A Full Decade with Dailah Leagh

A Full Decade with Dailah Leagh

Yesterday our one and only daughter turned 10.

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Double digits she said when she woke up. Booya!

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Her one wish (other than a kitten and to pull up the carpet in her bedroom) was that her cousins, aunts/uncles and grandparents could be there on her day. Dailah’s love language is quality time, I’m afraid she might get that from me.

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She is OBSESSED with art. Every day she has found a new medium that she attacks with gusto only to mostly abandon it a few weeks later. Her room is full of the cast offs. For two weeks she’s been spending 9am-2pm learning to sculpt, the intricacies of pottery and beginning jewelry. She has never been happier. When we recently cleaned her room she said, “I need someone with courage to go through my room and throw away things for me. I just can’t do it. I can’t help but remember all the good memories with each thing.” I’m the opposite so I threw away virtually everything and haven’t lost a bit of sleep over it. ūüėČ But I respect the ways she creates mini alters with her love.

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Dailah is probably my pickiest eater. She doesn’t vocalize her objections to my cooking very often but rarely does she consume it with abandon. Thus on her birthday she chose donuts, cinnamon rolls and pizza as her food staples. I pray one day she learns to love the taste and texture of quinoa but she doesn’t currently seem to be headed down that path.

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Though she started out as my worst snuggler of the family she has come back with a vengeance. If she isn’t laying her feet on you then she is straight up climbing onto your lap. In the car she is the first to extend a hand and have me hold it while I drive and she chats about her running internal dialogue. Because I’ve had a few good snugglers in her brothers that lasted right up until they became teenagers, I’m going to embrace these moments knowing they won’t last forever.

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We were listening to NPR months back and there was a story about the need for kids with cancer to have real-hair wigs. Dailah asked a few follow up questions and then we dropped it. A week later she said she was ready to chop off all of her hair as long as it could be donated. No hesitation, no regrets. She has always been one that makes up her mind and then commits to the process. Love that.

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Dailah has a real knack for falling asleep in the car. On the way to a softball game? Yup. On the way to birthday dinner? Yup. If she’s not chatting about all the things then she is sleeping. Perfect example of her ability to go 100% to the point of exhaustion.

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This one is a daddy’s girl. In her eyes Zach can do no wrong and she’s constantly asking me how she ends up with someone as great as her dad. He took her to a little bar in Downtown Kalamazoo on one of their date nights¬†so she asked to go there again last night for her birthday. While there she looked sad so I asked her what she could possibly be sad about. “Well I guess this place isn’t as much fun unless it’s just daddy and me.”

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At dinner we had a few other guests who were riding with Zach and Trysten to their baseball game. So Trysten and the other young man, Ray, were on their phones before the food got there. Dailah asked if she could make a birthday rule where Trysten couldn’t be on his phone. “He doesn’t need it when there are so many games he could be playing with me.” She longs for the days when they all use to hang out with only each other-truth be told I do too-and no matter how many times I tell her that they will all end up being good friends as adults, she just doesn’t believe me. As much as she laments the fact that she’s got so many boys around her all the time she loves them and was so excited to share her birthday treats with them-choosing their favorites so that they would be equally excited.

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Last night in the car she asked if I had heard that Meghan Trainor took down her video for the song “Me Too” because the Director had photoshopped her to appear thinner than she was. “Isn’t that so brave, mom? I wonder how many other famous women it will take for magazines and movie people to stop doing that to women?”

And then as we were watching So You Think You Can Dance a young woman and her dance partner messed up their audition pretty badly. So the young woman asked for a second chance, saying she knew they were capable of better. “She has so much courage mom! To speak to adults with respect but ask for what she wants. That’s why you always tell us ‘the answer will always be no if you don’t ask the question’ isn’t it?”

I admit to being more intentional in a lot of ways as I raise Dailah. There are far more mixed messages in our culture for women than for men. I feel like I’m constantly commenting on things being said and discussed in the public and private arenas. It sometimes seems that when you’re growing up as a female the world is full of asterisks just waiting to be defined.

I love so much that as she has met, friended and gotten to know young ladies who are choosing¬†to gossip about other ladies or speak negatively about them-that she has respectfully stopped being as close with them. I love that when I ask her why she hasn’t called “x” lately she always says something like, “They just want different things from their friends than I do.”

I love that she asks really thoughtful questions about relationships, sex, politics, business and the like. Dailah is constantly awake and curious about the world and does not consider the fact that most of the world just wants little girls like her to accept the status quo, be meek and apologize for taking up space. She has never wavered and has always, always accepted that her ideas, questions, and voice matter in the world, something I’ve quite literally just come to believe of myself in the last handful of years.

I’m humbled by the task of raising her because in many ways she seems so much stronger than I am. But every morning I wake up and choke back happy tears when she comes out of her room with a smile and extended arms waiting to embrace me and the rest of the world.

Love you my Dobadays. Happy birthday baby girl.

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Tariku is 11!

Tariku is 11!

March 16, 2016. It was basically yesterday, right? ūüėČ

It was the day this guy turned 11 and wanted a bucket of chicken wings to celebrate.

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And donuts. Obviously.

