As Te Rerehua Kamo Dreaver tears at breakneck speed on her little yellow scooter, along the hallway of her parents’ Auckland villa, she squeals with excitement.
She’s a happy, confident child, with the scant regard for safety exclusive to toddlers – and her mum, TVNZ presenter Miriama Kamo, couldn’t be more proud.
“Honestly, she’s terrifying,” says Miriama (39), who has invested in a helmet, gloves and knee and elbow pads for her one-year-old daughter.
“Her favourite sport is to go outside and take off down the steepest hill she can find, with absolutely no concern that there’s no-one there to catch her. I have no idea how I produced such a thrill-seeker. She certainly didn’t get that from me!”
It’s a heartwarming scene, and one that Miriama assumed would never happen. Years of fighting endometriosis meant her chances of having a baby were extremely slim, and it’s very unlikely she will be able to have any more children.
But Te Rerehua – or Xavie as she’s known to many – is living proof that miracles can, and do, happen.
“She’s such a busy little thing. I have always been able to see Mike [Dreaver, Miriama’s partner of eight years] in her. But I think it was harder to see me, partly because as a child I was painfully shy. I hid behind my parents and siblings as often as I could – to the point that my mother took me to a child psychologist when I was three, because I wouldn’t speak outside our whanau,” explains Miriama.
“But I did have an amazing memory. I remember things from when I was just a baby, because I was always observing. And Xavie is so inquisitive and can remember things she last saw months ago, so maybe she is a bit like me in that respect.
“I guess she is the daughter of a journalist!”
While Miriama is, by nature, reserved and modest, her delight at what she considers to be her “perfect family” couldn’t be clearer. Contrary to many boys his age, Sam (12) – Mike’s son – utterly adores his little sister and is often first on the scene when Xavie reaches another milestone.
“He’s so proud of every single new word she learns – to the point where I think he occasionally overstates the achievement!” laughs Miriama, who, with Mike, shares custody of Sam with his mother. “She is so unbelievably lucky to have a brother who adores her so much and thinks she’s the bee’s knees.”
As presenter of TVNZ shows Sunday, Marae Investigates and late-night news programme Tonight, Miriama’s hours work in with her parenting.
“I work on Tonight on Mondays and Tuesdays, and the other two programmes are on a Sunday, so I only miss a few of Xavie’s waking hours, and she spends those with her dad and Sam,” she explains.
“I reckon we’re pretty lucky.” Despite growing up around marae, Miriama didn’t focuson learning te reo until she was an adult – a situation she’s determined not to repeat with her daughter, who now attends Te Puna Reo o Manawanui, a Maori language immersion preschool in Te Atatu.
“I feel like, by teaching her to speak te reo from the beginning, I’m giving her an enormous gift. She is Maori, and deserves to have the chance to learn her own language, and be comfortable walking in both Pakeha and Maori worlds,” says Miriama, who chose the school on the advice of close friends and fellow presenters Scotty and Stacey Morrison, whose children also attend.
“It’s run by a wonderful whanau who speak Maori the whole time, so the children get used to hearing the language and learn to speak it fluently. Children are adaptable and learn to figure out the language, because it’s going on around them in the school all the time.”
And although Xavie has only been at the school two months, it’s already having an impact.
“She’s still a baby – she turns two on August 10 – but it’s making a difference,” believes Miriama. “For example, apples are one of her favourite foods, and she calls them ‘apoopoo’ – the Maori word for apple is aporo. She also loves crying out ‘aue’ at everything – whether it’s at something surprising, her toys, or just because she likes the sound of it.”
Xavie is clearly flourishing, and happily chows down on a colourful array of fruits, organic chips and veges, offering pieces of mandarin to everyone.
“We were really mindful about food. Mike and I decided early on she was going to eat the same as we eat, because we didn’t want to encourage her to be fussy. It’s turned out nicely in that regard,” says Miriama, who is also still breastfeeding Xavie.
“She has my sweet tooth, although she doesn’t seem to like chocolate. She’ll pick green things like peas and broccoli, for which I’m really grateful. When I was pregnant, I went through a phase where I only wanted to eat green food – maybe that’s why.”
Whatever the reason, Xavie’s got plenty of energy. As the tot eagerly dons her helmet so she can hop on her scooter and terrify her mother once more, Miriama is the picture of a woman who truly feels she has it all.
“It’s been a hard road in places, but, all in all, my thirties have been a really good decade,” she muses.
“I can honestly say that I can’t remember ever being this content – it’s quite an unusual feeling. But I do count my blessings every day. I am pretty thrilled with how things have turned out.”
Ready for action.
She’s not yet two, but thrill-seeker Xavie is already unstoppable on a scooter, much to her mum’s horror. She also loves hanging out with big brother Sam. ‘Every day, he becomes a bit more amazing with her,’ says Miriama.
Catherine Milford. Photos: Emma Watson (inset pic) Michelle hyslop • Make-up & Hair: Vanita Thomas • Styling: Judith Campbell • Miriama wears Jetset Bohemian clothes, Jewellery by Zoe & Morgan. Te Rerehua wears Country Road.