Latest Spurts: Disney special!

March 17, 2017

By Ekta R. Garg

Enjoy these special vacation Spurts, readers! We returned on Monday from a wonderful week in Orlando and, more specifically, at Disney. Following are just a sampling of some of the fun moments we shared with the girls.

***

As we walked around Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney,) Ten and Eight spotted an open-air booth tucked in a corner between stores where children could get their face painted. A few children sat under the shelter and waited semi-patiently as the people painting their faces finished. Just outside the booth stood a sandwich board that showed the various options of designs.

“Can we go look?” Ten asked.

I hesitated, but then my husband and I exchanged a nonverbal conversation and then I shrugged and nodded. Both girls scampered to the sandwich board. After a few moments, I followed them and began looking at the designs and (more importantly) the prices.

“I wish we could get our faces painted,” Ten said in that fake wistful voice kids sometime use. I have to say, she truly loves performing. I’m surprised she didn’t cue her own “sad child” music.

“Yeah, well, I’m not paying fifteen dollars for you to get something that washes off at the end of the day,” I said as we walked away.

“Then why do you buy makeup?” she asked.

I would try to share what I said in return, but I don’t think I can accurately type the weird sounds coming out of my mouth that were supposed to sound like an intelligent response. Not one of my finest comeback moments, I have to say. With my older child, I’m finding, those comebacks are getting harder and harder.

***

On that same day to Disney Springs, we had lunch at the Rainforest Café. Toward the end of lunch, Eight said she had to go to the bathroom. She and I made our way to the back of the restaurant, and we struck up a conversation about Disney princesses.

“You know, there aren’t any Indian princesses,” she said. “Well, actually,” she corrected herself, “there’s Jasmine.”

“Jasmine isn’t Indian,” I said. “She’s Arabian.”

“No, she’s Indian,” Eight insisted.

“Nope,” I said. “Arabian.”

“But she lives in the Taj Mahal,” Eight said. “And wasn’t the Taj Mahal built by some Indian king for his wife?”

I saw the confusion. By then we’d gotten into the bathroom, so I told her to go finish up and then I’d explain. I have no proof of this, of course, but I’m sure that the entire time she was in the stall, the entire conundrum was spinning in her brain.

“Okay,” she said, as she came out and washed her hands, “explain it to me.”

I did, telling her that Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal, came from the Mughal empire and that the Mughals had a distinctive form of architecture. That architecture included the use of many onion domes, which are still favored by people who live in the Middle East. Also, the opening song in Aladdin is called Arabian Nights.

“So,” I finished, “Jasmine wasn’t Indian.”

Eight seemed satisfied with the answer, but it left me wishing, for probably the millionth time in my life, that Disney would make a bona fide Indian Disney princess. After all, India is home to Bollywood, the industry that reaps millions of dollars from “fairy tales.” Why not one with a stamp of approval from the Mouse?

***

One of the nicest things about going away on vacation is that we actually get to enjoy breakfast together as a family. During the normal drill of the week, everyone is up at different hours and eating (or not) at different times. But on vacation we all get to sit at the same table and chat and eat. It’s nice.

Because the hotel we were staying at in Orlando also offered breakfast in the morning, it was especially easy to get ready for the day and then just trot down to the dining area off the lobby. One morning as my husband picked up the latest copy of The Wall Street Journal, the WSJ’s magazine slipped out of the paper. I claimed it and began browsing, and as the girls finished their food they came to stand next to my chair and look over my shoulder at the oversize pages.

I love magazines, especially those where I can see a lot of time and care has been taken to present the material. The WSJ magazine, in particular, had some lovely double-page spreads of ads, and I couldn’t help pointing them out to the kids. I recognized several of the names of the advertisers, but the girls didn’t so we had a short conversation about high-end brands.

“You know,” Ten said, “most of those expensive brands end in vowels.”

I looked back at the magazine and started leafing through it again. Sure enough, she was right. Many of them do end in vowels. That led to another conversation, then, about how many of these brands actually come from other countries. I didn’t know how to navigate the idea of just what convinced people to plunk down thousands of dollars for a watch or an outfit, but fortunately the conversation didn’t go there (at least, not yet.)

Honestly, I have no idea how this child’s brain works, but now when I see or think about brand names I can’t help but wonder what else will come out of that head of hers.