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Full disclosure, Zach and I were actually in Punta Cana on his birthday. I’m still releasing some guilt for not being there on that day but he spent it with his grandparents getting virtually anything he wanted so he didn’t seem bothered by it at all. Still, I wrote in the sand and sent it to him so that he would know I was drowning my guilt in cold drinks by the beach. Kidding…mostly.

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We celebrated right when we got back. He invited what felt like the entirety of his 5th grade class over for a night of basketball, games after dark and stinky snore fests. I’m fairly certain whoever came up with the expression “ride or die” was witnessing Tariku in action. If he considers you a friend he is the most loyal person there will ever be. I’ve heard someone whisper something about his friend to someone else and he wasn’t having any of it. Kindly he set the record straight and encouraged that person to not talk badly about someone else again. You get in with Tariku’s crew you are protected for life. He’s a ride or die kind of guy.

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Also animals. If he isn’t a veterinarian or one of those guys who ropes himself to dolphins to protest their slaughter when he gets older we will all be shocked. I happen to think it’s because they share their unending ability to be loyal but whatever it is-he’s drawn to animals and they are drawn right back. We were at a baseball park and he and I asked to pet a dog. The owner said, “I’m not sure that’s a good idea, he doesn’t like kids so we are trying to slowly help him adjust.” And then before we knew it the dog pulled hard enough on the leash that he got close to Tariku and licked him for 3 minutes straight. “He never does this. To adults OR kids. That is crazy!” And every time Tariku walked by that dog he whimpered until Tariku came to pet him.

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If you look close enough you’ll see Tariku’s face in there. With Evie D sitting on his hair, Hagrid on his neck and Barbara Streisand on his stomach.

 

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I’m on Snapchat: tesileagh

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And younger kids. Oh his heart for younger kids! I genuinely cry every time I see him with my younger nieces and nephews. He is NEVER patronizing and has unending patience when they ask him to watch them do the same thing 422 times. He currently claims he is never going to have kids (which will devastate me because the world needs millions more just like him) but I’m not sure I believe it. Maybe he will just be the best uncle in the world, but whatever he does it will involve making kids feel beloved and adored wherever he goes.

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Let’s not forget siblings. Once in awhile he gets a bit snarky with them (they usually deserve it) but for the most part he is my only child who willingly helps the other kids with whatever they need. Binyam took his brand new remote controlled car completely apart trying to figure out where the batteries go? No worries, Tariku will work for the next 2 days trying to put it back together for him without even being asked. Dailah spilled paint on the carpet? Let’s watch YouTube videos to find out the best way to get it out of the carpet before dad sees it. (I grabbed this old picture of the two of them because OH MY GOD THEY ARE SO CUTE AND SO AMAZING AND I LOVE THEM SO MUCH).

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Tariku continues to love and live for sports. I have a sneaking suspicion it’s because he has to be fully in the moment. This one is an over thinker to the highest¬†degree so there’s got to be so much freedom in being so fully awake and alive and present. And he’s good. At whatever he tries he’s really good. Because he’s got the brains to understand the many moving parts in any sport and he’s got more natural ability in his right leg than most have in their bodies. He once scored 7 goals in a single soccer game and I started crying behind my sunglasses. Not because I was proud of his 7 goals (though I was) but because he also had 3 assists-all to kids who had never scored before. Tariku made the moves and was yelling for the other kids to follow him and right before the goal he passed it to them. One of the boys sprinted back to center field and started crying tears of joy. His mom looked at me and whispered “thank you”. I wish I could take some credit for that but it was just Tariku being quintessential Tariku.

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It is because of all I wrote above that I am still simmering over the year Tariku had in school. I have an entire blog post dedicated to this year but in short, he had a teacher who had it out for him. She saw him day 1 and had him pegged to be a trouble maker. For the rest of the year she could see no good in him and she was suspicious of him all of the days. Tariku isn’t perfect and he certainly made some mistakes this year but he had to shoulder a burden an 11-year-old should NEVER have to shoulder that was dished out by a freaking adult. *pauses to sip some chamomile tea, do a little meditation, splash water on her face, say a few Hail Mary’s* The year at school should have broken a kid like him who has already dealt with more than any one child should but it didn’t. I cannot believe this is the same Tariku who is now so sure of how much he is loved that an adult can make up things and exaggerate and he will remain firmly rooted in God’s love and our love for him. I hate that this work has been forged through fire but this baby of mine is a fighter and I’m awed by his strength and grace.

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The further I get away from the years that Tariku and I struggled to connect the more I realize that he and I are actually really similar in so many ways. That when things were rocky we were both just trying to piss on the same tree and assert our dominance. This is all normal behavior for a 3-year-old who has been torn from his country and culture but for shame on the grown woman who wouldn’t back down. I’ve learned now that the sweet spot is when I come towards him in compromise because he will then ALWAYS follow.

I really hope that Tariku continues to champion hard for justice. Right now it comes off in the way most justice seekers start I’m sure (it’s not fair!) but I hope if we continue to cultivate that idea of unfairness to extend towards all people that he will be a real revolutionary.

It’s surreal to be in a place of motherhood where my kids inspire me so regularly. Though Tariku has for as long as I can remember, I’m just humbled by the extent with which he teaches me to be kinder, gentler and more loving every single day.

Love you so much my Chooch.