May 26, 2017
By Ekta R. Garg
Enjoy these Spurts from the last two weeks, readers!
Today is the last day of school, and because of that we’ve talked a lot lately about moving to higher grades. Ten and Eight will be sixth and fourth graders, respectively, this fall. They’ve already thought ahead, though.
One morning at breakfast they were talking about going into the eighth and sixth grades. Now, mind you, technically Ten hasn’t even started middle school yet. But my kids often extrapolate their current lives into the future.
“You’ll be in sixth grade when I’m in eighth,” Ten said.
“That’s when you’ll be doin’ your thang,” Eight said with swag.
As long as neither of them let their pants fall halfway to their shins, they can “do their thang” all they want.
Last week I received an Evite from the parents of one of Ten’s classmates. The invitation announced a backyard bash for the fifth graders to celebrate their “graduation” from elementary school. Because Ten gets along so well with the classmate hosting the party, I replied “yes” right away.
Later in the day, when the kids came home from school, I told Ten about the party.
“Finally,” she exclaimed, “someone understands how important this is!”
I didn’t want to give her my spiel about the whole concept of a fifth-grade “graduation,” especially because the family hosting the party is incredibly gracious to do so and really wonderful overall. But I wonder at this eagerness to create milestones out of things that are nothing more than a part of regular life. Like giving kids five dollars for losing a tooth. Why? I don’t get money when I put on my shoes, and putting on shoes is a learned skill. Losing teeth is not.
Instead of saying anything, I just smiled at Ten. The party is slated to be a casual gathering, so I figured I wouldn’t dampen her enthusiasm for it. At least we’re not being asked to get ready to march in to Pomp and Circumstance.
Earlier this week Ten and Eight’s school held Moving On Up Day. On this day, kids from every grade spend some time in the grade they’ll enter in the fall. Each child is assigned a “host” from the current class for their time in the new classroom, and kids get a mini course on what to expect come August.
Because Eight has been at the school since kindergarten, she already knew many of the fourth graders. The 4/5 classroom, too, is right across the hall from 2/3, and Eight already knows the fourth-grade teacher fairly well. I didn’t really worry much about how her day would go.
More curious for me was Ten’s entire experience. Even though this is her first year at this school, she has fit in beautifully. She’s always been a social, confident child, so I knew once she got the first-day jitters out of her at the beginning of fifth grade she would be fine and she was. But now we’re talking middle school. Whole new ball game.
So far she’s approached the entire idea of middle school with nonchalance, but the night before Moving On Up Day when I finished saying good night to her at bedtime she stopped me with a question.
“What do you wear in middle school?” she asked.
I have to admit, I was a little slow on the uptake. It didn’t occur to me in the moment why she was asking. But I sat on the edge of bed anyway.
“You just wear what you’ve worn before,” I said, “and anyone who doesn’t want to be your friend because of the way you look or your clothes isn’t a friend worth having anyway.”
She seemed satisfied with my answer, and I realized that maybe some of the nonchalance—just a little bit of it—is as much to bolster her own courage as it is to reassure us that she’ll be fine next year.
On Saturday morning after cleaning the breakfast dishes away, I went upstairs to take a shower and stopped at Eight’s room. She’d set up a few of her stuffed animals on the bed, and she was reading to them from a National Geographic book. Most of the other animals sat behind her on her window seat. One, her white horse, lay on top of her panda pillow pet on the floor.
“Oh, what happened to him?” I asked, entering her room.
“He’s sleeping,” she replied.
“Is he okay?”
“Yeah, I just put him to sleep. I had to…what do you call it? Sedate him. Yeah, I had to sedate him.”
“Why, is he sick?”
She grinned, and her impish self shone through.
“No, I just felt like doing it.”
“But…” I didn’t know how to ask the next question or even what to ask, truthfully. “Well, normally doctors sedate a patient if he has to go for surgery or something,” I said finally, trying to give her an ethical out.
“Yeah, I know,” she said, ever the experienced physician’s kid. “I just felt like doing it.”
“Um…okay,” I said. I went down the short hall to Ten’s room.
“Your sister sedated her horse just because she felt like it,” I said in a conspiratorial whisper.
Ten’s eyes got a little wide, but my announcement didn’t seem to faze her as much as it did me. It struck me, again, how well the sisters know each other. She was surprised but not shocked.
“That’s why we don’t want her becoming a doctor,” she said in a low voice. “If she did, the world would go rogue against doctors.”
Hmm. Maybe I should get my husband to stop trying to convince Eight to go into medicine. We don’t need people under sedation “just because.”
Last Sunday Eight had a cello recital, and the girls and I ended up going to it alone. Eight’s piece didn’t last too long—about 33 seconds, according to the counter on my cell phone’s video camera—and the entire recital ended after about 20 minutes. We grabbed Eight’s cello, congratulated a few of the students on playing well, and went to the car. In the parking lot, one of Eight’s classmates from her group cello class called, “Good job!”
“You too!” Eight replied politely.
As we got in and got settled into our seatbelts, Eight turned to her sister. “That’s K.”
“Oh,” Ten replied. She turned and looked through the back windshield. “Is she one of those kids?”
“One of what kids?” I asked.
A pause from the backseat.
“Nothing, Mamma,” Eight said.
“What kids?” I repeated.
“What do you mean, ‘those kids’?” I asked again.
“Nothing,” Eight replied patiently. “It’s just sister talk.”
I think this is actually the first time the girls have shared something with one another that they haven’t shared with me. I was torn, simultaneously proud of their relationship and as curious as Alice in Wonderland at what they meant. Whatever their code for “those kids,” it’s clearly something that belongs only to the two of them. And in some ways, that’s heartwarming.