The Girl is on Fire


This cold - but sunny - Sunday morning I sat by the window slowing reading and rereading a few pages, all the while peripherally listening to 8-year-old Olivia Luz tinker at the piano, here at Hacienda Dominguez.

Although it was largely a clinky-clunky distraction, her initiative trumped the want of grace at the keyboard.

She’s been practicing Jingle Bells all week with the goal of a fluid performance on Christmas Eve. And this morning, wholly on her own, she was filling in “the missing notes” on a page that her music teacher at school had given her.

“Guess I just have to figure it out myself,” she touted as she pinged away.

It was a perfect example of the creative self-initiative I’ve proudly observed for as long as I can remember.

In fact, I had just written to her new piano teacher, who will begin giving her lessons this week, that I was not concerned about the intermittent schedule dictated by her pending travel schedule. “Besides, Olivia is a good self-starter and has a lot of initiative.”

It doesn’t take much to inspire her to write a poem, draw or paint a picture, pen in her journal or create another book. Indeed, the latest work is a collaborative 20-chapter book that she is writing and her best friend Ami is illustrating, a story about four dogs and their heroic adventures.

And now, now, completely on her own, she has added music composition to her repertoire.

Unbeknownst to her, come Christmas she’ll be adding wood carving, because indeed I have insider information that Santa is bringing her a kit…

Not too long ago I told the youngest who were protesting against the lack of entertainment (i.e., likely restrictive device-time) that “if you’re bored, you’re boring.” It’s a tenet of our parenting philosophy that we’ve loosely held to for years, and one we have double-downed on this year.

In January, we cancelled our Netflix account that we probably had for over twenty years ever since the days of mailing DVDs. We also discontinued Hulu and did not plug in any of our televisions (they remain boxed in The Shed).

Admittedly, we have a projector by which we watch a family movie once or twice a week, but otherwise the kids’ nights and after school hours have been filled by reading, games (especially chess), and farm or hacienda chores.

On occasion they get surly, if only because we, once again, take away the devices that they found hidden somewhere in our bedroom, but that storm usually quickly dissipates and they get back to some old fashioned self-sufficiency. So, I’m happy to say that our tough-love policies seem to be paying off, and maybe there’s another Sondheim in our midst.