***

On our last day in Orlando (and also our last day visiting the parks,) I made the mistake of bringing up our next trip to Disney World.

The girls were already moping, even at 10 a.m., that it was our last day. I thought talking about another trip would make them feel better. After all, what nicer way to end a vacation to a beloved location than to talk about coming back?

“So, here’s an idea,” I said. “In four years Disney World will celebrate their fiftieth anniversary. What if we come back then? I bet they’ll have some amazing stuff lined up.”

“Four years?!” Eight exclaimed.

Clearly, I had not thought the presentation of this idea all the way through. Instead of excitement and appreciation for what a golden anniversary could bring to the parks, the girls got even mopier. For the rest of the day, as we made our way through Epcot, they would smile and scream in delight and laugh during a ride or show then come out of it with mini glares in my direction that they wouldn’t be able to enjoy these things again for another four years.

“I’ll be twelve going on thirteen then,” Eight said toward the end of the day.

“I’ll be fourteen going on fifteen,” Ten said. “I haven’t even thought that far ahead!”

Have they ever stopped to consider that their father and I have thought that far ahead and the thought of both of them as teens scares us enough that maybe we’re trying to plan vacations as distraction tactics? For ourselves?

Kids.

 

 

Latest Chart: To practice or…well, you just have to

March 10, 2017

By Ekta R. Garg

Last Monday evening I had a conversation with another parent that looped back around for me later in the week.

The girls have music lessons—violin and guitar for Ten; guitar for Eight—after school on Mondays. Eight also takes cello on a different day. Her cello teacher requires all students taking private lessons to participate in a studio class, which is a group lesson. That means more music to practice and more time to practice it.

The topic of practicing came up on Monday as I waited for the girls to get out of their lessons. The six-year-old who takes violin right after Ten showed up, bouncy and bright and just a touch sassy. Full disclosure? Ten and Eight don’t really like her very much exactly for the reason that she’s pretty cheeky. Sometimes it’s on the border of being downright disrespectful.

In any case, the six-year-old went into her lesson and Ten came out. Eight’s guitar teacher was wrapping things up with her, and she hadn’t come out yet. The six-year-old’s mother dropped into the chair next to mine with a weary smile.

“So your daughter takes violin?” she asked.

“And guitar,” I added. “My younger one takes guitar too.”

“Oh, wow. How often do they practice?”

“They probably practice about five days a week,” I said. “We usually miss a day or so because of something or the other going on.”

By this time Eight had joined us. “Yeah, we have dance class on Wednesdays, so it’s kind of a long day.”

“And I don’t make them practice on lesson days,” I added. “It’s kind of like practicing.”

“Yeah,” the mother said in agreement. “Wow, that’s great. How do you get them to practice so often?”

“I don’t give them a choice,” I replied. “I mean, we pay a lot of money for renting the instruments and for the lessons.”

“I know, right?”

“I just tell them they have to practice.”

“Oh, wow,” the mother said with a trace of wistfulness. “I wish I could get T. to practice like that. Someone suggested bribing, so I did that for a while. But then I stopped, because…well, I don’t know, I guess I got tired of it.”

Or because it stopped working, I thought.

“Then I told her if she wants to do ballet—because she keeps bugging me to do ballet—that she has to practice her violin. That worked for a while, but lately she just doesn’t do it anymore.”

I murmured some sympathy and left the conversation as gracefully as possible, wondering for the hundredth time why parents find it so hard to stand up to their own children. Does our society and our current age really condone kowtowing to people who are shorter, younger, and much less experienced than adults? Is it really so horrible that I just tell my children they have to practice, or do their homework, or put their laundry away, without offering justification for it?

That’s not to say that telling the kids what to do is much fun. They usually end up stomping away, full pouts making their lips curl. That leaves me feeling like a heel. No one likes to play bad cop, but that usually becomes my default role.

It’s a lousy job.

That lousiness got reinforced on Thursday of last week. Ten and Eight are in an after-school club on Thursdays, and last week they went on a field trip with the club to a local nature center. By the time we got home, it was around 5:15. They came in, washed up, and went right to homework. Eight, as per her routine, asked whether they could watch TV after homework. I told them if they finished practicing their instruments and had time before dinner, they could pick one show.

