April 14, 2017
By Ekta R. Garg
I think my older child has begun taking her first tentative steps to tween-dom.
On Monday I took the kids to their music lessons. The weather has begun warming up here in Central Illinois, but that also means days of gusting winds. Monday was just such a day; not too cool but just windy enough to encourage me to take along a light jacket with a hood.
The girls and I left the arts building after their lessons and started down the street. As we walked, we chatted and the wind gusted from behind us. I pulled my hood up and tried to settle it on my head.
Just then we came toward the crosswalk where we would have to wait for the light to change, and a car to our left sat waiting for the same thing. The gentleman in the car had his windows down, and we could hear the bass. You know the kind: where you suspect that the real reason why the windows are down is because they got blown out.
“Man, that music’s loud,” Eight commented as the car drove by.
“Yeah, it’s so cool,” Ten said with a giggle to indicate the opposite.
“Hey, it is cool,” I joked.
Just then the light changed, indicating we could cross. I caught sight of my shadow with my hood up and jacket hanging open. So there was only one thing I could do as we went from one side of the road to the other.
“It’s cool music,” I said, strutting across the crosswalk. I altered my gait to make it more swag-like and jammed with my fingers. Surely no mom has ever looked so phat.
(Do people still say “phat”? Mental note: check slang from the twenty-first century.)
Eight giggled this time, and after seven or eight steps I saw out of the corner of my eye her abbreviated attempts to mimic me.
My older child had other ideas.
“Oh my gosh, I’m mortified!” she said with an embarrassed smile.
She was smiling, so I guess that’s a plus. She didn’t quite turn away from me or avert her eyes or, heaven forbid, declare that she never wanted to be seen with me in public again. I figure I’ve still got one or two years before I hear that one.
Eight and I had finished strutting in front of the cars waiting patiently for us to pass them, and we entered the bank parking lot where I’d parked. Just then, Ten joined us in her own version of the bass music strut. I turned to her.
“So, what, you can jam here with us?”
“Why didn’t you do it before? Were you embarrassed?”
That smile came back. “A little. But there’s no one here to see us.”
I filed that information away for later. Still haven’t decided yet what I’m going to do with it. That is, whether I’m going to go strutting across any more crosswalks…
Yesterday I encountered my second instance of impending tween-dom. The weather, as I said, has begun getting warmer. The kids went to school in the morning in long-sleeve shirts and jeans, although I suspected the temperature would go up during the day.
Sure enough, it did. As I was leaving the YMCA the day felt springy and warm. I decided that after I showered and washed the breakfast dishes, I would grab some short-sleeve shirts and take them to the kids at school. I was meeting a friend for lunch a little later and would be driving right past the school anyway.
I finished getting ready at home and went to school. I looked through the window of Ten’s classroom first, but one of the teachers stood at the front of the room and was talking. Not wanting to waste any time, I went across the hall to Eight’s classroom.
My younger child greeted me with a huge hug and sigh of relief. The class was in between activities, so her teacher allowed her to dash to the bathroom to change her shirt. I chatted with the teacher while I waited for Eight, and just as I thought she came back from the bathroom with a huge grin on her face along with a big thank you. She thrust the long-sleeve shirt in my direction and skipped back to her desk.
I went back across the hall to Ten’s classroom and found the kids gathering their things for lunch, but I didn’t see Ten anywhere. Turns out, she’d been in another room down the hall all along. I told her teacher why I was there, and she smiled and walked me down to the room where Ten was.
Just as we approached the other room, some of Ten’s classmates came toward us. I slowed down, figuring Ten would be right behind them. She saw me from about 10 feet away and came to a stop for a moment.
She didn’t smile; instead her eyes got a little bigger, and already I could see her lips rounding the start of the question.
“What are you doing here?”
I held out her shirt. Because she didn’t have PE that day, she’d also chosen to wear her boots to school. I had her tennis shoes with me too.
“I thought you might be hot when you go outside, so I brought you a shirt and your other shoes,” I said.
“You can go change right now before you go to lunch,” her teacher added helpfully. She turned and went back toward the classroom.
Ten shook her head and started heading back down the hall again. I fell in step with her.
“I’m fine,” she said in a neutral tone.
“Well, just in case you’re hot,” I said. I handed her the shirt and shoes. She looked for a fleeting second like she wanted to tell me to take them home.
“I’ll be okay,” she replied.
“But this is a sweater,” I said, indicating the top she wore.
“But I like this top,” she said.
Ever since we bought the light sweater for her in an after-Christmas sale, it’s been one of her favorites. It has three horizontal bands of color almost too wide to be called stripes in a rosy pink, a soft cream, and gray. A simple pattern but elegant nonetheless.
“I know,” I responded, “but it’s just in case.”
“Okay,” she said. “I’ll go put them in my cubby.”
She darted off, and I called to her one last time to let her know I was leaving. She nodded and kept trotting toward her room. I turned to the left and exited the school.
And now I’ve seen it twice in one week. Tween-dom. I remember some instances of that gawky phase with clarity, and the rest of it is kind of fuzzy. It’ll be interesting to watch Ten go through this time in her life.
Maybe I’ll just have to strut in circles around her—with my hood up, of course—to show her that keeping a sense of humor about the whole thing will help.