My 9-year-old Maya was born with many gifts. One of them was the uncanny ability to understand the language of the opposite sex. I wasn’t born that way, and in fact, I still have difficulty interpreting what has now evolved from boyspeak into mantalk.
I discovered this talent when she was still in 1st grade, at the yearly school Jog-A-thon. The format of the race was the children had to run as many laps as possible in an hour. All the elementary children were lined up and Lewis, a cheeky blond boy in Maya’s class, leaned forward and yelled with a slight lisp, “I’m going to KILL you, MAYA!!” I was a little stunned by the murderous vernacular and wondered if my little race horse would whither out of the gate. But Maya wasn’t remotely phased.
Maya was standing right at the other end. She leaned her beautiful face out of the line up and threw her head back, shrieking with laughter. I was amazed to see a smile as big as the sun pasted across her face. Wow! She was tough! I would have melted into the tarmac with shame and mortification at that age at the idea of being called out by a boy!
Maya somehow already knew how to decipher boyspeak. Somehow she understood that – “I am going to kill you” equaled “I have my eye on you and I think you are really cool!”
Maya was the tiniest girl in her grade and perhaps even smaller than all of the kindergarteners. But what she lacked in stature she made up for in volume. Initially she hadn’t been interested in doing the race, so we had to provide a financial incentive – if we’d known about Lewis, we might have committed less per lap! We had decided to sponsor her for $10 a lap. I’d never seen her jog for very long, maybe the occasional lope amidst a lot of complaining. We thought that she would run 2-3 laps at the most -You’re probably wondering where our school spirit was that day and that’s a good question!
The gun fired – luckily not by Lewis, and off they went. Maya started out strong and just kept going. I was shocked. Maya ran and ran. First 10 laps, then 20, then 30. Her face was as red as molten lava, but she just wouldn’t quit. Even Grace, my 12 year-old, couldn’t keep up with her! Not only was I afraid Maya was going to pass out, but this was also more money than we had bargained on spending! We had now pledged over $300 to the school!
I watched my tiny Maya saunter past her pint-sized competitors, even though they towered over her. Lewis plodded by me, already a lap behind Maya, his shaggy shock of sweaty matted locks. I forgot myself and yelled, “Lewis! Maya’s beating you!! Ha! Ha!” Casper looked at me, eyes agog, ”Your heckling a 6-year old?” How low could I stoop?! Get a grip woman! I guess that streak of mommy tiger slipped out! Hey, he threatened my girl! Of course, he hadn’t in truth, it’s just that I didn’t speak his language!
By now, Maya had gathered quite a following by the high schoolers who were cheering her on. “Go, Short and Speedy!” they were chanting. I was getting concerned about the cost and I prompted Casper to ask her if she wanted to stop. We didn’t want to discourage but at the same time…! She huffed, “My body is telling me to stop, but my mind is telling me to go on, and I am going to listen to my mind!” We were stunned! Where did this spunk come from? Was it the need to outdo Lewis? I had never seen this side of my daughter!
Finally, the bell sounded. The hour was up. Maya had run 43 laps in an hour – the equivalent of 4 ½ miles. I couldn’t run 4 miles, let alone at 6 years old! She had won, she had beaten Lewis, she had beaten the entire elementary school – except for one 5 grader, 3 times her size. She instantly became a legend!
The next day, I received an urgent phone call from the nurse, I had to pick Maya up – apparently she was in a lot of pain. Her legs were so sore, she couldn’t walk! I rushed over to the school and was accosted by the nurse. “You have no idea how special your daughter is!” I tried to tell her that I did, in fact know how special she was, but she ignored me! She grabbed me by the arm, “It is VERY rare for such a young child to have so much determination. We expect she’ll be running the school by next year! “ She joked. “Do you know what she said to me when I asked her why she ran so hard?” I shook my head. “That she had never had a trophy before and she wanted one!”
WOW! All along, I thought she wanted to outdo a boy and I was so wrong. It had nothing to do with him. She wanted a trophy!
The school went and bought a special trophy for Maya, which we display in her bedroom, it is almost as tall as she is.
Every year I ask Maya if she wants to compete in the yearly Jog-A-Thon and she declines. Why? “Because I already won a trophy, I don’t need another one!
They no longer hold the race over a weekend, so I haven’t witnessed the race since then. But I just discovered that Maya in fact does participate each year. She doesn’t care about winning, but she runs nothing under 3 ½ miles each time – and each time, Lewis yells at her that he is going to beat her. He did beat her in 2 and 3rd, but this year she bested him again.
I called Lewis’ mom, because I was curious if she knew about their ongoing feud. She didn’t. This was their secret feud! I joked that Maya was thinking of inviting Lewis over for her celebration party. I heard Lewis yell, “I’m going to bring a chainsaw!” Again, I was shocked by his offer! And so was his mother! “I don’t know what that means?! I stammered. Maya thought his response was hilarious. She roared with laughter. Maya’s lack of intimidation was giving me courage to answer back! I yelled into the phone, “Lewis, bring the chainsaw to cut the cake!” I was quite proud of myself!
After, we got off the phone. Maya goes, “Mom that was good, telling him to cut the cake, but what he meant was – and she gestured with her finger sliding across her tender little throat, making a dramatic, gasping sound. “Sore loser!” she jested. Oh! I get it, he was telling her that he was mad that she had won!
I am not allowed to say she has a crush on anyone. That’s not cool! (Even though Lewis gave her a skateboard with a giant pink heart on it for her birthday a few years ago!) And she no longer asks boys for play dates or calls them like she use to when she was younger. But I still love watching her relate to members of the opposite sex. She finds boys hilarious and most glorious, coolest species on the planet.
And because she appreciates members of the opposite sex so much, they have gone up in my esteem as well! She knows how to interpret boys in a way that often escapes me with men.
The bottom line – she speaks their language. And now she is teaching me how to find the love between the lines!