In theory, they had plenty of time to practice and then watch TV. The trouble with the girls, though, is that somewhere along the way instrument practice also turns into chatting time. Sometimes it turns into playtime. They do get their practicing done eventually, but occasionally as they each switch from one instrument to another their conversation carries on for quite a while. They lose track of the time, and what should theoretically be about 35 minutes of practice has sometimes turned into almost an hour.

On this night, too, I heard the kids chatting and giggling in between instruments. I didn’t really have the heart to scold them for that. I really enjoy their friendship as it continues to grow around their sisterhood, and, really, even though they go to the same school they don’t get much time together during the day. So I let them chat.

Around 6:40—about 10 minutes before I planned to serve dinner—Eight came into my studio and asked if they would have time to watch anything. I told her no, that she and her sister had spent too much time practicing. Her eyebrows turned down, and her face scrunched in anger. She stomped away, and I turned back to my computer.

About two minutes later, she came back.

“Mamma, I’ve been thinking,” she said, relatively composed. “I’ve been thinking about quitting practicing.”

“Well, you know what that means, right?” I asked. “Quitting practicing means quitting the guitar and cello.”

“That’s what I mean,” she said.

“Quitting your instruments just because you can’t watch TV one night isn’t an option,” I said. “That’s not a good enough reason to stop taking music. You know your teachers always tell you how good you sound, and that’s because you practice. So, no, you can’t quit practicing.”

And off she went once again, stomping and angry.

I don’t like being the bad guy. I really don’t. It takes energy and time to reinforce the rules, and I feel awful when the kids are upset with me.

In my heart of hearts, though, I know they won’t stay upset long. By the time Saturday rolled around and I told the girls in the morning after breakfast to go practice so they’d get it out of the way, Eight skipped along behind her big sister. The two went up laughing and chatting, and I got to enjoy listening to their current music pieces as well as the giggles that usually come with practice time.

I wished I could explain all that to the mother in the music school last week. No doubt she’s doing the best she can. I just wish she, and other parents, weren’t so afraid to play bad cop once in a while. When it’s for the right reason, the reward far outweighs the risk of an angry child.

And when I’m really upset about it, I just eat chocolate. It definitely helps.

 

 

Latest Spurts: Building dragons and being a classical/rock star

February 24, 2017

By Ekta R. Garg

Enjoy these Spurts from these last two weeks, readers!

While the girls have grown up enough that regular 3 a.m. visits are a thing of the past, occasionally Eight will still come to our room when she has a nightmare. Every single time she comes to our room, she heads straight for her father. It’s become something of a running joke in our house, the fact that even though I spend more time with her during the day she goes to him at night.

Last weekend my husband was on call, and after watching some TV we turned off our lights. Because it was Saturday, I decided to stay up and read on my Kindle. I had been reading for about 10 minutes when I heard our bedroom door open.

I turned and saw Eight coming into our room, and I called to her in a soft voice.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

She either didn’t hear me or chose to ignore me. Instead, she went to her father. He groaned and muttered, “I just went to sleep,” but then realized that I wasn’t the one who had woken him up. He shook himself awake and offered Eight some comforting words, then walked her back to her room and tucked her in.

The next day, as Eight and I chatted about the incident, I asked whether she’d seen me awake with my Kindle.

“Yeah, I saw you.”

“So why did you go to Daddy instead?” I asked.

She grinned. “I don’t know. It’s a ritual, I guess.”

I had to grin back.

***

We’ve had many conversations in our house about what the girls want to be when they grow up. Eight has gone from wanting to be an engineer to a vet. Her latest career aspiration leans heavily in the direction of her new favorite TV show.

She wants to build mechanical dragons that people can actually fly.

She’s spent considerable amount of time drawing up her business plan on a piece of notebook paper, the ideas appearing on different parts of the page like a flight plan. She also shares her ideas with me when she and I go anywhere alone and her attention isn’t otherwise occupied. This week as we drove to her group cello class, she offered to give me one of her dragons.

“Oh, thank you!” I said. “Can it be purple?”

At first she refused. Apparently purple dragons are not possible. They aren’t true to life.

I refrained from telling her that as far as we knew, no dragons were true to life. I also couldn’t understand, I said, why she couldn’t make the dragons any color she wanted since her company was going to be building them from scratch.

“Because it doesn’t look realistic,” she explained semi-patiently. “It can be a gray-silver color, and I can make it have a purple eye.”

I kept negotiating. If I have to hear about dragons for the next 20 years I figure I deserve one in my favorite color. Finally, I managed to wear her down.

