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.

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