Monday, February 26, 2007

DNA and saving the world

It's funny how DNA works. When a couple is expecting a child, they speculate endlessly over what it will look like. Blonde hair or brown? Blue eyes or green? Tall or short? After the baby is born, the new mother and father spend hours looking at their offspring, talking about whom it resembles. Pete and I are no different. We got a good mix with Graceful and Elegant: Graceful looks like me and my sister, but with Pete's blonde hair and blue eyes. Elegant looks like Pete, but with my brown hair and green eyes. Very fair.

Expectant parents sometimes think about what talents and interests their child will have. Will he be a football player? Will she love to garden? In terms of personalities, we hoped for, and were lucky enough to get, two girls who love to read. They're also quite intelligent and in our school's gifted/talented program. We expected no less. What we never expected, however, are other personality traits. For example, as I've previously written, Elegant is a total fashionista. She loves shoes, clothes, and accessories. Her day can be made -- or broken -- by just a hair ribbon. Last week a police officer visited the first grade and gave each student a shiny gold "Junior Police Officer" sticker badge. Elegant wore hers home proudly and, at bedtime, transferred her supposedly temporary bling to her pajamas. Now these weren't just any old pajamas. Oh no, they were special ones. Lavendar satin. We all know how good satin feels on adult skin. Now imagine how fabulous it is against the skin of a six-old-old who has just bathed with American Girl apple scented bath gel. It was that good. Elegant was almost levitating, she was so high with delight. In fact, she minced and sashayed through the living room, stopped by the TV to admire herself in the reflection on the screen, flounced and preened a bit, and continued on her merry humming way. She was very pleased with herself.

Another thing we were not expecting when we became parents was Graceful's huge reservoir of compassion, empathy, and kindness. She feels quite deeply for everyone and everything. She launched a mini campaign to save the rainforest when she was only five. She loves all babies and animals, especially dogs, cats, and horses. She worries about the plight of endangered animals all over the world. All parents want their children to be compassionate and kind, but Graceful takes it to a new level. She's very earnest in her endeavors and wants only to be successful and to save the world. It's very sweet and sometimes a little heartbreaking.

When Graceful was five and almost finished with preschool, one of the other school families journeyed to China to adopt a second daughter. We all knew the story of Zoe's adoption when she was just a toddler in a Chinese orphanage; now we waited breathlessly as Zoe waited to become a big sister. When the family returned from China , they brought Leah to the preschool so that Zoe could introduce her new sister to her preschool class. Graceful went up to the mother and said, with tears in her eyes, "I really want another brother or sister, but my mommy says we're done having babies." I almost caved at that moment.

I always look over the children's papers when they come home from school and am often amused by what I see. Graceful recently learned about China in school. She brought home a paper with the following:

Facts about the Great Wall of China
very bad Mongolians
everyone worked on the wall
10,000,000 million workers
very, very hard work
watch towers & guards
no rest
very, very wide
10 years of building
3,750 miles long

Notice her order of facts? Most children would have started with the length and other construction statistics. Graceful, however, started with the human aspect and focused immediately on the cruel labor practices.

A couple of months ago, she wrote the following:

"My gift to the world is better orphanages. Some orphanages are horrible. Some of them have awful owners. Some are full of rats. To take care of our orphans, we have to give them better orphanages!"

Granted, Graceful's facts of the situation are not completely accurate, but her intent is true.

It's wonderful to see how much Graceful wants to take care of everyone and everything. It's also interesting to speculate what she's going to do with all this as she gets older. I'm predicting she'll be a teenager who does a lot of community service (and not the court-mandated kind) and this will continue through college. As for later, it's hard to say, but I can easily imagine Graceful having a career helping others. She says she wants to be a vet or possibly a trainer at Seaworld. She's also planning to have a farm with lots of animals and, of course, a passel of children of her own.

All that really matters is that she's true to herself. That's all anyone can wish for their children.

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