Fine,” she said, and in the rearview mirror I saw her put a hand to her head. “I’ll make you a purple one. Just make me work harder.”

Hey, I bet Bill Gates gave his mother a free copy of Windows. Isn’t this kind of the same thing?

***

After we finally settled the question of the color of the dragon, I asked her about the features of the dragon. Specifically, I wanted to know if the dragon would carry motion sickness bags in a pouch somewhere.

“No,” Eight said, “because the dragon is flying in the open air, and it won’t be in an enclosed space like a plane.”

I get that. Because she struggles with motion sickness on planes and I used to go through the same thing as a kid myself, it’s something I try to talk about whenever the opportunity presents itself. Call it training in a “mind over matter” kind of thing.

“What if I need a bag, though?” I asked.

“Well, then, you can go shopping at Walmart and bring some of those bags,” Eight said.

“What if the bag has a hole in it?” I asked.

“Well, then it’s just bad luck for the person you’re flying over,” she said, laughing.

***

On the way home from cello that day, Eight said, “I like cello better than guitar.”

This was news to me. My closet rock star liked the classical instrument over the one that, at one time, she declared was her only favorite? I tried not to let my excitement show too much.

“Really?” I said. “Why is that?”

“Well, because in cello I don’t have to play really long music like in guitar,” she said. “In guitar I have to play a whole page.”

My excitement dimmed. Of course this had to do with the amount of work involved, not with the instrument itself. I couldn’t resist busting the myth, though.

“You know you’ll be playing longer pieces in cello eventually,” I said.

“I know. But I like it better.”

Hmm. Okay.

“Do you want to quit guitar?” I asked.

“No,” she said right away.

So maybe the closet rock star just needs to keep rocking and also keep preparing to play Bach someday. I’m good with that.

Latest Chart: Sometimes it’s the little things

February 17, 2017

By Ekta R. Garg

A couple of weeks ago, we got an invitation to a dinner for last Friday night. Normally my husband and I are a little reluctant to accept invitations for the end of the week. After school on Fridays I take the kids straight to Eight’s cello lesson, and then we go to their art lesson and then come home.

Because the cello lesson is only a half-hour long and the art teacher lives a mile or two from the cello teacher’s house, it seems silly not to take advantage of that proximity. The result, however, is that we all come home on Friday evening a little tired and completely in weekend mode. No one really wants to go out.

We made an exception for last Friday for a few reasons, but the biggest one came from the fact that the family inviting us lived in our neighborhood.

I brought the kids home around 6 p.m., and we had an hour to get ready. I sent Ten and Eight to their rooms and went into my own closet to pick out something to wear. After several minutes of weighing my options, I pulled my outfit off the hanger and changed my clothes.

Just as I sat down in front of the mirror to do my makeup, Ten came into my room. I asked her what she thought of my outfit, and she approved with a quick nod. Eight came to me then and asked me to do her hair, and I suggested she change her top first. The three of us trooped to her room to find something suitable, and she stayed in her room while I went back to mine and the makeup vanity.

Ten wandered in after me. I knew if I didn’t give her another task, she’d spend her time fidgeting until we had to leave. I told her to go grab her comb and start combing her hair in preparation for me to braid it.

A minute or two later, Eight came into my room too.

“Go get your comb and start coming your hair,” Ten instructed her little sister.

Eight bounded off to her room and came back within 30 seconds. She went to the tall mirror in the corner of my room. Ten sat on the chaise and continued working on her own long locks.

I could see both girls from where I sat at my vanity in the bathroom. We started chatting, the three of us. Ten and Eight talked about their week in school, sharing bits and pieces that hadn’t come out before that evening. I added items to the conversation that I thought they might find interesting.

At one point, Eight grinned at herself in the mirror.

“This is kind of like an episode of Girl Meets World,” she said.

Ten chuckled and agreed. I couldn’t help smiling, although I wasn’t sure what about us getting ready for a dinner party made her think of the show. For a minute, though, I got a peek into the future and the past all at the same time.

When my family and I had to go somewhere that required a little extra dressing up, my mother, sister, and I would do exactly what I did with Ten and Eight. The three of us would hole up in a bedroom, get dressed, offer suggestions on hair, and (when my sister and I got old enough) even share makeup. We never discussed life-altering decisions or anything too heady. Most of our conversations, as with Eight and Ten that night, meandered through the most mundane topics.

