy, we’re the ones who high five each other while her sister and father look on.
This is the daughter I can turn to when I need immediate feedback on a section I’ve just written. She will be as blunt as my regular critique group, and to me, her praise is as meaningful as theirs. She has a knack for words. Even before she started writing, she chose words carefully.
As befits her personality, her work is darker than mine. She’s outgrown the Twilight saga, but paranormal fiction may always be her first love. With her fondness for television and movies, I am currently trying to encourage her (this is not a girl who takes orders or even suggestions all that well, at least from her mother) to consider a basic screenwriting class. She doesn’t have the patience for great detail, but the characters and plots she comes up with sound better than a lot of what’s showing on screens large or small. (Okay, I’m biased. But seriously, have you seen what’s out there??)
I don’t know if she’ll ever have her work out in the wide world, mostly because while she likes writing, she doesn’t see it as her life’s calling. Over our dinners, she’s made clear that she passionately wants to make the world a better place when she grows up, in a concrete, measurable way. In her case, it will likely be through the channels of the justice system, one way or another. Her great fascination is with law enforcement: how the system works and where it fails, and why people break laws or obey them. The girl has done a lot of research on her own.
Watching the sparkle in her eyes as she tells me about something she’s discovered, I am not going to tell her to follow a life path that involves less danger or burn out. Our dinners together are for listening as well as talking, and she deserves to be heard. She understands that she needs to create, and hopefully dancing and writing will help ease her stress and clarify her needs, as all acts of creation do. Meanwhile, pass the fries.