It didn’t feel like a TV show, never mind what Eight said, but I can see this portion of our evening repeating itself. The girls and me getting ready, bickering about the right hairstyle or shade of lipstick. My husband coming in when we’re putting on final touches and complimenting all three of us.

Eight surprised me with her vigorous interest in it all. Of the three of us, she’s the least likely to engage in overtly girly things. She likes to look pretty, and she’s thrilled with the result when she gets dressed up, but ask her to think about what to wear and she rolls her eyes and heaves a sigh. So much effort, she seems to say with her body language.

The dinner party itself was fine, but what I appreciated most about that night was that hour before we went to our friends’ house. Sometimes parenting isn’t about the big moments, the big conversations. Sometimes it’s as much about these little moments as anything else. These evenings where we bond over something as simple as a hairstyle. These times when eyeliner can draw us all together.

These are the moments that make my heart smile.

Latest Spurts: Birthday scallops, not pizza

February 10, 2017

By Ekta R. Garg

Enjoy these Spurts from the last two weeks, readers!

Last week my husband had to do an evening presentation that would lead into dinner. Sometimes these dinners wrap up early, and he races home so he can say good night to the kids. Other times they run a little longer.

On the night in question, he hadn’t come home by the time were done with our own meal so I finished cleaning up the kitchen, left on a small light for him, and headed upstairs. I said good night to the kids and had come back to my own bathroom to wash my face and brush my teeth when Eight trotted in.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she said. “There’s a light on in the kitchen.”

“I left it on for Daddy.”

“Well,” she said, “shouldn’t you turn it off? It’s wasting…electricity.”

“Um,” I stammered, “it’s a low-energy light.”

That seemed to satisfy her, and she ran back to her room. I shook my head. Can’t even do a good deed these days without the kids dinging you for not being environmentally conscious.

***

The older the kids get, the more I’m learning that some matters are about give and take and not the absolute law of parenthood. This usually falls in the arena of one of the girls pursuing a course of action and when I ask why and they give me a fairly reasonable answer, I have to backpedal a little. Or a lot. While making it look like I’m not backpedaling at all.

The other night I’d already said good night to the girls and come back down to finish packing lunches when I heard someone on the stairs. I turned around, fully expecting it to be my husband wanting to tell me something, and got a surprise when I saw Ten.

“What are you doing?” I asked in a neutral voice, not wanting to upset her.

“I forgot to give you my mystery story,” she said, referring to her assignment from her creative writing class.

She headed into the mudroom off the kitchen, turned on a light, and started rummaging through her backpack.

“You know, you could have just given it to me in the morning,” I said.

“I considered that,” she said, glancing at me over her shoulder, “but my brain wouldn’t let me wait.”

I had already formulated a response in my mind—parents are experts at preemptive strikes—but when I heard the irritation in her voice, I knew I didn’t need to say anything. Yes, she would fall asleep later than she needed to, but clearly something in her head had compelled her to come downstairs. I let it slide this time. Her brain had already given her a tough time; why add to it?

***

In our house, the birthday girl (or boy) gets to pick their favorite meal for the actual day. We instituted this a long time ago when the girls got old enough to realize that not every birthday meant eating in a restaurant. They’re both summer babies, so while they’re in school they’ll never have to worry about what a late night will do to the next day. My husband, father-in-law, and I all have non-summer birthdays, which sometimes means weekday celebrations. Which, I decided, should be a favorite meal at home instead of in a restaurant.

There’s always cake, of course.

Because my birthday last week was on a Wednesday, I decided to make scallops piccata for my special dinner. My husband suggested we order in pizza so I wouldn’t have to spend the evening cooking and cleaning. He even volunteered to pick up the pizza on the way home from the hospital, although he added the small caveat that he didn’t know how late he would be.

I decided to cook on the off chance he might be late. If he came home early, we could enjoy the pizza and then have the scallops the next night. Win-win, I figured.

When the kids came home from school, they encountered the aromas of what I’d made thus far and asked with bright eyes and excited grins what they smelled. I told them about the scallops, and they both started jumping up and down with glee. Their favorite dance class later that afternoon, scallops, and cake? What’s not to love about that?

My husband called me halfway through dance class and said he was leaving the hospital and asked what kind of pizza I wanted. I told him about the scallops and my general plan, and he insisted on the pizza anyway. It made me smile, and after dance class I told the kids about the pizza plan.

They were less than thrilled.

“I don’t want pizza,” Eight said, whining. “I want scallops.”

“Yeah, why can’t we just have the scallops?” Ten asked.

I stared at my children for a moment. What kid turns down pizza? What planet do they come from?

If I hadn’t given birth to them myself, I would have to wonder.

***

When we got home a little while later, we walked into a family room full of people. Not only had my husband volunteered to pick up the pizza, he’d also enlisted several friends to come and cut the gorgeous cake he’d custom ordered for me. I walked in humbled, deeply appreciative, and a little embarrassed that I hadn’t put a little more thought into my appearance that day. In my jeans and regular long-sleeved shirt with my hair pulled into a ponytail and no makeup, I certainly didn’t look like a birthday girl.

Nevertheless, our friends greeted me warmly and with enthusiasm. They lit candles, sang happy birthday, and enjoyed several slices of the sumptuous red velvet cake before scooting off to their own families and midweek responsibilities. All told they probably stayed for about 30 minutes or so, but that half-hour had me smiling the next morning too.

“Were you surprised?” Ten asked Thursday morning at breakfast.

“Yes,” I answered honestly, “but I just wish I’d dressed a little better.”

She considered me carefully, and I recognized that look. It’s the mirror image of how I feel when I’m trying to approach a topic with as much tact as possible.

“I thought about telling you to spritz up before dance class,” she said after a moment.

“Well, why didn’t you?” I asked, amused.

“Because then you would have guessed the secret,” she replied.

She reminded me, then, of just how much she’s growing up.

I guess kids have a tendency to do that.

Newest Chart: The essentials of lying

February 3, 2017

By Ekta R. Garg

It’s getting harder to lie to the kids, but sometimes it’s necessary. I think. The trouble with children is that they’re so observant and their minds are so unfettered by the machinations of society that they’re able to see to the heart of the matter much more quickly than adults.

Or, more accurately, they’re more willing to name the heart of the matter. Grownups want to duck and dodge. We want to turn away before Truth stares us down and demands attention.

Still, adults have life experience. And sometimes those machinations come in handy when trying to avoid a topic with children. If it’s a benign issue and it’s something that will keep them safe, I don’t think it’s so wrong to fib a little.

My first lie came earlier in the week. It resulted more from my stupidity than anything else. Or maybe from not really taking instructions seriously.

I burned my left hand on Tuesday and while it’s healing nicely now, at the time the impact of hot object against skin made me gasp and dash for the sink to hold my hand under cold water. In the normal course of things, a burn wouldn’t warrant so much reflection on my part. I guess, though, I can’t get over the ridiculous manner in which it happened.

You know on the box of toaster pastries when they say the icing will be hot when the pastry comes out of the toaster? They weren’t kidding. It was hot and not just hot but “sear itself to the surface of my skin” hot.

Yeah, I know. I’m a 38-year-old mother of two, not some airheaded college kid who doesn’t even flip the box over in the grocery store before bringing it home. I should know better.

Usually when I injure myself, I really don’t tell the kids…unless it’s something that could possibly affect them. Later in the morning on Tuesday when I had trouble pulling the seatbelt across my body, I knew I wouldn’t be able to wind rubber bands around the ends of braids or help yank leggings over little legs that need to stay warm during the day. I had to tell the girls what had happened so they could help each other and me, if I needed it.

When I brought them home after school, I told them about the burn in a casual way. Ten asked to look at it. Eight wanted to see it then turned her head away in trepidation. Then came the question.

“How did it happen?”

“From the toaster,” I said.

Technically, it’s not a lie. Using the toaster caused the toaster pastry to burn on its edge. Using the toaster made me go to it and pop up the pastry so it would stop burning. Using the toaster led to me holding up the pastry to inspect it and, without knowing just how, causing it to flip icing-side down onto my hand.

That’s when I dashed to the sink.

I didn’t want to tell the kids any of this, however. Last summer after we moved into the new house, Eight had a slight brush with the toaster that spooked her so much she didn’t even look at the appliance for the rest of that day. Surprisingly, Ten freaked a little too. And Ten enjoys toaster pastries for breakfast from time to time. While I always hover as she operates the toaster, I also didn’t want to bring back the anxiety from last summer.

It’s a tough call. When do we let go just enough to give them confidence to grow up while still protecting them? I’m not sure if I understand where that line is.

So I just blamed it on the toaster and then turned the conversation in the direction of homework and after-school snacks and a host of other things.

The second lie came last night, and admittedly this one had much more to do with me protecting childhood ideals than anything else.

On Tuesday (yes, again; what is it with Tuesday this week?) Eight lost a tooth during school. She told us about it in the car on the way home, and that evening after dinner she made sure to put the tooth in a little cup on her nightstand. Because of burning my hand, I completely spaced out on leaving her money that night after she’d fallen asleep.

The next morning she noticed that the tooth hadn’t moved. Because it was my birthday on Wednesday, though, she had enough distractions to keep her from thinking about the tooth too much. She skipped off to school and went on with her day.

I would have definitely left money for her Wednesday night, except that my husband arranged a small surprise party for me that evening. It wasn’t elaborate—some friends came over and I cut into the sumptuous red velvet cake my husband ordered, we all shared some, and everyone wished me before scurrying home to their midweek lives—but I was so touched by the gesture, both on the part of my husband as well as my friends, that I couldn’t really think of anything else that night.

Cue Tooth Fairy Failure # 2.

Yesterday morning Eight woke up and went through her regular morning routine. She didn’t mention the tooth, and when I went to her room later to put something away I saw the little stainless steel cup. My heart folded in disappointment at myself, but she hadn’t said anything during the morning so I thought maybe she hadn’t seen it. In all her effervescence, sometimes my younger child misses details.

I knew I was taking a risk, but I couldn’t let another day go by without the Tooth Fairy making an appearance. So I took the tooth, hid the cup, and dropped two quarters on the nightstand. I’ve never done this before, but I can’t kid myself really. They’re growing up, and eventually they’re going to figure it out.

Last night after dinner I stood in the kitchen cleaning up, and Eight called down to me.

“Mamma, the Tooth Fairy hasn’t taken my tooth, and it’s starting to bug me,” she said. “I looked this morning, but it was still there.”

“Really?” I said. “Why don’t you go check?”

“But I checked this morning.”

“Go look on your nightstand,” I said.

She darted back to her room, and, sure enough, on the crowded nightstand that holds a few books and a bevy of other things she found the two quarters.

I heard exclamations of disbelief. A discussion ensued between the sisters. I could hear all the chatter about how the Tooth Fairy could possibly have shown up during the day.

Eight came back to the landing on the stairs.

“Mamma, are you sure you’re not the Tooth Fairy?” she asked.

“What?” I said, trying to appear incredulous without overselling it.

“Well, it just seems coincidential that the Tooth Fairy would come during the day and that you would tell me to go look on the nightstand. You’re the one who’s home all day.”

(“Coincidential,” by the way, is her new favorite word. I don’t have the heart to tell her it’s not even real. I mean, I’m an author and an editor; I’ll probably tell her eventually, if she doesn’t figure it out for herself first. But she sounds so grown up and so young at the same time using it that I’m just enjoying this last little element of her “babyness.”)

I outlined my day for her. After dropping her at school, I came home and worked on my computer for a while, went to the Y to work out, came home and showered, then left again to visit a friend who fractured her foot a couple of weeks ago. From there I went shopping and didn’t come home until picking up her and her sister and bringing them home from school.

“Okay,” she said, considering this. “But were any of the doors unlocked while you were gone?”

“No.”

“Any of the windows?”

“It’s winter. We wouldn’t even open the windows, so they couldn’t be unlocked.”

“But it doesn’t make any sense,” she said.

“Maybe you just need to believe in a little magic,” I said.

“But I’m a logical person,” she replied, “and magic isn’t logical.”

I guess I should be happy about the logical part. If she really follows up on the idea of going into robotics or some other sort of engineering, she’s going to do a great job. Logically speaking, of course.

But it’s the absence of logic that I’m trying to get her to hang on to. And that’s getting much harder as she and her sister get older. Which makes it much harder to lie to them.

If I have any skill as a writer—as a creator of stories—I’m starting to think they’ll be tested the most in the years to come.

Latest Spurts: Spinach and skimpy clothes

January 27, 2017

By Ekta R. Garg

Enjoy these Spurts from the last two weeks, readers!

Friday night in our house is movie night. The girls get to pick the movie and we watch while we eat dinner, which could be anything from leftovers to takeout. The only stipulation about the Friday night movie is that it has to be a Hindi movie. In the interest of keeping the kids connected to their cultural roots, we like to encourage regular viewing of Bollywood films so that they stay in touch with the language.

And, really, there’s only so many times the adults can watch Kung Fu Panda before wanting to perform some sort of martial arts on the DVR to permanently disable it.

Last week Eight chose Dhoom 2 as our movie for the evening. We’ve watched this flick a thousand times before but still enjoy the heist-driven film starring Hrithik Roshan as the thief and Abhishek Bachchan and Uday Chopra as the cops chasing him. If you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend the movie just to see all the fun Hrithik has in stealing stuff.

Bollywood rarely offers a movie without some sort of music, however, and in Dhoom 2 there’s a short interlude from the main story of a subplot where Abhishek Bachchan goes to a college reunion with an old friend. The reunion, of course, is the scene for a dance number in which most of the girls are wearing skimpy clothes.

We’re raising our girls with a modicum of modesty, so when they see actresses in minimalistic outfits both Ten and Eight cluck their tongues in disapproval. We also joke around about the choice of the wardrobe departments of movies. Our favorite joke is that the actresses couldn’t afford regular clothes and had to go shopping in the kids’ department.

As we watched Dhoom 2, Eight and I were commenting on the college reunion song “Touch Me.”

“The clothes ripped because they were wearing what they used to wear when they were kids, and some of the girls got taller,” I said to Eight.

“And wider,” Eight quipped with an impish grin.

*****

A few nights ago I served an Indian dish that consists of chick peas in a tomato-based gravy. Conversation around the table flitted from one topic to another. No one was really paying much attention to the food.

Out of the blue Eight held up her spoon to her eye level and examined it.

“Garbanzo beans are so cute!” she said.

Um, okay. Sure. Cute. That’s exactly why I cook them.

*****

On another night I served palak paneer, which is a dish comprised of shredded spinach (palak) and homemade cheese (paneer.) Eight loves paneer, as do I. Homemade cheese usually ends up softer and creamier in texture than store-bought cheeses.

She wasn’t as big of a fan of the palak, however. As my husband told her to eat what was in her plate, she made a face at her dinner and then at me. I asked her to show me how much she had left.

“Take three more bites, and then you can be done,” I said.

She scowled her way through three more bites then scampered off to bedtime. I started doing the dishes and remembered an incident from my own childhood. I couldn’t have been more than five, I think, when my mother made palak. There was no paneer in it to break up the slightly bitter ring that spinach brings to every dish, and I hated every bite.

I managed to make my way through some of it, and then I started to cry. Because food is held in such high esteem in Indian households, there usually isn’t much room for argument if an Indian kid doesn’t like what’s on his/her plate. You eat it, and that’s about the only option you have.

After trying to swallow several bites of the palak, however, I came to a decision. I went to my mother and told her through my tears that if she let me leave the rest of my palak on the plate, I promised I would finish my dinner for the rest of my life. I don’t have a clear recollection of Mom’s reaction, but I have a distinct impression of a softening in her body language.

I’d won her over, and for the most part I kept my promise as a kid.

As I cleaned up after dinner last week, I thought about that promise and the fact that my children both have fairly wide palates. They’ve tried and eaten foods in their short lifetimes that, when I was young, I didn’t even know existed. They ask for those foods over and over again. So, really, if once in a while we come across something the girls don’t like—Eight doesn’t mind cooked tomatoes but won’t eat them raw; Ten doesn’t like nuts of any kind in her food, including in desserts and pastries—really, if my kids make the occasional request to skip something, would it be so bad?

I didn’t think so either.

*****

Earlier this week my husband was on call. During dinner his pager buzzed at his hip and he went to the phone. After a few minutes he advised the nurse to give the patient in question some Pepcid.

“I didn’t know you were on GI call,” I joked with him, referring to gastroenterology. “I thought you just did cardiology stuff.”

“Does GI stand for Good Institute?” Ten asked in a goofy voice.

“No,” my husband and I replied.

“Yes, it does,” she said. “I’m so smart.”

“Ish,” Eight said. “You’re smart’ish.”

“Hey, it was a smart guess.”

“No, it wasn’t.”

“Yeah, it totally wasn’t,” Ten agreed with a grin, giving up the joke.

Glad we got that all straightened out.